Geoffrey O’Connor Brings His Noir Synth Pop to Hollywood Forever

Posted by Billy Gil, September 28, 2011 02:09pm | Post a Comment
Geoffrey O’Connor, frontman for Australian indie pop band Crayon Fields, released his debut record under his own name this week with Vanity Is Forever, a dark and sexy collection of new romantic pop reminiscent of Bryan Ferry and later-period Roxy Music. It’s gorgeous stuff, and tonight he’ll play it at Hollywood Forever Cemetery alongside Swedish songsmith Jens Lekman at 8 p.m. I took a minute to chat with O’Connor about his music upbringing and influences — surprise, it’s not all ’80s all the time!

PST: Can you tell me a little bit about your musical background up until releasing Vanity Is Forever?

O’Connor: I’ve been writing and recording songs since high school, which is when I started playing with Crayon Fields — we are now working on album number three. I released a solo record in 2007 as Sly Hats, but then decided to drop the name for the one my mother gave me.

PST: What are some of the influences, musical or otherwise, that got you making the music that appears on this album?

O’Connor: Classics like Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed and Dory Previn are the first musical influences that come to mind. I work in a cinema and get to see a lot of free movies — often there will be a memorable scene or quote that will trigger a song idea, even in the ones I don’t like.

PST: I definitely hear a cinematic quality to your music. Have you or would you consider scoring a film?

O’Connor: Very much so — it is pretty much my dream to score a film. I often feel like my efforts making films are more to do with wanting to score them.

PST: I feel like there's been a return to sort of luxurious music of the '70s and '80s lately in underground/indie music and film. Music like Washed Out and The Field, referencing bands like Roxy Music; the movie Drive comes to mind. This sort of like, underside of "Miami Vice" thing. I see songs like "Whatever Leads Me to You" fitting alongside that to some degree. But that's just it conjures up for me, I guess. Does that sound along the lines of what you'd like to create, or is it very different for you? What imagery come up for you when you hear/make your own music, and do you see it as fitting alongside other artists of this era?

O’Connor: It’s been interesting how often the ’80s has been cited in the write-ups and reviews for the record so far. Generally it doesn’t bother me — I can see how the comparison could be drawn. I do love Roxy Music too, especially the later stuff. It’s certainly not a premeditated thing though, or an homage of any kind. I guess I’ve always liked the purity of direct, melodramatic pop music — which is typical of many ’80s classics. While I love a lot of contemporary music, a lot of it frustrates me in its lack of both lyrical and melodic conviction.
PST: At the same time, the music is very removed from a lot of trends. It's more deliberate and sensitive to me. Did you seek to make music that sounded like it could come have come from a number of different eras and genres?

O’Connor: To a degree I did, I always aim to make my songs sound contemporary — but I guess my approach to song writing resembles that of the ’60s and ’80s in that the melodic hooks and lyrics always come first. I’m very much into music that sounds deliberate, as opposed to being improvised — and that’s the way I go about writing and recording.

PST: Are you involved in any other projects, musically or otherwise?

O’Connor: I’m finishing a Masters in film this year, and using my time in the course to put together a series of music videos. I’d like to be more involved in film/video making, I enjoy it just as much as making music. I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with it yet, though I’m toying with the idea of putting together a soap opera at some point — I’ll probably call it “Vanity Is Forever,” too. I also play in a couple of other people’s bands on guitar and bongos — Guy Blackman, Montero and Monnone Alone.
What's your setup for playing live?

O’Connor: I have two modes at the moment. I usually play with two other dueling synthesizer players, and then for the solo shows it’s just me with a guitar and sampler. I’m very much into making it a visual thing and I bring my own projections, lasers and smoke when I can. I think both modes work in very different ways and suit different environments — it’s always nice to have company though!

Relevant Tags

Geoffrey O'connor (2), Jens Lekman (8), Fleetwood Mac (33), Lou Reed (17), Crayon Fields (1), Roxy Music (12), Drive Soundtrack (1)