A Chat With Owl Eyes

Nightswim is the debut album from Australian electro-indie-pop’s darling, Owl Eyes. Having emerged into the public eye as 2008 Australian Idol contestant Brooke Addamo, at the age of 22, Owl Eyes has since released three EPs, with the title-track from her 2011 EP, ‘Raiders,’ reaching #64 on the 2011 Triple J’s Hottest 100, along with her Like A Version cover of Foster the People’s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. After listening to the album, I was lucky enough to have a brief chat with the girl behind the music. Over the phone she is sweet and slightly nervous in a charming way. Her album had only just been released several days before.

Nightswim itself features Addamo’s trademark ethereal vocals layered in echoing harmonies over muted synths. As a huge fan of her fellow electro-pop ladies, Oh Land and Little Boots, I found Nightswim a great follow-up to Owl Eyes’ previous EPs and clearly indicative of her growth in the interval years. The overall sound is darker and more sensual than that of Raiders, with the electronic instrumental arrangements beautifully complementing Addamo’s voice. On discussing the musical differences between her EPs and Nightswim, Addamo explained that, “I feel like just it changes because I’ve grown as a person and obviously going from your first EP from 18/19, to writing an album from 20 to 22, you know I think I’ve just grown a lot and it shows in my music, and it’s just a collection what she loves and listens to. It’s grown in a way as it’s more electronic, but I feel like the main thing that’s grown about it is me.”

When I asked what her favourite song from Nightswim was, she stated that it was ‘Saltwater,’ a song that “came most natural to me to me, and wasn’t a struggle to write, it sort of just came out [and] comes from a really true place in my heart … and I really just love all the synths at the end”. My own favourite songs from the album are the title-track ‘Nightswim,’ ‘Diamonds in Her Eyes’ and ‘Jewels and Sapphires’. ‘Nightswim’ features a hook I find myself constantly singing, whilst the ambient electro-pop of ‘Jewels and Sapphires’ is a perfect contrast to the more upbeat tone of ‘Diamonds in Her Eyes’. In regards to the album as a whole, she said, “with this album I tried to write really honest and, you know, a lot more true to myself, rather than kind of disguising the song with fantasies and things like that”.

On discussing why she’d chosen the name Owl Eyes for herself, she mentioned that had been inspired by the Devendra Banhart song ‘Owl Eyes’: “I just really loved it and thought it was beautiful, and it kind of referenced my music in a kind of way. You know owls are quite mysterious and spooky, and my music is pop music but I like it to have something underlying, and I feel that owls have that contrast between light and shade, which I like.” This contrast between light and shade can be seen clearly in the video clip for Nightswim’s lead single ‘Closure,’ where Addamo is dressed in white on a simple dark set, a single source of light emanating from behind the characters in the video, casting sharp shadows on faces and bodies. On the simplicity of the music video, she stated that she wanted it to be “different to my previous [videos], I wanted it to be a lot cleaner and sleeker, because that’s how I felt at the moment … I didn’t want to disguise it in costume … I wanted it to be quite stripped down and mature”.

For the rest of May she will be touring the capital cities of each state (sans Darwin and Canberra) for the promotion of Nightswim. In the meantime, I’ll be putting Nightswim on my frequent rotation list until she decides to come and play at Transit again. If you’re a fan of electro-indie-pop along the lines of Oh Land, or just keen to support some aussie talent, give Owl Eyes a try.