ANIMAL FEELINGS is New York-based artist Oli Chang’s latest musical experiment. Highly collaborative in spirit, the album evokes a mad-capped, improvisational dance party with a set list that ranges from the melodic-driven electronic music of Jon Hopkins to the seductive rock and pulsation of Camelphat. This is music you want to move to: emotionally resonant interludes and aggressive bass drops are paired with exotic tribal percussion and vocal hooks that will invariably induce dance floor euphoria. As a gifted lyricist and producer attuned to the zeitgeist, Chang’s ANIMAL FEELINGS deftly switches gears from anthems of love and nature to dirty club pop gems. Drawing inspiration from his second home in Bali, Chang speaks of a life where anything is possible.
Catch Animal Feelings at Tropicola Bali
Could you talk us through your relationship with music over the years?
It started out angsty as hell. I’m sure most people would agree that any creative pursuit is wrought with mistakes, failures and rejection. Then if you hang in there for long enough you start to realise mistakes are your friends, failures start to get swapped out for successes and a supportive and ever-growing tribe gets built around your music.
Could you talk to us through the Animal Feelings project? How does a solo project change your creative flow?
The Animal Feelings project has tried a few different approaches style-wise. I’m now settling on “moody vibey immersive” as key descriptive terms to guide my process. At the moment I’m enjoying writing pieces based from piano with free tempo. Modern life is so mechanical it’s lovely to surrender to loose human timing.
Congrats on the release of your new EP, ‘Soft Touches’! When creating this EP, was there anything in particular that you’ve done differently than with your previous releases?
Yes I wanted to make this EP a study of how to combine the sound of the Roland Juno 106 synthesizer with real piano and pop song writing. I wanted each track to be slow and have some kind of sexually psychedelic quality. In the past I’ve been way more diverse style wise in my releases but I wanted this one to be part of the same family of sounds.
‘Soft Touches’ is soothing single. Can you outline your writing and production on the track? What is an aspect in the single you’d like people to listen for?
I guess it’s a ballad where Thief and I write about the healing qualities of human contact – sexual or otherwise. Different people like different things physically but I think we can all agree that at some point in our erotic (or otherwise) experiences it’s good to feel calm and relaxed Soft Touches.
‘Soft Touches’ feels like one of your most personal releases to date. Was there a lot going on for you at the time of creating this? Would you say creating this EP was an outlet for you?
Absolutely. I had been with a life partner who I still consider a close family member. Breaking up with someone after 15 years is so painful. Navigating long-term relationships is hard for everyone. People live in their versions of reality and I guess this EP was both an escape from my reality and also a way for me to try to figure out what I was doing with my personal life.
Production wise, you’ve explored quite a range of sounds, opening with the soft, delicate textures of the EP’s title track. Is that your upright Yamaha piano on that track?
Yes I have 2 Yamaha uprights one in Sydney and one in Brooklyn and both have found their way onto this record. They’re both so beautiful in their own way. I’m about to start building a studio in Bali now which will house a gorgeous grand piano. I’m pretty excited about that.
I know you’re a bit of a synth enthusiast – and you can definitely tell on the EP, there’s a real variety of tones and textures in there. Do you find you tend to use a whole bunch of instruments or only a select few when you’re writing and recording? Do you find you always come back to certain sounds?
I like using very few instruments. We live in an age where we’re spoilt for choice and soft synths allow for an endless array of sounds. It can become daunting and prevent the completion of pieces of music. Non-completion is the most evil enemy of being a creator. That evil part of my brain must be destroyed at all costs. When it threatens to stop me from finishing something I do my best to softly destroy it.
Music: If ‘Animal Feelings’ was a cocktail what would be in it to best describe yourself and your music?
Well I’m seasonal so it depends! At a party I threw earlier in the year we had sponsorship from Titos vodka. I made a lemon verbena simple syrup (from my garden) and sourced wild lemons. So my actual cocktail was an sweetly acidic wake up call
You’re no stranger to electronic music, having been involved in a variety of projects over the years. Reflecting on your career, what have you learnt from your previous projects that has helped you shape the Animal Feelings project?
I get pretty obsessed with what ages well. It’s like the art of fermentation. Like if you make a batch of wine or Kim Chi you experiment with different flavors and techniques and sometime you get lucky. With Animal Feelings I made the mistake of trying to make wine and Kim Chi at the same time when I should’ve chosen just one or the other. I’ve now decided to make Animal Feelings only atmospheric music with a modern classical influence. That’s not too say I won’t incorporate pop elements but there’ll be no more flippant disco from Animal Feelings – only moody music.
Collaboration seems to be an integral aspect of Animal Feelings. You’ve got some incredible collaborators featuring on this record including long time collaborator Thief, and works from IRO, Nomi Ruiz and Adam Masterson too. What is it about collaboration that you enjoy most? Does creating collaboratively change your process much compared to working solo?
Collaborating is like multiplying your life experience by tens of thousands of hours. By myself I only have my life time of experimentation. When you collaborate you suddenly have access to entire lifetimes of experimentation, failures and successes. I’m more open to collaborating with other minds than I have been than ever before. Not only with other singers and musicians but also producers, film makers, influencers, designers and entrepreneurs. The music industry is like wild west now more that it’s ever been so to be successful you need know how to build teams of like minded and talented people.