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Coffee & Conversation: Olicía

September 21, 2020 by Elena Atkinson-Sporle

Photo: Detlef Wilsch

Photo: Robert Arnold

Olicía. Two highly accomplished jazz musicians with loop stations and endless curiosity. Anna-Lucia and Fama talk about nurturing collaboration, improvising with technology and how they’re pushing the boundaries around them. “There are no rules anymore.”

Who are Olicía?

Comprised of two jazz singers/multi-instrumentalists, Fama and Anna-Lucia, Olicía is eccentric soundscapes; crisp, rhythmic vocals and virtuosic live performances. Musical wizards – expect to see them effortlessly mastering their ever-growing collection of loop stations, effects and instruments you never knew existed.

Though their textures are unconventional, the music created is just that – music. This music isn’t just admirable for its virtuosity or conceptual rigour. Its beauty is moving and its storytelling, captivating.

Anna-Lucia and Fama are filled with infectious curiosity. Their story is inspiring and it was a pleasure to speak with them and to get an insight into their Olicía universe.

An Organic Journey: Growing the Loops

“I didn’t have any idea of what our first or second EP would sound like.” – Fama

With such a unique project, I’d like to know whether Olicía’s sound was imagined by the musicians before it’s realisation, or whether this sound was the result of exploring alluring concepts.

Fama: I didn’t have any idea of what our first or second EP would sound like.

We started as two people with the same loop station showing each other what we’d found out about the device and we thought it was nice to … develop music with that.

Olicía’s sonic result came while “doing” and while getting to know more about the other person and the electronic stuff that we used to create the music.

We started so small and then added other devices. That was nice because we could figure out what we needed – what was missing – for example, drums. I thought oh, it would be so cool to have a drum pad, so we incorporated [a drum pad]. It grew slowly and naturally. Our sound is still evolving.

Anna-Lucia: we work with so much gear and stuff, our equipment just grows and grows – we don’t know how to transport it from gig to gig anymore! This inspires us and our sound.

But we also learn so much from day to day. Even now [during Corona], we are learning stuff, [Fama is into] voice and electronics, I’m into playing the piano – we’re both finding new sounds by ourselves – it explodes when we show each other what we’ve found. There are so many different explorations – that’s out combined sound.

The Recipe for a Sweet Collaboration

Photo: Mikolaj Suchanek

“There’s no hesitation to show [each other] things” – Fama

In group projects, relationships are so important. When you create with someone, you make yourself vulnerable to criticism. How does Olicía navigate this? They create a safe, exploratory environment.

Do you ever dismiss ideas the other person presents?

Anna-Lucia: Niether of us have ever thrown anything out.

Fama: There’s no hesitation to show [each other] things. There’s some stuff that kind of disappears. Some ideas – not only musically but also in our Olicia universe of thousands of ideas and dreams. When we’re together it’s so easy to dream of ideas that get bigger and bigger and then they slowly disappear because we see it’s not realistic. I think it’s a very cool way to just throw the stuff into a big mixing bowl, stir it up and see what comes out of it. 

Intimacy and Technology

Fama speaks to the audience. Photo: Sophia Langner

How many times have you seen a musician on stage with a laptop and wondered – how much of this is actually you and how much of this is your computer? How do you overcome distancing the audience in this fashion?

Going one step further, oftentimes technology can break the intimacy between performers and the audience. A raw vocal can often be more emotive than an affected one. How do you manage this balance between technology and intimacy?

Fama: In the beginning, we tried not to put a computer on stage. [When we have a live audience], we try to make the process as transparent as possible – there’s nothing pre-recorded that is playing on stage.

Even if there’s an effect on stage you can see that we are still singing. So, when we have an octaver – obviously not our voice even though some people ask us “how do you get that low?!” – you can see that we actually sing that real time and we have bass faces. Body language and the fact there’s nothing pre -recorded is maybe even more intimate because you’re part of the process but Anna disagrees…

Anna-Lucia: No! I don’t at all! I know what you mean by “losing authentic expression”. I know how that feels at a concert when a singer for example can’t hear his voice in a natural way at any time – this bugs me. We always have a natural voice singing a verse or something. All the crazy things happening in our arrangement is great but there always must be a lead singer.

