ORKA: “We often try to make music that is physically touching”

ORKA: “We often try to make music that is physically touching”

Francine Perry, based in London, and Jens L. Thomsen, originally from the Faroe Islands, make up the dynamic duo known as ORKA. They first crossed paths over a decade ago in London’s lively club scene, and since then, they have become renowned for their exceptional talent. ORKA has been nominated twice for the Nordic Council Music Prize, while both Francine and Jens have individually received recognition for their outstanding contributions to the music industry.

Photo credit:   neomrmedia

Aside from being a skilled producer and mix engineer, Francine Perry is a co-founder of the Omnii Collective, an organization based in London that supports women, non-binary individuals, and trans sound enthusiasts. Her accomplishments include winning the esteemed Oram Award in 2018 and receiving the Music Producers Guild Rising Star Award in 2023. Currently, Francine serves as the musical director for Romy from The XX’s tour, demonstrating her versatility and expertise.

Jens Thomsen has an impressive discography with credits on nearly a hundred releases, establishing himself as a prominent figure in the industry. In 2022, he was named Producer of the Year at the Faroese Music Awards, highlighting his exceptional talent and dedication. Additionally, Jens plays a vital role in Yann Tiersen’s live band, showcasing his versatility and creativity.

Their highly anticipated sixth studio album, ‘All At Once,’  is now available on vinyl and digital platforms through Kervið. Recently, EG had the privilege of catching up with ORKA to delve into their latest album and explore their future projects.

EG: Hi guys! Welcome to EG. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. How have you been? Where are you right now?

ORKA: Hey! We’re good thanks. We’re at Francine’s studio in Hackney preparing for ORKA’s release show at Iklectik next week.

EG: First of all, congratulations on the release of your latest album ‘All At once’! What can your fans expect to find on the new album? How does it compare to your previous records? In which ways have you evolved since your last one?

ORKA: Our last long-player ‘Vað’ was an exercise in how you can strip down a track to its bare essentials; some tunes had only three tracks. It was a monochrome ordeal and had a minimalist, primal sensibility. In comparison ‘All At Once’ is a smorgasbord of the past five years, of what we’ve heard and what we have seen. The record was created over a period which proved to be momentous globally; not only because of the pandemic but also because of local and international political conflicts and human rights issues. And the album is about this; about all of the issues that affected us and how we dealt with living through these times. If compared to Vað, it is maximalist, intricate, and colorful.

EG: You also recently released ‘Mother’ as the final single from the album. What has the initial reception been like? Do you remember the first time you played this one live?

ORKA: The reception has been good! It feels like a track that lots of people can resonate with. We actually only recently played it live for the first time at NOVUM Newcastle and it’s quickly become one of our favourites to play. It’s so simple and that’s the beauty of it, being able to elongate parts and break down the structure for live performance has been really gratifying. It’s one of the tracks in the set that we don’t need to have a set structure for, we can feel it out and improvise how long different sections will be depending on the night or mood of the crowd which is always the most exciting.

EG: So, what’s ‘Mother’ all about? Is there a concept or emotional trigger behind this one?

 ORKA: We often try to make music that is physically touching, in the sense that the bass is literally making parts of your body resonate. With ‘Mother’ we managed to do this in a new way that felt womb-like, as if you’re in a dark club, in the middle of a sound system enveloped in bass. At the same time it references that deep, otherworldly sense of community you feel when the bass hits a crowd and you find yourself with strangers moving as one entity. But we also wanted it to sound like a dreamy wasteland between present and memory. Like the track you listen to returning home on the night bus.

“‘All At Once’ is a smorgasbord of the past five years, of what we’ve heard and what we have seen”

EG: Do you each have clear, defined roles in the studio by now? Or is that something that may vary from track to track? How do you resolve differences in the studio?

ORKA: We don’t really have defined roles in the studio at all, it’s very important to us that both of us have the chance to work on each part of a track, so much so that it becomes hard to remember who did what, it’s such a joint effort in the creative process. We’re constantly sending parts back and forth or if we’re in the studio together we’ll sometimes work on different tracks at the same time, one on headphones, one listening on speakers, and then swap over. We both produce music for other projects and both are used to doing full productions, engineering, and mixing, so it’s nice to work with someone who’s also got all those skills and we can share the role. Jens did mix this record though, in his amazing studio with lots of outboard gear.

We do occasionally have differences in the studio, we always have the right to veto something if one of us doesn’t like it, but it’s very rare for that to happen, usually, we are pretty aligned.

EG: You guys work on rather different ends of the industry, right? How did you guys connect? Was the idea for ORKA always there?

ORKA: We met in London. Jens was looking for a percussionist and Jón Klæmint from Tweed & Hyenas and Rutger Hauser recommended Francine. The first time we met was actually for our first rehearsal. We clicked instantly, started gigging as ORKA straight away, and have been working together since. We wrote most of ‘All At Once’ in London, but a few years ago Jens relocated to the Faroe Islands. We still see each other for tours, production, and writing sessions or sometimes we just visit each other. We do however both work as producers and engineers and while Francine is the musical director for Romy from The xx, Jens is part of Yann Tiersen’s live band and we therefore sometimes also meet while on tour. So although we are separated geographically we still see each other quite a lot.

EG: Do you guys have any plans to present ‘All At Once’ in a live setting?

ORKA: Yes! Playing live is at the core of what we do. Over the years we’ve developed our live shows to a point where we play out everything that the audience hears on the spot. This makes our shows quite intense because there is a lot at stake; if we mess up you will notice! At the moment we’re adapting the album material to a format where we can play it out live and still retain the essence of the songs. We have a few shows coming up, starting with the Iklectik release show on Thursday.

EG: Social media seems to play a very prominent role in an artist’s development. But is it taking too much away from the actual music and making it more about numbers and the visual aspect?

ORKA: There is less of an emphasis on sound quality and more on visual quality in social media. It’s all about making quick engaging videos, which is something that doesn’t really work for our music which is heavy on sub-bass, it’s never going to sound great on a phone speaker and the music is more evolving and often needs more time than a one-minute video. On the other hand, it is useful for connecting with people and thankfully there still are enough fans who care about sound quality who will buy vinyls and enjoy going to shows to hear tracks on a proper system. We’re really excited about our upcoming album launch at Iklectik, as they have an amazing 13.4 ambisonic sound system and it’s going to be so great to hear the album on that system, as if we’re within it, so can’t wait for that.

“Over the years we’ve developed our live shows to a point where we play out everything that the audience hears on the spot”

EG: What’s next for ORKA? Where can your fans catch you next? What new milestones are you looking forward to in 2023?

ORKA: Releasing this album is a huge milestone for us. Although we didn’t produce it in one go we worked on it over the course of five years. But we also wrote material for almost three albums during this period and the next album is almost ready. Apart from touring the new album, we will therefore be in the studio finishing the next one which we’re equally excited about.

EG: Thank you for your time, guys! We’re excited to see what’s in store for you. Take care!

ORKA: Thanks for a great chat.

ORKA ‘All At Once’  is now available on vinyl and digital platforms via Kervið.  Stream and download here.

Follow ORKA: Soundcloud  | Spotify  | Instagram | Facebook

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