Brash Artist Elihu Okay Abandons Genre with New Album “Friday Night”
New York City Transplant Finds His Niche In Not Finding It At All
“Friday Night” Album Cover Photo Credit – Carlos Semedo & Elihu Okay
Elihu Okay’s music is independent and irrevocably intentional and fuck, if it isn’t refreshing. Like today is the release of his single “Camel Crush” and it just so happens to be his birthday and as for Elihu’s full length album, “Friday Night?” It will be out next week, on, you guessed it, Friday. “Friday Night” is an assiduous assemblage of 10 tracks pressed over the last four years. At the end of 2021 Elihu took periodic trips from his current residence in New York to a studio in Massachusetts,
Before our interview I was able to listen to “Camel Crush” a couple of times and by the fifth listen I realized I might have a full-on nicotine addiction. The video (below) is of Elihu making maple syrup with his family and a nod to the “Friday Night Lights” intro. The up-tempo melancholy is reminiscent of a Third Eye Blind tune, a sad little song in bright pink paper. “I’ll say that for the first nine months of living in Brooklyn I spent a lot of time going back to Western Massachusetts. The city felt relentlessly hard and being in Massachusetts felt uninspiring. The song is a complaint about feeling unfulfilled everywhere. In retrospect–it’s not a very fair complaint,” Elihu explained.
Other stand out tracks on the album are “Snow Angel” and “Late 2 Work”. “Snow Angel” starts off with the sound of crunching snow and is met with a sonically bright vocal. It’s a story time of a song that breaks into an indignant refrain, “We’ll never be that young again!” It just oozes with an early 2000’s energy that everyone has been missing lately.
“Late 2 Work” has a smooth cadence that’s like butter to a large tub of popcorn. Conversational lyrics clue listeners in, “I can’t compete with the other boys you might meet/while you’re serving coffee somewhere off/in Bushwick probably…fuck them all I hope you love me” The song is young longing at its finest. I mean don’t we all fall in love with a barista at one point in our lives?
The album as a whole is contemplative yet assertive. “Friday Night” implores; maybe it’s okay to step away from the bright lights of your high school field and into the spotlight where you’ve always belonged, maybe it’s okay to pack up your heart and find out who you are all over again.
Photograph Credit: Gabe Gill
- Okay, first thing first is your last name really, Okay? I’m an Okay in the same way that Dee Dee is a Ramone. Elihu is my name, and it was my great-grandfather’s also.
- From Massachusetts to New York – what if anything makes Brooklyn feel like home? Brooklyn does feel like home. I’ve lived here four years and that whole time I keep having moments where I think “now the city finally feels like home.” This fall I left for six months, and I felt so funny being away it must actually be true. I’d like to think I don’t have any magic realism type beliefs about New York, but the truth is there isn’t somewhere else I’d rather be and it’s hard to imagine that changing.
- You have reached a quarter century of life (look at you!) what do you think is the biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far? I’m about to be 26 (this week! March 16th!) and honestly, it’s terrifying. I don’t feel like I have a very clear pathway towards stability. I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 17 and what I’ve learned is that I really don’t want to do that forever. I haven’t set myself up for another career path though so who knows what’s next. I’ve learned that my actions actually do have consequences, although that might be less learning and more finally growing out of my teenaged brain.
- Outside of music are there any other passions that you are pursuing or would like to pursue in the future? I just applied for college actually, for creative writing. I don’t know if I’ve gotten in or not yet. I also want to take more pictures, to keep getting better at taking pictures. It all feels like sort of the same project of obsessive documentation. I am endlessly interested in how I can reflect the universal by documenting the personal.
- With the final single “Camel Crush” evoking an early 2000’s/nostalgic vibe, I’m thinking Third Eye Blind, were there specific situations/moments that inspired the lyrics? If so, what can you share about that moment or memory? 3eb is a huge inspiration. One of my favorite bands. Camel Crush is a song about not feeling at home anywhere. There’re a few specific situations that I’m going to decline to comment on, but I’ll say that for the first nine months of living in Brooklyn I spent a lot of time going back to Western Massachusetts. The city felt relentlessly hard and being in Massachusetts felt uninspiring. The song is a complaint about feeling unfulfilled everywhere. In retrospect–it’s not a very fair complaint.
