Next Wave #901: OK Button
At some point late last year, after the first bottle of Baileys but before Pete Shelley died, the universe gave me what I needed.
OK Button’s ‘The Message’ wasn’t quite the political sermon that Grandmaster Flash had bestowed upon us, but it did contain a six-word mantra that seemed beautifully, crudely compact in their wisdom: ‘You motherfuckers won’t bring me down.’
In the video for the song, singer Amber Wilson – long beloved as a solo artist in Scotland – isn’t just smiling as she sings the words. She’s beaming, spade over her shoulder as she finishes burying her bandmates in a field. That’s some powerful energy right there.
The winter has passed and OK Button are just coming into full bloom. Stunning recent singles ‘Beds’ and ‘Flesh & Blood’ have proven that the band have built something more complex than a facsimile of Daughter or London Grammar, but a songwriting machine that understands the laughter and lunacy that often come side-by-side with the tears and drama.
Ahead of their performance at The Great Escape, we spoke to Amber to discuss the band’s journey, dream collaborations with Bon Iver, and how opening her own bakery has helped on the road to recovery from long-term illness.
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You're already well-respected as both a solo artist and touring member of Bombay Bicycle Club. Was it a conscious decision to form OK Button as a band project?
In the beginning, Adam and I had no real vision or plan, but after taking our ideas to Craigie, it naturally evolved into more of a collective project - Nass joining shortly after. I love the supportive environment and team spirit of a band - we're like family. Although I'm typically the main songwriter, we're all a part of the creative process and bring something different to the table.
I gather you all previously lived in Aberdeen before moving to London. Were you tempted by Glasgow or Edinburgh, or did you feel that London was the right place to move things forward?
Yeah, Nass and I are from Aberdeen and met Adam while he was working there. A lot of our current team are in Glasgow, so it feels more like home. I've always loved the city and it's thriving, supportive music scene.
London wasn't a conscious choice - initially, I moved down to work with Bombay Bicycle Club - but Adam and our producer Craigie are both based in London so it makes sense for now. Before singing with Bombay, I was enrolled to finish my HND in Sound Production at college in Glasgow, so in another life...
You've been open about struggling with anxiety and low self esteem. Does any part of being a musician – writing or perhaps performing – help make those things a little easier?
It does and it doesn't. I find writing very cathartic, and have done from a young age. My first songs around age nine were about being bullied and my hamster dying, haha! My writing is often stream of consciousness and I feel much lighter afterwards - I'd recommend it to anyone.
Funnily enough though, performing live is my kryptonite. It triggers overwhelming feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, but I'm working on that with a therapy called EMDR. I hope to conquer the fear eventually.
And you also started a vegan bakery as part of your health journey. How did that come about?
It's currently ME awareness week so to tell the full story... I was diagnosed with CFS/ME in 2014 after a lengthy bout of 'Aussie' flu. Adopting a fully vegan diet improved my symptoms. I then found that sugar and gluten caused flare-ups, but I couldn't live without treats, so started experimenting in the kitchen.
My home bakery, Hidden Virtues, was born last year when my friends suggested I start selling my goods at the local farmer's market and vegan market, where I'm now known for my "super cookies". Health benefits aside, eating more plant-based foods saves the planet. It's win-win.
If pop superstardom comes knocking and the calls are flooding in, is there any particular artist or band you'd love to collaborate with?
The absolute dream would be to collaborate with Bon Iver. We're huge fans - 'For Emma, Forever Ago' is in our top five favourite albums. I love the raw, honest emotion of that record. ‘Re: Stacks’ - holy shit. Nass and I saw Justin silence a sold out Usher Hall with that song and will never forget it. Goosebumps.
Should we expect an album this year?
An album is definitely the goal but we hope to look at that for next year. Right now, we're focusing on our next single 'Verso' (out next month), followed by our debut EP which will be released in summer.
You're off to The Great Escape shortly. Is this your first time? What are you looking forward to?
We sure are. It's our first time at The Great Escape and also our first festival, so we're really excited! Fabrica and One Church look like beautiful venues. We're looking forward to catching up with old friends, making new ones, and hearing some great music.
Brighton has such a warm, friendly atmosphere. And it’s also amazing for vegan food…
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Catch OK Button at The Great Escape, Brighton this weekend (May 9th - 11th).
Words: Matthew Neale // @MatthewGNeale
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