oOoOO and islamiq grrrls make ethereal stoner witch-pop
The duo share their latest track "The Stranger" exclusively on i-D.
Image courtesy of oOoOO & Islamiq Grrrls
It's an incredibly rare thing in life to find that special person you connect with on a serious, profound level, the yin to your yang, the Kenny Rogers to your Dolly Parton. In fact, most people would be perfectly happy to settle for someone they can even tolerate being in the same room with for more than an hour. Which is precisely what makes the deep, almost wordless connection between the musicians Islamiq Grrls and oOoOO so remarkably singular
The artist known as Islamiq Grrrls, a name she says she came up with after trying to imagine "the worst band name I could give myself," explains the origin of this sonic partnership, saying, "I met oOoOO at a deep, low point in my life, in the black hole of the internet. He was that spiritual appearance to me that turned everything over." Initially, the pair bonded over a shared interest in "Congoman" by The Congos and the folklore surrounding it as a cursed track, but from there the connection between them only deepened and matured.
They were ultimately drawn to work with one another, Grrrls says, "not so much [because of] each other’s music, but our perceptions of life. We grew up in very similar circumstances and pulled ourselves out of it by our own strength." She compares their relationship to that of Léon and Matilda from Léon: The Professional, full of quiet nods and unspoken understanding. "We both like to work under almost obsessively private, self-regulated circumstances," oOoOO adds. A trait made abundantly clear on their forthcoming debut collaborative album Faminine Mystique (pronounced Famine in Mystique) in which they both agreed that every last detail from mixing the final tracks to photographing the album art to releasing it on their self-founded record label Nihjgt Feelings would be done exclusively by themselves. He continues, "Its remarkable how much our approaches to making music are similar. That's partly why its been so easy and fun to work together. Its not so much that either of us brings something different to the other's sound as much as we give each other confidence and push each other to take things further than we might on our own."
"I think we both suffer from hyper-sensitivity," Grrrls explains. "Wherever we go we are constantly aware of every single thing surrounding us. It’s like when you smoke weed, you start becoming aware of everything around you. You hear sounds inside sounds; You see things outside of your line of vision because you are aware of movement next to you or behind you. The bad in your environment annoys you, but the joy you can get out of it feels amazing. Sure doesn’t make our life easy neither does it make us popular but it sure makes our records damn good."
It's clear that names also hold a certain potency for these two pseudonym artists. oOoOO explains his own as a kind of anti-name, "It signifies nothing, and nothing signifies freedom. The freedom of being no one from nowhere. oOoOO can be anything or anyone at anytime. Or nothing forever." Likewise, the title of their first LP is equally loaded with personal symbolism. Grrrls says that she realized she looks for the qualities of her father, hard to impress, but incredibly loyal once committed, in everyone she meets. A trait she instantly recognized in oOoOO as well as the author of The Feminine Mystique. "It’s a feeling that applies to everything, music, love, this interview...I felt it the first time I saw Betty Friedan in a documentary. Of all the feminists talking she stood out to me, I paused and looked her up." oOoOO elaborates on that idea, "We feel music is all about surfaces right now. So much is shiny, polished, clean, unambiguous. Today, even the quietest bit of vocal fry in a singer's voice is engineered to pop out of the mix. Everything is super HD. Nothing is obscured or missing or implied. So, I think people are hungry for mystique and mystery right now. For something that isn't immediately obvious and easy to digest."
oOoOO & Islamiq Grrrls share their single "The Stranger" exclusively on i-D:
And oOoOO hopes that this album will convey just how important music is and has always been to both of them throughout their lives. "The only feeling I care about communicating is the feeling that music saved the musician's life," he says, "that music is a passion that rules over the heart, not an exercise in self-branding, or a means to achieving popularity...On this record we're just pouring our souls out into the void. If it felt right, we did it. No second guessing."
"Set your life up in a way that failure is not an option," Grrrls insists. If you don’t have this mindset you won’t go anywhere. I kept purposely losing my jobs because I was subconsciously trying to push myself towards a better life...I don’t think about careers, I just make music and live for it."
But oOoOO laments that the medium is also not what it once was. "It makes me sad to see how music more and more is treated as audio wallpaper or mood music relegated to the background of life. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think as many people are staking their lives on music today like they did decades ago. Music's become a lot more like graphic design; a pleasantly dull, unobtrusive, minor distraction. This is most notable in things like Spotify curated mood playlists. The music doesn't wanna change your life. Its just a cup of ok coffee getting you through the day at the office."
In regards to the future of their work together, oOoOO says, "We already have lots of ideas and sketches for our next record together. We'd really like to start playing more instruments and using them in unusual ways. I feel like we're kind of reaching a saturation point with laptops and smartphones and in the next few years we're going to see a big turn back to making music with actual instruments in real time rather than collaging songs together on a software program."
But as for their ultimate goals, Islamiq Grrrls has something grander in mind: "I want to have a staring competition with Beth Gibbons, sit at Lee Scratch Perry’s Blue Ark Studio in Switzerland, redo the soundtrack for Cassavete’s ‘Opening Night’ movie, dance in a Roisin Murphy video, learn how to draw a two dimensional star on a three dimensional face with Paul Stanley, eat jerk chicken with Grace Jones (naked in a fur coat in the presidential suite), get interviewed by Dick Cavett, be made fun of by Joan Rivers, and after achieving all that I want to be shot by Phil Spector and live in heaven directed by Fellini chain-smoking with Pina Bausch."