Introducing Oktoba

Let me introduce you to Oktoba which is the musical project of Chris Athorne. This talented musician delivers a sound that is a blend of alternative folk meets Americana with story telling qualities to it. Over the past year this Brighton based singer songwriter has been busy honing his craft and playing gigs not only in the UK but across the pond in the United States too.

January 2014 saw the release of his impressive debut EP called Tales and Shadows. What this EP offers is a delicate and simplistic sound that was built around Oktoba’s vocals and his guitar. I know that this is a popular sound in the world of music today but personally the arrangement as well as his lyrical talent makes him stand out from this crowd. When you listen to the title song from this release you will understand why the music created by Oktoba had to become part of my music collection.

Oktoba has recently released his first full length album called ‘Smoke Signals’ which I will talk about later in the review. The reason for this is that I had the opportunity to ask the man of the hour a few questions about his music. We talked about his influences, his new album and more. This is what he had to say:

Who or what inspired you to become a musician and which musicians have influenced your sound?

I didn’t start playing the guitar until I was 18. It was around that time of my life with the artists that I was listening too that kick started my dream to be a musician. During that time i was really into the surfer folk scene and particularly the artist Jack Johnson. It was his carefree style of music of folk and blues delivered in a way I hadn’t really heard before, that really inspired me to start learning how to write music. I found everything he had to offer, bootlegs, albums, live sessions, I was hooked and as soon as I had discovered his music there was a wave soon after of other new musicians that I found through those channels just taking over my record collection. Artists’ like Ben Harper, Mason Jennings, Xavier Rudd and Donavon Frankenreiter. That style of music would be the back bone for how I would structure my writing for the next few years. It’s moved on since then but that was a really important time for me as a musician.

When you write new music what is the important part to your process?

I don’t really have a process. I’ll never sit down and think ‘right, I’m going to write a song about how the world is not quite right today or how much I hate celery’. It’ll usually start with me playing around on the guitar, I’ll hit a chord or a note, that chord or note will strike an emotion or topic and from then it’s just about finding the words. I will always try to finish the song the same day or at least most of it. I really hate coming back to it later on as you’re never quite in that same mind space. But that’s usually the case more than not, unfortunately.

Talking about writing music, which is your favourite song on your album and why?

‘On My Mind’. I’m so happy with how that song has come out. It’s got a really nice gospel feel on it and I’m super pleased with the musicianship throughout.

If you were headlining a world tour, which 2 musicians/bands would you choose as YOUR support?

Well whether they were supporting me or more likely I was supporting them, the two acts that I would love to play alongside would be Nathaniel Rateliff or The Staves. I feel musically it would really work, plus I’m such a huge fan of both and I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of fun had on the road with either.

What are your future plans and goals for your music?

It’s always been the same really. To write songs that people enjoy listening too and can connect with. I guess the biggest goal though is for my music to allow me to travel the world, to see new places whilst performing it to new crowds in different countries and touring one album to the next. For now, current plans involve playing shows around the UK with an album tour set for early 2016. TBA.

Smoke Signals is an impressive album which has a different feel from his previous release. It still brings that sound focused around his vocals and guitar, but now it’s overall sound is now soaked with a blend of folk and Americana which is a combination that never goes wrong with me. The change does not stop there as his music has more depth thanks to the various musical layers that have been added. These layers include the use of instruments including cello’s and pedal steels. This change shows that Oktoba does not want his music to stay still and wants to keep evolving his songwriting talent.

Talking about his songwriting abilities, my favourite aspect of his music is his story telling gift. He moulds his lyrics in a way that sounds simplistic to follow but has a depth that provokes imagery to follow the tale he is telling. Listen to the songs ‘Tongue Tied’ and ‘I’ll be Fine’ which are great examples of this talent at work, both highlights from the album. These stories are shared with the wonderful vocal tone that Oktoba possesses. He has this slightly husky but warm tone that gently invites you in to listen. He does not do this alone as additional vocals are provided by Bo Lucas (Wind Fire Water Stone), Cordelia Gartside (Something New) and Phoebe Freya (On My Mind). Each of these duets add something different but still capture the wonderful sound that flows throughout the album.

If I had to choose one song that showcases Oktoba‘s talent the most then I would pick my favourite song ‘Run’. The vocals are sublime and show off a good mix of tempo but keeping the emotion needed to mirror the lyrics. Towards the end of the song you get to hear a delicate control to the vocals which are beautiful. This is supported with the use of strings and percussion which add so much to the songs overall sound. Give it a listen and the song will speak for itself.

What Oktoba offers in terms of its sound may not be nothing new but the way he has arranged each song has a charm about it that makes it hard to resist. It’s overall warm tone is so inviting that you can’t help but get lost in his stories. Head over to his Bandcamp site (click HERE) to listen to the album in full and where you can also purchase both releases by Oktoba. Alternatively, you can purchase his music from the usual online stores including iTunes and Amazon. Go on, treat your ears to something new!

I am hoping to catch one of Oktoba‘s show’s this year and I have a feeling that this will happen. I’m sure you will hear all about it on my social media sites when it happens. If you want to find out more about this talented musicians as well as future gigs then head over to his social media sites Facebook and Twitter.

I honestly believe that this is a musician who possesses an amazing talent that you really need to take the time to let his music into your world. If you appreciate what you are hearing then help spread the word about his music from Oktoba by anyway you can. Independent music needs the help of the fans to help it grow!