“They think they’re animal spirits and demons. Basically, they don’t believe that they’re human in spirit.” It’s a warm July evening, and Overblown is on the phone with Luke Reilly, singer and guitarist with Dublin’s grunge pop four piece Otherkin. The conversation has taken a bit of a turn. The subject has turned to the community from which the band, somewhat accidentally, derive their name. People in the Otherkin subculture believe that they are creatures from mythology, aliens or sometimes normal animals. They believe that they are either non-humans in a human’s body or that their appearance is an illusion to protect them. For whatever reason, some Otherkin didn’t take kindly to the band’s use of the name. Reilly is fairly blasé about the fuss, “We all liked the sound of it (the band name). Afterwards we read up on it and realised. We received loads of messages from the Otherkin community. Some of them seemed borderline offended by our misappropriation of the name, but it’s all in good fun.”
Otherkin, the band, are a lot more based in reality. Reilly identifies the band as “grunge pop” saying they like to “balance abrasiveness with accessibility” and speaks of a love for Nirvana, Radiohead and current trendsetters like North London’s Wolf Alice. Certainly, more gritty than fantasy. He is wary though and aware that his description is hardly revolutionary. There is a current revivalism in indie music that is heavily indebted to late 80s and early 90s alternative rock. While this scene is a lot healthier than say the post grunge debacle of the late 90s, Reilly acknowledges that aping your heroes isn’t sufficient. “I’m all for revivalism as long as there’s an original slant put on it. I wouldn’t want to be so indebted to music of that era that I am producing a carbon copy of it.”
Variation is what Reilly is getting at. Music without diversity is dead in the water. Still though, he spent his youth listening to Obie Trice, Nas, and Dre, before his friend turned him on to The Strokes when he was sixteen. This is not the musical taste of a person who revels in stagnation. Reilly and his band might just have the determination and ambition to pull such diversity off too, judging by his first forays into learning guitar. “The first song I actually tried to learn was Plug In Baby by Muse. I pretty much locked myself in my bedroom for hours and hours and just played over and over.” Still though, ambition must be tempered with pragmatism: “That (learning Plug In Baby) didn’t go too well. The first song that I was actually able to play was Sitting, Waiting, Rushing by Jack Johnson.”
Determination, ambition, pragmatism. Mature stuff. According to Reilly, this must also be tempered with patience: “I don’t know if you know of a band called Peace? Their first few releases were incredible and then they put out an album. It had good songs but was a bit all over the place. Half-baked. You can tell they were in a hurry.” The implication is that the more successful bands, at least in terms of musical quality, take their time to craft their work, rather than rush it to the marketplace to take advantage of any momentum they might have and/or due to label pressure.
Where does this leave Otherkin? Well, they’re not going to take the rushed and half baked route. Reilly wants to ensure the band is the best that it can be, even if that makes things harder: “I think we intentionally go out of our way to make it more difficult for ourselves instead of just settling on whatever is easiest for us.” Having said this, he knows people’s attention spans aren’t what they used to be: “People might only give a song ten or twenty seconds (on YouTube) and then move on”. Ultimately, the band must find a way to balance this idea to create something carefully and substantial with people’s desire for a product right now.
Still though, while taking a considered approach, the band are certainly upwardly mobile. So far, they seem to have the balance under control. They’ve supported Palma Violets and Parquet Courts on their Irish tours, played the Whelans stage at Longitude 2014 and will be playing at Electric Picnic this year. After that, they have another single in the pipeline. They’ve big plans for this one: “We want to make this the first proper single release, and it get it to as many sets of ears as possible.” If the stay the course on the route they’re taking, there should be plenty of ears waiting for them.