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OTZEKI: The Journey Behind Binary Childhood

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

As you know we love celebrating new music here at Darkus, so it is a pleasure we introduce you to Otzeki a duo consisting of cousins Mike Roberts and Joel Roberts. The pair take a much more experimental but edgy approach to the world of electronic music which if you listen to the first time especially, draws you because they make ignite the curiosity to want to know more and more. 2018 was a really special year for the cousins as well, partly due to the release of their debut album, Binary Childhood as well as a summer of taking their music to some of Europe’s well known festivals.

Intrigued to find out not just about the new record, the shows but also take a look into the world and minds of Otzeki I caught up with Mike and Joel.

Lovely to meet you. You were very busy over the summer travelling across Europe playing some amazing festivals; how did all that go?

It was pretty mind-blowing and still is. You lose sense of time, moving so fast, meeting so many people, it’s important to get down to doing some practical work like making furniture or something when you come home so the sudden drop in adrenaline doesn’t burn you out.

There’s been some great coverage of your debut album, Binary Childhood, with the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens having already named it as one of his favourite albums; what is it like to hear things such as that?

We tend towards being extremely self-critical so it’s a real boost to feel appreciated by anyone for the hours you put into your craft. However, that being said we don’t dwell on any kind of praise too much as it gets in the way of us thinking straight.

As debut albums go, do you feel Binary Childhood gives the new listener a good first impression of the world of Otzeki?

It’s a glimpse of our early tastes in music and the limited ways we could express ourselves musically at the time we made it, but whether it’s a “good first impression for the world of Otzeki” we’re not so sure as we’d like to take our sound somewhere else, seeing as our interests are changing naturally as with anyone.

With you being cousins, do you feel that that has helped you develop a shared vision for what you want from the music you write?

Maybe, but a shared vision isn’t what cracks the puzzle. Often, we might have a shared vision but it won’t come together because simply the two sound worlds we have in mind collide in ways that are boring on the ear. If anything, being cousins allows us to try things out and discontinue a shared vision in favour of something neither of us knew before because we have more patience with each other’s experimenting and playfulness than you perhaps would have in non-familial relationships.

For a couple of your tracks, Pay the Tax and Angry Fix, you went one step further and made videos for them; what was it like working on those?

It was a laugh. Just a couple of days hanging out with mates and trying to pull some footage together on a shoe string budget. I enjoyed exploring the songs visually within public spaces and the conceptual relevance of the lyrics being performed as an act rather than a show.

Back in 2014 you released Falling Out; how far do you feel you’ve progressed since the days of recording in your bedrooms?

We’ve come a long way in terms of our ability to translate our ideas into practice and, having done so much touring, we couldn’t be happier with where we’re at now and the places our music has taken us. But we’re still making music in our bedrooms so not much has changed there!

What would you say is the best way to embrace the true Otzeki experience; would it be checking out the album or coming along to one of your shows?

Both. And if you enjoy that experience you should read a newspaper back to front upside down and out loud.

There is much more than initially meets the eye when it comes to you, as in 2016 you also launched the Discophorus label with some of your friends. Have the past two years been kind in terms of the label’s development?

Yes, and Otzeki wouldn’t exist as it is without us having pursued having our own label. We’ve now got four records out in decent record shops and all the streaming sites you can think of. Having started knowing nothing about the industry, and considering the things we’ve learned, we couldn’t be happier.

Do you feel that Discophorus differs to other labels in any way; perhaps in the sense that it’s an independent label that gave artists more of a voice?

Well, we’re as independent as they come but even being an artist on your own label doesn’t constitute having any more of a voice. Even your closest friends can distract you from having a voice if the strength is not there within you to find it yourself. We just give the best we have and are grateful to have the right kind of support around us when it’s needed. Having our own label means we always have an awareness that there are two sides to the coin, so when we’re in a position to sign new artists ourselves there’s no doubt we’ll be empathetic and patient with them. There’s no use pretending it can be any other way, they’ll have to have their own voice and that’s not for us to toy with, it’s to be cultivated.

What are the next steps for Otzeki?

We’re writing our second album and we have some shows in Istanbul and Los Angeles coming up soon.

Wishing Mike and Joel for the next chapter in their exciting journey, no doubt it will be one filled with many happy and positive vibes. Be sure to take the opportunity to check out Binary Childhood, because it is quite a clever record and give you more of an insight into what makes Otzeki so special.

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Article By Thushara

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