Maltese indie pop outfit OXYGYN have released the video for their latest single, Mercy. We decided to dig a bit deeper.
With the video for the band’s most recent single, Mercy, having been released this week, we thought we needed a word.
Ostensibly a pop band, but with a darker edge and a style that grabs outside the norm, they are a band that has a different take on life.
Comprising sibling vocal duo Katia and Kurt, with Zack on guitars and Funky Monkey on production, OXYGYN are resolutely trying to put Malta on the music map. And they’re doing a decent job. We like their style and their look.
The video for Mercy is part of an ongoing narrative in the development of the band and a pretty dark take on life. It is not an easy watch, but you should.
Of course, their wings have been clipped the last 12 months, for reasons with which we know only too well, but they have big plans.
We caught up with the band for a Zoom chat and it was cool to see that all four of them signed in. They were all looking bright and happy to be here.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Katia: So, currently, our house is being torn down, so, we [Kurt and me] are at our Grandma’s house at the moment. And even to find a quiet place just to do this [interview] was a bit of a nightmare, but we’re good.
FM: And we [Zack and me] are in the studio we currently rehearse in.
Zack: Sitting in the middle of the floor, because there’s no furniture. It’s a work in progress.
P3dro: Tell us about OXYGYN. How did you get together? How did you form?
Kurt: Well, from my perspective, it started back when I was about 16 and I used to write punk songs at school with a friend of mine. At some point we came up with a particular song and we came up with idea of including Katia to put the vocals on it. That song ended up being our debut single – Corrode. From there on Luke (Funky Monkey) joined us, doing production, which really gave our songs a twist.
Then Zack joined on guitar, so little by little our band was formed. It was quite an organic process and that’s how we appear today.
P3dro: Do you think you have any message or anything you’re trying to say to people?
Kurt: Ya. Our message is one that’s quite societal and one that’s quite human. I want to tap into certain emotions and social issues which aren’t much discussed in mainstream pop music. So, we want to give our own spin and interpretation on pop, to create our own indie and dark pop with our message. So, say by example, our last track, ‘Mercy’ is mostly focussed on vulnerability and I think that’s a topic that’s not very much discussed. We want to alter the idea of what pop is.
P3dro: How do you see the music scene in Malta at the moment?
Katia: It’s got a lot better than in previous years. Before, it was very limited, but over the years we’ve seen an increase in new music and it’s got better. There’s still a way to go in Malta. But it’s progressing. There is good music here.
P3dro: What about venues? Are there many places you can play?
Katia: It’s quite limited. It depends.
Zack: Not really!
Katia: It’s usually things like festivals we can play at. Our kind of music is a bit alternative, so bars and places like that are not really our style.
Kurt: And with Covid 19, we haven’t had much opportunity to play in the past year anyway. We’ve been using the time mostly to write and create new music. We just have to adapt, I suppose.
P3dro: So, how has Covid been? Have you been able to get together?
FM: At the beginning we were more together. We were planning ‘Mercy’ quite a lot, going through production and planning ideas for the video. We took that time to be productive.
Kurt: And Zack played a big role in helping out …
Zack: Yeah, when I found out I was going to be quarantined for quite a while, I took the time to work on the studio building and most of the time when we could have been rehearsing, but not having gigs, we spent it producing new songs, brainstorming ideas and recording other stuff on the side. I had to keep myself busy, otherwise I would have gone insane.
P3dro: Who do you think are your musical influences?
Katia: There’s Oh Wonder, which is a big influence for us.
Kurt: And Billie Eilish as well. But realistically, they may be the biggest influences for us as a band, but we all have different influences. From my end I’m more into pop and art pop sounds.
Katia: It varies, it depends on my mood. I’m more into Tame Impala, but it changes all the time.
FM: For me, it’s more like hip hop, heavier electronic and dub step.
Zack: I like older stuff – blues, like Gary Moore, Pink Floyd and stuff like that. So, we can combine everything together into whatever we produce.
Kurt: We all bring our things together into the mix.
P3dro: What are the plans for OXYGYN for the future?
Kurt: With what we can do at the moment, our plan is to work on a debut album. So far we have released singles since the band started, but now the major project is to release an album. But, obviously we want to wait until the whole pandemic has calmed down.
So, that’s the main project, but until then we’ll continue to release singles. That’s the idea.
P3dro: How do you feel about releasing a single or an EP or an album?
Kurt: This is something we’ve discussed, whether to release a single or an album. We have a concept for live shows, but we want to wait until we can fulfil that [idea] and then to release an album with the concept for live shows to go hand in hand with that. Although, at the moment we’ll still continue releasing stuff, but maybe the big project has to be put on hold for now, until the situation calms down.
P3dro: So, how do you see an OXYGYN gig looking like?
Kurt: We’re quite a minimalist band, even with the idea of visuals, there is not a lot of light work. But we have this thing with the videos for our singles where they connect and make sense together.
Katia: If you watch the videos together, then they are like a story.
Kurt: They have a particular timeline, so we would like to include that in our live shows.
FM: Also, when it comes to lighting. We’d like to connect, so you have the video and the whole experience.
Kurt: We’d want to tell our story with the lights.
P3dro: So, you see the gig experience as a kind of music and visual and art kind of thing coming together?
Kurt: Very much so. The second I start writing a track, the lyrics and all that, I have a particular visual in my head. It’s a natural choice that the visuals go along with the music. They are two parts of the same whole essentially.
So, that’s why we really want to wait until we can do live gigs again. And then we can give our live audiences that particular experience.
P3dro: But you’d need the space to do that?
FM: Yeah, if we stick to Malta for the moment, then we’d need to create the space, because if it’s not a festival, or something major, then if we do it here, then we need to take over somewhere.
Kurt: This is something we’re very passionate about. But it takes time and effort, but we want it to be 100% for when the audiences can come back.
FM: We’re interested in exploring other countries for gigs and festivals
Zack: We’d like to get the fuck out of here!
P3dro: Well, good luck in getting into the UK
P3dro: If you could go to a gig anywhere in the world and see any band, then who would it be?
Katia: Tame Impala, for sure. I was meant to go and see them last year, exactly before Covid hit.
Kurt: I would love to see Billie Eilish. I’ve been wanting to see one of her gigs for ever. I’d nearly got to go to Barcelona to see her. But, that’s where I would go to watch anyone.
Zack: Probably Muse at Glastonbury, probably. I’ve been wanting to see them live for so long – they’re one of the best live bands to watch, from what I’ve seen at least. I love them.
FM: I can’t decide on one. I’d really like to see Deadmau5 for the lighting experience and the staging. And then for the performance, I’d want to see some old school hip hop, like The Rugged Man. He came to Malta, but I was too young to go.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album we should be listening to right now.
Kurt: OK. A big inspiration for us is The XX’s debut album.
Zack: There’s a Polyphia album called ‘New Levels New Devils’ I really like. It’s mostly instrumental and really interesting to listen to. That’s a really good album.
Katia: Well, I have one, Cage the Elephant – ‘Skin and Bones’.
FM: ‘Fantasy’, by Whethan.