Forage With Me: Clash Meets otta
‘Songbook’, out now, is the second EP from British-Finnish artist otta, whose eclectic organised chaos pulls you in with a mix of skittering electronics over the top of lo-fi R&B. After writing, recording, creating the EP artwork, and producing it almost all by herself, this record is undoubtedly personal.
“I definitely write about my experience and the experiences of those close to me, feeling sad and generally not OK at this age is something that I try to pull from.”
‘hope extension’ perhaps embodies this the most, with drifting lyricism such as “I’ll get existential with friends” over stripped back piano melodies. Her voice shakes and echoes in its rawest form; “nothing feels like family anymore, no one feels close to me anymore, everything volatile, vulnerable, don’t connect with anyone, spiralin’.” Track ‘suihku’ however, follows straight after, acting as a palette cleanser with its amalgamation of overstimulating clashes and rattling.
Learning to produce via garage band, friends she met at the BRIT school, and through acting mentor and Kwes who mixed and did additional production on the EP, otta still has a lot to learn on that front.
“I feel that I still don’t really know what I’m doing, just winging it. It’s never-ending - there is always something more to know. Kwes understands production so well that it’s just amazing to see him work and I am so lucky to work with him.”
Clash caught up with otta during lockdown for her first-ever interview, where we discussed escaping to Finland, foraging tips, and feeling downright melancholy.
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What is your lead single ‘never see’ about?
This song is about over romanticising having someone out there but you can’t really see them or see the possibility of them because you’re so caught up in your own negative space. When you’re not in a good place, there are things you could do to help yourself out eg. you could speak to someone, and there is so much good around you, but you can’t see that and you don’t know how to help yourself because you’re surrounded in bad vibes.
The song itself I think sounds so fun but at the heart of it, it’s kind of sad. It’s actually peak. You can’t see all your good when you’re surrounding yourself and harbouring the bad.
You have mentioned your love for artists such as Kanye and David Bowie. How do you feel about being able to separate artists work from their shitty actions?
I remember hearing 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' as a child and being like ohhhh shit. Everything that Kanye was putting out there was so much depth to it and visually as well, I just remember listening to it and feeling so grown up and far away from anything else I’d heard. It changed the way I thought about music, and I still listen to him quite a lot. I just how he takes ideas really far. I try to do that in my music, push things as far as they will go.
However, I have definitely thought about this. It’s fucked up, and fuck Kanye for the way he’s been behaving. I think I can separate, and clearly, I have done that, I’ve listened to artists despite the problematic things they have done.
You would never, for example, listen to an R Kelly song, there’s no way. I think there is a line you don’t cross but you tend to justify it for the acts that you like. But it is important to hold artists accountable for the actions. PERIOD.
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With your mum being Finnish and having grandparents living in Finland, you spent long summers there as a child. Do you feel that this influenced your creativity as a musician at all?
It definitely did. I used to do loads of creative stuff with my sister, we would play outside all the time, make songs and paint shit. We had quite a lot of freedom to do whatever. I was really encouraged to make stuff, my mum is very creative and my family have always been supportive of me wanting to make music.
Finland is just such a beautiful place, its so magical I can’t even describe it. Living in England and then going there, always knowing that place is there, speaking Finnish and having my grandparents there - it’s like a whole other world I have that no one knows about. It’s a magic place that I love.
As children there was a bit of forest we call the magic forest, we would go there and pick berries and mushrooms. It’s just such a different life to England.
Do you find you are more inspired in everyday London life or when you are in Finland in your creative haven?
I’m more inspired to write when I’m feeling shit, so yeah in London for sure. However, being in Finland is definitely a good place to work on songs because you get a new perspective, say you’ve written a song when you’re feeling down in London, then you’re in Finland just on your laptop making it better.
I work on stuff there all the time. There’s a little spot on top of the garage, and I take a microphone with me up there. When I was living and working in London and I was just not OK, I just went to Finland on my own, filmed my first video, and was free to do whatever I wanted, because there’s just no one around. It’s like an escape almost that is constantly inspiring.
I also made the artwork for the cover in Finland, it is all stuff that I took pictures of round the house. The silhouette of my face is something that my grandparents have in their bedroom, and I also took a picture of this plate that I used to eat off every day as a kid. When I put them together, I didn’t want to change it because it is so personal to me. When I showed it to my gran she recognised it all and was so happy. That is really important to me.
Do you wish that you could be in Finland for lockdown?
Lowkey, yes. I keep thinking of going, trying to figure out a way to quarantine there but I’ve just got to stay put really.
As soon as the album is out maybe I should bun it and just go! Everyone is in their houses anyway, maybe I could do some live streams and tutorials like how to make a basket out of twigs. I would watch that. Exclusive content: Tune into to my live stream to hear my songs and also learn valuable foraging skills.” There’s something in that.
God, maybe I should? It can be titled “Forage with me.”
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'Songbook' EP is out now.
Words: Megan Warrender
Photo Credit: Rosie Atkin
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