the fashion, art, and pop of brennan olver

Hali Christou caught up with the multi-disciplinarian Australian artist and musician to talk about gender, love and work.

Apr 29 2015, 10:35am

Foto: Michelle Huynh

Australian artist and musician Brennan Olver makes experimental pop as Wet Kiss and low-fi, and multi-disciplinary art. Across both practices Brennan explores love, animals, memories, sex, and politics. Recently, like so many young artists looking for their next project, Brennan ended up in New York surrounded by a fresh crop of antipodean cultural pilgrims. Among this new order of creatives paying tribute to big city heroes and making their own first impressions was stylist Hali Christou. Recently decamped to NYC to open her first store Broad Meadows, Hali interviewed Brennan for i-D straight off the back of his American tour.

You've been doing some modelling in New York, and had previously worked for Pageant, Centre For Style and Bill Henson. I noticed you're always placed in a male role, but you've mentioned you don't like to be referred to as "he" or "she".
I don't know what it is but if someone refers to me as "he" I can't identify with it. When I was a kid I was always into female dress. My family really supported me, letting me wear what I wanted. I think clothing really helps with how I orientate myself. I also have a strong community of trans people in Melbourne who I love and support and who support my decision.

As soon as I started disassociating with being male, I felt a lot better with myself. It wasn't until recently a close friend encouraged and supported me to become open with that, but it's been this way my whole life. There are lots of non gender binary ways you can identify yourself, gender-queer is just one of them.

Your modelling ties into your relationship with fashion more broadly—you've just finished working for Susan Cianciolo. What is it about fashion that interests you the most?
I'm interested in people's individual style, why people choose to wear certain things, why people are drawn to a certain garment. I went to work for Susan because I was interested in her process and how she made work. It's at times so personal and subtle, improvised yet so methodical—she works on a single piece for months and sometimes years. I really learnt a lot from her patience and dedication. These practices influence both my art and music.

How to they intersect?
Yes I'm an artist. I went to art school but I actually made music before I was trained as an artist.

So music has been a constant through your creative life?
Yes. Art is something that I've always made, I'll always be an artist and continue to make work, but to be a musician and to be on stage is another feeling. It feels like all the different aspects of my work are merging.

Who are your major music influences?
Definitely a lot of local bands I play with in Melbourne like Waterfall Person, Cheap Present, Simona Kapitolina, and KT Spit. I also love David Bowie.

You and I have had some heavy Bowie moments since you've been here.
We have! I've been listening to Young Americans, Bowie's 1974 soul project he made in New York. That's when he left behind the Ziggy Stardust personality, yet so many people consider it a failed album. It's been haunting me lately. Maybe because it was considered a failure or that it represents a transition period in Bowie's work—and of course being in New York.

Is the new Wet Kiss album Brennan a pop record?
I'm influenced by the goth aesthetic and my music always comes off sounding very dark. Those goth 80s bands like Malaria! were always kind of tongue in cheek and I really identify with that energy. I fixate on the 70s era of music a lot, and I want to bring that energy into the music and my performance. Nico once said in an interview, "I wish I could live on stage". I want to as well but I dread when I have to perform.

Are there themes in your lyrics?
They're about love, they're about dreams, they're about death, they're about whaling in Japan. They're about global warming and they're also about nothing. They're really embarrassing but I have to put them out there because that's what comes out when I write.

You also write poetry, don't you?
Everyone writes poetry.

Where can we listen to your album? I'm also releasing tapes which you will be able to order from Band Camp or at any of my live performances.


Text Hali Christou
Photography Michelle Huynh