Less than a month after the release of her second LP Where Are We Going?, Brooklyn producer Maya Bouldry-Morrison—a.k.a. Octo Octa—releasing a new two-track EP for the Chicago label Argot. The record's title track "New Paths" is available on Octa's soundcloud, and she has shared "Hidden Truth" with THUMP for our listening pleasure today.
Bouldry-Morrison first began working on the two tracks on New Paths in 2015, which was just before she publicly came out as transgender. Both are inspired by that period of transition, when she was out to friends but not colleagues. What she has created on New Paths is similarly bold and nuanced.
On "Hidden Truth," Bouldry-Morrison once again makes a classic house beat sound fresh, even incorporating what sounds like syncopated cricket chirps. The track's 10 minutes are broken into two sections, which Bouldry-Morrison explained represent the before and after periods of her coming out.
Below, we spoke with Octo Octa about her new record as well as the connection between her emotional life and her music. Check out New Paths from Argot on their website, and stream "Hidden Truth" here.
THUMP: In your video, you explain how the songs are linked to your transition. Can you talk about the need to work through or express this through your music?
Octo Octa: A lot of the music I make seems to get tied to my life in some way. I make and work on a lot of tracks at a time and the ones that I eventually grow close to and want to release are tracks that have some emotional core tied to them. Therefore, the most emotional thing I've been doing for the past few years is transitioning which brought a lot of new experiences and emotions into my life, in both good and bad ways. It's kind of hard to not have those feelings and experiences come through when working on a creative project.
The two songs on this Argot release are kind of the first overtly queer work I was attempting right around when I was coming out privately to a lot of friends, and a year before I came out publicly. I was extremely frustrated at the time with being in the closet and having to go into my day job everyday not as myself. So, a track like "Hidden Truth", while a little too on the nose for a track title, was me working with wanting to be out (uses a vocal sample that to me sounded like "It's true Mama"). New Paths is an attempt to pair very lush uplifting pads with a conversation between two men where one is trying to make out with the other and being rejected.
Would you say that your past work is similarly personal? What is the connection between music and your personal life for you?
I would think that most of my past work is personal. My first album Between Two Selves was an extremely personal album that was me working through anxiety, relationships, queerness, and wanting to be out (mostly coded though), and even some of my first work, like the Let Me See You EP were tied to personal experiences. Like, "Let Me See You" was the first house track I wrote after years of playing shows with a friend and then doing solo IDM work. I did the demo after listening to a house mix and then played it at a show to a response I had never seen which solidified everything I wanted to do with music beyond that moment. I'm not sure that the personal feelings I have to certain songs always come through to the listener, but it's there for me and it's important to me.
How do you imagine seeing people dance and revel to this song will make you feel?
Even though I try to have emotional cores to songs, I still typically want to dance to every track. I want to make music that will make someone dance but also hopefully also have some feelings while listening to it. Maybe a little eyes closed moment?
So, funnily enough, I haven't played this out. A lot of my music I don't play out, especially during DJ sets. I'm trying to get a little bit better with playing some of my music in DJ sets. I typically don't because I still to this day think most of what I make sounds rather amateur compared to a lot of music I love to play out. But live sets are totally different, where I feel like I can explore and do whatever since it's all my music. I would hope that people would revel in the track!
Can you talk a bit about the production for "Hidden Truth"?
It's been two years since I made this tune, but I think I remember some things about it! I believe that "Hidden Truth" came from another track I had started but ultimately didn't like, which is something I do a lot. Whatever I was making before, while maybe it sounded good, didn't move me in any way. It was also me finally working on some hardware, I believe the Korg Volca Beats and Keys were used on it—I don't care what anyone says, the Volca Keys rules, especially for live sets. I've been an Ableton Live girl for like, 12 years, and mostly everything I would make is in-box Live stuff. For this track I finally did some recording and incorporated it. And ultimately, my life played a part in the production, like a lot of tracks do, and I was probably fucking furious about work life versus private life and finally locked in to make what the track is now.
What's next for Octo Octa?
Goodness, I feel like I should talk about what happened the past few months. I've had a ton of records come out. I finished them all last year or the year before and the release schedules for different labels all converged on the first couple months of this year. I had two other EPs come out; Aimless EP on Skylax, and My Feelings Towards You EP on Love Notes. I had my second album, Where Are We Going?, come out on Honey Soundsystem last month (also comprised of two vinyl EPs, one out now and another one out in a month or so). The Argot record is out now plus my DJ and party partner Kellam Matthews is starting a label based on our party Frendzone! The first record is out early May featuring two tracks by me, plus two tracks from Ames Henry. Another EP is in the works and I'm touring all over.