Improvisation and loop stations

Anna-Lucia in the studio. Photo: Florian Dobler

“As we developed our technique, the loopers and effects started to become instruments we could improvise with.” – Anna-Lucia

Olicía’s music is so intricate, it’s hard to believe that music isn’t contrived down to each click, breath and ooh… How much of what we hear is improvised?

Anna-Lucia: When we play a song live, there’s a lot of improvisation. There’s always at least an improvised solo or a part where we don’t know where this or that is going to end up.

Our first EP was very planned – this loop is here, this loop has to start there – because we needed that clarity and the technique was too much. As we developed our technique, the loopers and effects started to become instruments we could improvise with. We can now be in the moment and improvise more and more in a live situation. For the first time, we can improvise whole songs with our loop stations.

Fama: The first EP came after we’d just started and played our first two songs in public. It wasn’t us playing the instrument – the instrument was dictating what we had to do. There was a really specific plan – our brains were exploding: live and in the studio. Now we can trust each other and communicate better.

We’ve changed how we stand on stage: now we face each other so with one look we can say “I need a little more time here” or “I’m doing a solo”.

Lyrical Inspiration

Olicía – fierce and shiny. Photo: Robert Arnold

“I like to mix the senses: you hear something blue or you see something loud. Something abstract but I immediately get a feeling of a certain vibe.” – Anna-Lucia

How do you guys go about crafting lyrics?

Anna-Lucia: It’s not always a [typical] “story” – I describe one shot of one situation in an abstract way. [I use] words that don’t always make sense. I like to mix the senses: you hear something blue or you see something loud. Something abstract but I immediately get a feeling of a certain vibe.

It’s often a poem that inspires me. If I read something and feel something, I like to re-write it. Oscar Wilde for example, or Hermann Hesse.

Fama: We are really different when it comes to writing lyrics. I think I’m way more direct in what I write. I’m inspired by meeting people, getting to know them. It can be about what that person means to me or what side of myself comes out when I’m with that person, that can be family members or people I newly meet. Also, I try to not always write about myself.

When I was in Copenhagen, I realised I really like spoken word. It’s so hard to sing in German but it’s really nice to speak in German and to have a part of a song just spoken and direct. I’m experimenting with how much I can say without me and the audience being very uncomfortable. It’s very exciting. For example, how direct can I be when I talk about grief, or, without people starting crying.

New Album, New Concepts

Singing faces. Photo: Simon Chmel

When can we expect to hear more from Olicía?

Anna-Lucia: Only Corona knows! The plan is to release [the album] in August 2021. We are planning a campaign to raise money. It’ll be quite expensive.

We invented a concept for our album. It’s will be a double album containing two different versions of each song. One version will be the “original”, the other will be improvised – we’ll see what comes out when we put it in a whole other world. Maybe another language, another tempo – all these kinds of differences do a lot to songs that already exist.

Fama: We also invited some guests for the second versions.  For some songs it was really clear – I already hear what the second version will be like. For some others we just went for it! For one song we started singing a cappella – before it was played with a synthesizer – and it became a really nice version of the song. So also the sound quality is a huge thing. It really depends on the song.

Quick-fire Questions!

Favourite instrument to play on stage?

Fama: singing the bass

Anna-Lucia: playing the bass

Favourite song to play live?

Anna-Lucia: the loop impro

Fama: loop impro, and still 15 Step. We had so much trouble thinking about how to develop it and now it’s just the biggest party on stage happening for us

What would be your dream gig?

Fama: An indoor hippie festival, with a good light show and maybe some visuals in the audience – lots of people enjoying it and dancing!

Anna-Lucia: Playing in a huge cinema. Some songs we play live are danceable, some not. They’re mostly improvisations – very intimate and you really want to listen. This would be perfect with huge visuals behind us.

See for yourself!

On September 27th, Olicía will perform at the KuZe in Potsdam, DE.

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Ellie Atkinson-Sporle
Content Creation, Storytelling

Ellie is a storyteller for littlebig.art. Originally from the UK, she earned her BA Music degree from Falmouth University in 2018. Ellie fell in love with Vienna while travelling and has been performing, writing and exploring here ever since. Storytelling and initiating discussions are two of her greatest passions.