- You describing yourself as idiosyncratic is pretty spot on considering your eclectic sound & how your upcoming album “Friday Night” floats in and out of different genres throughout BUT if you had to sum up your sound to someone who is listening to your music for the first time how would you describe it? It’s pop music. I tell people “broad-spectrum pop” sometimes. If I had a better one sentence summary, I would have used it when I first emailed you. It’s internet/bedroom/alt pop but with a swapped set of influences. It’s like 2010s indie rock filtered through the SoundCloud rap era.
- Are there specific artists you drew inspiration from while creating this album? Yeah, for sure. You picked up on Third Eye Blind. Lorde is another huge one. The Jack-Antonoff-produced Kevin Abstract album. Wicca Phase and Tigers Jaw, Avril Lavigne, Underscores. Young Thug and Future are both huge guiding stars for me.
- How long did it take you to put this album together? Are there any people that have been there since you started this huge project that are still standing beside you for it’s upcoming release? The first songs from Friday Night were written in 2019, so it’s been a super long time. At the end of 2021 I started making regular pilgrimages to a studio in Massachusetts with a bunch of other talented friends to flesh out my home-recorded demos. The songwriting process was done by myself but the construction of the final songs was very collaborative. Gabe Gill–my best friend and Deadmall bandmate–he’s been my closest confidant for this whole project. And I want to show huge love for Andrew Oedel who’s helped put the finishing touches on my music for years and years now.
- Were there any tracks that you put together that didn’t make the album? If so, why not? There’s actually a bunch of tracks that didn’t make the cut, and most of them got most of the way through the recording process. I think probably some of them will see the light of day eventually. Oil and Pipebomb were songs that we recorded for the album but didn’t fit in the end, so they came out as loose singles. It was important to me to keep the album short and concise. I didn’t want to make a twenty-song album where you can only digest the songs individually (or in playlists).
- If you could, please give our readers a snapshot/set the scene of what is looked like, felt like, while recording this album. These songs were recorded in a huge, converted church in suburban Massachusetts. I came into the sessions with barebones demos–guitar, programmed drums, midi pianos, etc. Some of the process was as simple as rerecording parts with live instruments, lots was more creative, with a rotating cast of musicians helping to come up with new parts and ideas. For one very exciting evening we had a band upstairs recording live bass, drums, and keys, plus a group of people downstairs programming parts on their laptops. At night we drank Bud Light and, in the morning, I made everyone eggs.
- What is your favorite track on the album and why? It might be Camel Crush right now, but probably by the time the whole album is out it’ll be something different. It’s often just the song I haven’t heard for a while, the song that can still surprise me. (Having just listened again, maybe it’s the title track.) It’s always exciting to listen with fresh ears after a project is finally released, so I’m looking forward to that.
- From what I have read you seem to be a hopeless romantic at your core yet many of your songs visit a more melancholic place, is creating music a therapeutic practice for you? I’m a hopeless romantic but I’m also a cynic. I’ve felt jaded for too long. It’s something I’m actively working on. The thing I romanticize the most is the feeling of love before I knew the archetype, or like the feeling of a drug before I got familiar with the comedown. I always want to have a new feeling and I’m terrified they’re running out. Making music isn’t always fun but it is compulsive and I’m always glad when I’ve done it.
- Are there shows scheduled for the near future that I can let our readers know about? I’m playing an album release show March 25th at Alphaville in Brooklyn. Kid Lake is playing, plus a bunch of friends and collaborators who are all gonna do a couple songs each. I miss playing shows and I miss my friends in far-flung places so I hope there will be more shows in the next few months in other east coast cities.
- What do you think you should never have to apologize for? The older I get the more I think I have to apologize for. I’ve got a more acutely developed sense of shame than ever before in my life. That’s maybe not the answer you wanted. I think you shouldn’t have to apologize for being late to work. As long as it doesn’t like mess anyone’s day up. Then you should definitely apologize.
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