An Interview with Producer/Songwriter OWENSTONE About His Latest Single, “Island”, Favorite Shows And Favorite Artists Today!
Posted On 01 Sep 2016
Otherwise known as Nathan Owen, the LA-based producer & songwriter, Owenstone released his debut self-titled full-length album in 2013, which saw some success in the blogsphere at outlets like Earmilk, Buzzbands LA, Grimy Goods, and several others.
A few years back, Owen began recording demos on his own, and his cool Uncle Mick (Mick Smiley of the 1980’s and original Ghostbuster’s soundtrack fame) showed an interest in his music, and offered to produce one of the songs. One song turned into more, and over the course of three years, a full album and a new band came out of it: OWENSTONE.
From there, Owenstone played every small venue imaginable in LA, booked a DIY tour to SXSW, played Desert Daze Music Festival in 2012, and hosted a residency at Los Globos to promote the release of their debut album. Nathan Owen directed two music videos for the group, the second of which earned a second-place award in a 3D film festival in South Korea. Songs from the album enjoyed several different film and TV placements, from MTV to straight-to-video films you can only watch on Netflix.
Learn more about Owenstone in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are more than half-way through 2016, what are some words you would use to describe it? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for the band?
2015 has been a time of very deliberately exploring a new sound, and bringing in new musicians to find it. I still play some of the old songs as part of the live set, but I got tired of writing songs that were based around guitar riffs I came up with. We’ve been experimenting with blending vintage and modern synths, live and electronic drums, and lyrical narratives that range from contemplative and personal to just plain ridiculous. What I’m really excited about is still to come- collaborating with friends of mine to create a virtual reality music video, and custom projection mapping and light orchestration for our live shows.
Growing up, did you all always want to be a musicians? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? And specifically, how did Owenstone come to be? How did you come up with your name?
I always sang. I’d impersonate Elvis as a little kid, wrote stories and songs. By high school, my main focus was acting and filmmaking. It wasn’t till I dropped out of film school in college that I took up playing an instrument and decided to start a band.
A few bands and years later, my uncle, artist and music producer Mick Smiley, heard a demo I’d recorded and offered to produce it. One song turned into six, and eventually a whole album. He always wanted me to be a solo artist, but I wanted a band. I couldn’t afford to hire musicians, which is what you usually have to do if you’re a solo artist. We made a compromise…a band name that was derivative of my own name. It was actually my guitarist at the time who suggested “Owenstone” while eating at Denny’s after practice. Nobody at the table hated it, so it stuck.
This fall, you will release your newest EP. Can you talk about putting this collection together? How do you think you have grown as a musician since your debut in 2013?
The EP lays the foundation for the new style we’ve been pursuing. My biggest challenge in the past has been creating a cohesive, identifiable sound. Before, I wanted every song to be stylistically different, but it really threw people off. There’d be a jumpy dancey indie pop song followed by a mournful, introspective rock anthem, followed by a cheerful chillwave tune about playfully contemplating suicide. They were written individually, not as an album…so I’m hoping that this time, we can really lock into a flow that makes sense.
What was the inspiration for the EP’s first single “Island”?
There’s this Korean movie called “Castaway on the Moon” about a guy who gets stuck on an island underneath a highway that bridges two cities separated by water. Three years ago, I moved into a warehouse next to the LA River, and the landscape reminded me of that film. I spent a lot of time searching the sandy bamboo-covered areas, juxtaposed by the river’s giant concrete banks, and would find shady beaches along the water to write songs. I started writing very literally about being on an island, and finished the song while on a canoeing trip. I was actually sitting on the bank of an island, thinking about my girlfriend, and the song took a longing, romantic turn.
From what I’ve read, it sounds like you’ve had all kinds of touring experience. What’s been a favorite touring memory of yours? What do you think ultimately makes the perfect show for you?
We did a DIY tour to SXSW in 2012 and it was just plain rough. Our show in New Orleans was poorly promoted by the venue, two shows we had in Austin were double-booked, and we got booted off the bill. We decided to throw a pool party at my friend’s house, and that’s the only day during the festival it rained, and maybe ten people showed up. That night, some friends invited me and my violinist to a party and gave us acid. It was a great night with great people, but the trip lasted well into the morning, and we had to get the van back to the rest of the band. The visuals had worn off, so even though we hadn’t slept, we drove an hour back and picked up the other bandmates. Since we hadn’t had a decent gig the whole tour, my drummer bought buckets at Home Depot, I grabbed my baritone ukulele, and the three of us played as a trio for multiple street shows around the festival. We played on street corners and met a lot of cool people who enjoyed the tunes, snuck into parties and played our set, and had the most fun we’d had the entire tour.
To me, a perfect show is throwing your own. It’s a lot more work, but it’s worth it. We’re doing a series of shows inside my warehouse studio, where we can build our own stage, orchestrate our own lights and projections, rehearse in the same place where we are performing, and pack the place with friendly faces and have way more fun than we could ever have in a venue. When you have the opportunity to truly curate the experience, the experience is much more worthwhile.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire Owenstone? Who would you love to work with in the future?
I’d love to collaborate with Beck or Dangermouse or Ratatat, MGMT, The Tuneyards. I have a major crush on St. Vincent. I’m also really into Django Django, the XX, Phoenix, and Alt-J. That’s who comes to mind right now anyways,
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
Each song has its own message or story. People will take from it what they like. My biggest hope is that I can continue to do my art, and inspire others to do the same. Art can inject beauty into almost anything, and an inspired mind can see beauty and worth anywhere.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
If you like what you hear, say hi, leave a comment, reach out. Share your own creative work, I’d love to see it! And if you don’t like the song, share it with someone you don’t like.