Introducing: Oxymorrons

Thursday 31 May 2018
Photography Ryan Saradjola

New York, a city known for its culture and creativity, and home to a band hell-bent on continuing to push the boundaries of the city’s urban culture. Oxymorrons are a six piece outfit whose ethos of being ‘unapologetically yourself’ is conveyed through both their music and message. The band’s upcoming project Gateway Drug is all about learning to love yourself and dealing with stereotypes in and outside of the industry. We caught up with the pair to talk about what fuels the fire behind their artistry and some of their guilty pleasures.

How did everyone in Oxymorrons meet?

K: Well me and Demi are brothers… so I met him when I was born. Everyone else came in little by little. Originally we only had a DJ and a drummer and then as we evolved through the process of growing and finding ourselves as a band we added more elements. We’re all from New York, except our bassist Joe who’s from Philly.

As born New Yorkers what would you say is the best thing about the New York music scene and what makes it unique?

D: I think what makes it unique is the texture of New York City. There’s this big mix of cultures so when you have all these people from different parts of the world, you then get all these different sounds and artistic perspectives. I also think that just the general hustle and bustle of New York inspires all the artists that are out in the city. So, when you take the grind of the city and mix it with the different types of music and culture flooding through it, you get this different push of art and music which is unique.

I think with cities like New York that are so rich in art and music in history and culture the city itself becomes art, is that something you can feel?

D: One hundred percent, like even waiting for a train at a train station you’ll have people dancing or painting – there’s art everywhere. I think art is a form of liberation, so people just pour out their souls as they go about their lives. The whole city itself is living art.

There’s six of you all together, so talk me through what it’s like in studio with everyone.

K: Well for us creating in the studio is a bit different, we don’t have a regular process when it comes to working in the studio. Certain members will play something different in the studio than they would on stage, so it’s very different for us. Me and my brother are the only songwriters as far as that goes, so a lot of the time the songs are written by us and then we build on that with our producers. It’s never the entire band all at once in the studio, it’s players coming in when things are needed, but yeah it’s never all six guys in the studio at once… that would be crazy, a lot of work and clashing of ideas so it’s just easier this way.

Your most recent single is Brunch – tell us a bit about the single and the story behind it.

K: Brunch is like the warm-up track, and the inspiration behind Brunch is our total message as a band, and that’s to be unapologetically yourself. Brunch is a song for liberation, doing all the things that you love. People tend to live lives that we consider ‘living’, people tend to live for others or through everyone else’s guidelines. You should do what makes you happy and be who you are, love who are, do what you want to do no matter what that is. Life should not be controlled, forced or dictated. So we thought brunch was a good place to start because our upcoming project is all about that kind of self-liberation.

It’s so important to teach people about self-liberation and self-love, but how do you embody that in your music?

D: I think the way we portray that message in our own music is by literally doing what we want. It’s not like we sit there and go ‘this is what we are going to sound like’. We convey naturally what we’re feeling within a moment and allow that to pour out through our music. If it’s one of those days where we want to do a melancholic sounding record we try and embody that emotion as naturally as possible. It’s like the title of our last project was Complex But Basic and that’s exactly it, we wake up in the morning and we don’t programme ourselves to be like this is how I’ve got to be today or how I’m going to feel, we live in the moment and I think that’s how we convey that message through our music. I think for some people, they think there’s this certain formula behind writing songs and music but the reality is that music is a free form with no guidelines.

K: Were all taught to be formatted in music, but music is not a formatted thing. There is no guideline, there are no rules. The only rules that we have are that it sounds and it feels good, everything else we tend to break the rules. We go against what people consider normal. When you hear a record like Brunch it’s a little bit more accepted now, but for years we’ve been clashing and blending different genres before it was seen as acceptable. So now it’s like what was once our Achilles heel is now our strongest element, being able to live outside of boundaries and to be able to do it well! That’s something we pride ourselves on.

