Interview: Oktober “When she sings, my heart tingles”

by | Music, music interview, Queer

Oktober is a female singer and songwriter living in Berlin. Singing jazz and in choirs as a teenager, it took her until her 20s to release her quiet, quirkily melancholic songs. We chatted to her last month after she’d released her latest music.

indieRepublik: Tell us a little bit about your musical background

OKTOBER: Let me put it this way – I’ve been through quite a few genres for my age. As a teenager I sang jazz in my school’s big band, sang in quite a few choirs including theatre, had my first pop-punk bands at the same time and ended up with folk-pop at some point in my adulthood. Which makes sense, my act and lyrics are very singer-songwriter. But it all started preeeetty early, at age 5 or 6 maybe: my mum wasn’t a big fan of classical music, but she was never allowed to turn off the TV, even if the opera I wanted to see was on for 6 hours into the night. I was simply fascinated by great emotions and the voice as an instrument from the very beginning. 

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indieRepublik: How did you come up with the name „OKTOBER“?

OKTOBER: I know my music is quite moody and has lots of melancholic, autumnal feel to it. In some way, I wanted my artist name to represent that cosy, colorful, painful time of the year. Autumn is my favorite season for sure: Everything in nature dies – but in such beautiful colors, it’s insane. And even though I’m born in January, I just feel like october’s where me and my music belong, or at least feel most at home. So for my music to be properly staged, even though it can’t be autumn all year round, I have taken the emancipatory measure of being autumn myself, I guess.

indieRepublik: If your music was a movie, which genre would it be in?

OKTOBER: Well, since lots of my songs are acoustic and about love and I am queer myself, I think I should be part of a coming of age drama. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or “Juno” have accompanied me in a very important phase for my musical journey and even today I find a lot of inspiration in music that is simply made for this kind of movies. 

“When she sings, my heart tingles“

indieRepublik: What music do you listen to when you’re touring?

OKTOBER: Sweet question! I’ve just been on a tiny EP release concert tour and since then “Broken Strings” by James Morrison and Nelly Furtado is stuck in my head. I think in exciting moments, when you’re putting on make-up for concerts and getting ready for the stage with bandmates that are your closest friends, I gravitate towards comfort music a lot. 1980s or 2000s are often in the Spotify queue in moments like these. I’m planning on being on tour in October this year and will find out what being on the road for longer changes about my answer. 

indieRepublik: What was the nicest compliment you’ve ever been given?

OKTOBER: Fortunately, I can think of really nice things that have been said to me after concerts, but I have a new favourite: I was playing at a small farm festival a few weeks ago and a mother came up to me with her maybe 5 or 6 year old child. She told me that her child had pointed to her chest with her finger during my performance and said: “When she sings, my heart tingles.“ And I think that’s the sweetest compliment I’ll ever get. Children can be such brutal critics. I will never forget that moment. 

indieRepublik: How do you feel about covering a song?

OKTOBER: For most of my life I’ve covered a lot more songs than I’ve written. I started writing songs early on, at about 13, but I’ve only produced and released maybe 10 of them. And that’s all in my 20s. I still love finding songs and thinking, “wow, how did I not think of that?” and I still love to cover. I just don’t think I’ll gravitate to songs you hear in every karaoke bar as much anymore. And I’m also a firm believer that there should be a difference between re-singing and re-interpreting. There are great songs, and great voices singing those songs, but not all of them have personality and especially credibility. A cover is good if you forget that the song was written by someone else. 

“I will think of indieRepublik the next time I wake up and try to recall my dream”

indieRepublik: Do you dream in colour or black and white?

OKTOBER: I have never thought about it before. I think I dream in colour. But I will think of indieRepublik the next time I wake up and try to recall my dream, I promise!

indieRepublik: Do you see your songs in colour or in black and white?

OKTOBER: I generally think that I am a very visual person. My whole artist persona is sort of built on the very specific aesthetics of a season. I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about my music in terms of colours. To be called OKTOBER, to look the way I dye my hair and dress, and then to make music that is so specifically melancholic – it’s heaven for synaesthetes. This is also reflected in the music videos and cover arts. So in short: I think I need the colour. Black and white are not enough for me to express myself fully.

“We don’t let music cost us anything anymore. It’s an incredible shame, both because of the creative process and the emotional cost to the artists”

indieRepublik: a. What is your preference and b. Where do you think the music industry is headed: NFTs, mp3s, more streaming, less streaming, CDs, vinyl, cassettes, something else entirely?

OKTOBER: My personal preference, in terms of sound quality and symbolic value, is records – like actual vinyl. I think for simplicity’s sake, however, I mostly stream. It’s just handy to be able to take all the music in the world with you on your mobile phone and have it available at all times. But we don’t let music cost us anything any more. It’s an incredible shame, both because of the creative process and the emotional cost to the artists. At the moment, people are willing to spend huge amounts of money on concert tickets and merchandise again, which is nice. But the music itself and thus also the income of smaller artists without teams, merchandise, sound carriers and tour dates fall by the wayside.

indieRepublik: Do you want to shout out to anyone ;-))?

OKTOBER: I could use this opportunity to shoutout my favorite artists, the ones that already made it big in th music industry. But the ones that need and deserve that shoutout most are local newcomers. So huge shoutout to “Support Local Music Berlin” and the energy of the Berlin music scene – ORA BLU, Chiiara, Milian, RADAR, Momo Tamtri and every single queer artist that wants to make it and every single artist without a label that has to be their own manager, social media person, booking agent and assistent.

indieRepublik: How would you define indie? What do you personally think it means?

OKTOBER: In terms of genre, I prefer not to get into fights about the exact meaning of that word. However, on a different note, “indie” is primarily about independence. It can refer to being independent in terms of not having a label and making your own decisions. It can also be about breaking away from the norm and separating your creative process from others’ expectations of what you should be doing. Being independent brings both immense freedom and responsibility.

indieRepublik: What do you like most about indieRepublik?

OKTOBER: I love that your focus is on promoting and supporting independent music and art. We need more accessible platforms for artists to showcase their work, connect with fans, and gain exposure. And by providing a space for artists who operate outside of mainstream channels and genres, you’re doing very important work that helps defining a safespace that is made by and for actual human beings rather than „the music industry“ – whatever that is anyway.

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