Olympia ready to breathe life into debut album

“Eat better. Read more. Watch less movies.”

These are the stories Olivia Bartley, better known as Olympia, has been telling herself recently.

We all tell ourselves stories, and Olympia’s debut album Self Talk is a thought-provoking reflection on just that.

Following a stint playing keys and guitar in Paul Dempsey’s band, Olympia will launch Self Talk with new single Smoke Signals and a series of live dates around the country.

The record, to be released on April 29, is a mature debut which is both moody and danceable – filled with hook-laden guitar pop and layered harmonies.

“I don’t refer to myself as a singer-songwriter,” Bartley said.

“I’m interested in ideas and trying to create something that will move people, disrupt everyday ideas. It’s more about sounds. The music leans on language but the songs don’t follow traditional form at all.”

Bartley told Music Insight she really pushed herself during the writing process.

“The writing of the album itself was quite deconstructive, that’s how I like to work,” she said.

“I’d be exploring an idea, relating it to something personal, looking at how other artists had responded to that idea, drawing, et cetera.

“It wasn’t a sit-down-and-write-how-you-feel album. It was a lot more disciplined than that.”

Bartley said she looked for a producer whose production style would reflect her own approach.

Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, Jack Ladder, the Drones, DZ Deathrays, Sarah Blasko) was the perfect choice.

“I kept flipping over my favourite records to read Burke’s name as the producer, and I’d always been interested to know more about how he worked,” she said.

“Burke was the perfect fit to produce this record. His way of producing a record mirrors this way of writing. Push till you break.”

Bartley said the latest single Smoke Signals was inspired in part by a Japanese reality television show called Sweepstakes Life.

“The song itself is about someone’s internal and unseen chaos,” she said.

“A contestant was locked naked in an apartment stocked only with Sweepstakes magazines.

“Millions tuned in daily to watch his declining mental state and increasingly emaciated frame.”

Working with filmmaker Alex Smith on the videos for Smoke Signals and Honey, Bartley said the ‘retro’ look was a byproduct of the older technology they used.

“Both these vids are shot by Alex Smith on a tube based Sony broadcast camera from the early eighties,” she said.

“The clips’ aesthetic can’t help but be shaped by the technology – and I love that.

“It mirrors how the album itself – all the writing, and recording, was process-driven. You never know what you’ll get in the end.”

While we reckon she sounds pretty sweet on the recording, we recommend you check her out in person when she hits the road for her national tour kicking off in Sydney on May 26.

She’s in good company, too, with a four-piece including Pat Bourke (Paul Dempsey, the Ape), Rob Vasey (Owl Eyes) and Sarah Belkner (Sarah Blasko).

“[I’m] really looking forward to getting on the road and breathing life into the songs,” Bartley said.

“We have a few surprises up our sleeve too.”

Check out the video for Smoke Signals:

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