I know the single is part of a bigger project you guys are working on called Gateway Drug, you’ve been working on it for a while now you must excited to get it out there?

K: Oh yeah! Very excited for Gateway Drug to be out and released. The project itself has been a working progress over a few years of us just building and growing as not only as just musicians but as people, and understanding the concepts of what we want achieve through this. The title itself just comes from us playing all over the country and one half being like ‘Hey I don’t listen to hip hop music but I like you guys’ and the other half being like ‘Hey I don’t like listening to rock music but I like you guys’. So in that regard we consider ourselves the ‘Gateway Drug of Music’ because once you’ve listened to the Oxymorrons you’ve then opened up your soul, heart and music pallet enough to start appreciating new things and start learning to not be so formatted.

I know a big part of the project is talking about the discrimination of being black musicians in a white dominated genre like rock, is that something that you’re trying to push and change with your music?

D: Oh of course! We want to make a change to it from the stand point of, letting kids and other people out there know that they are not alone. Because growing up you kind of feel like you’re by yourself when you’re the only black kid in your neighbourhood listening to rock music. The thing is though that there are lots of people doing that but they just don’t speak out because it’s not the quote on quote cool thing to do. So we want people to feel like they’re not alone so we always talk about the history of rock music, Chuck Berry created rock music. So to think that black people don’t feel powerful in that genre to me doesn’t make any sense.

K: It’s not even that people don’t feel powerful about the genre, there’s just a lack of inclusion. Looking back at music history you’re right, you’ve got Rock music from Chuck Berry, Funk music from James Brown and even Country and Blues Music from people like Lead Belly, and a lot of people forget where it originates from and it’s important to educate people on that through modern music.

K: Yeah exactly, even things like house music, it actually started in Detroit with black musicians and now it is what it is today which is techno music. But at the end of the day for us there are still hurdles we face, there are still things that need to change. As far as challenging the urban music scene goes we’re setting up for this to not only challenge people by saying ‘hey, rock is black and we want inclusion’ but also in the sense of how people perceive black people in urban music. We’re pigeon holed to one sound and it doesn’t make sense because we can make a lot of music and in history a lot of musical forms have started out from the urban community.

Obviously there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into this project, but what would you say is your main focus for it?

D: It’s mainly just doing whatever we want as far as discrimination it’s all across the board, whether it’s our peers in the community or the fans and things like labels and magazines as well. We don’t want to be boxed in and we want to be appreciated to the fullest, but then there’s also these undertones of real life issues that we care about from misogyny to suicide and mental health. There’s a lot of layers to who we are and people are complex beings in general anyway. Overall we are challenging what urban music looks like, sounds like and feels like. There is just a lot of different undertones in our songs that are being used to raise awareness of lots of different issues. Obviously you guys take a lot of inspirations from so many different artists and genres, is there anything that inspires you that you don’t think people would expect?

D: Billy Joel and Hall and Oates… That’s why our music is so diverse. There aren’t that many hip hop rock bands In general and there definitely is not many hip hop rock bands who are inspired by Billy Joel and Hall and Oates! But we grew up on that, my Dad used play all those records like Uptown Girl and Piano Man all these records are records we both grew up listening too. Outside of everything else there was always stuff like Lionel Richie on or Phil Collins. I can remember dancing with my dad to Dancing on The Ceiling and stuff like that. Then we also started experimenting with our own sound as well just when hip hop was crashing and then alternative rock was huge, bands like Linkin Park, Blink 182. All this stuff is all part of the complex mix that makes up who we are as Oxymorrons.

When you look back over from where you first started to now how much change have you noticed?

D: I would say that from when we first started out till now, you can tell the growth of concepts and ideas and us figuring out what our sound is for us and what layers we wanted to have, because we have so many influences it’s like how do you point the gun. Now it’s a way more elevated vibe and you can tell that we’ve mastered our craft, we understand who we are as a band and what we want to do and how to execute it.