Today we have your first listen of "The Wild What" by Oku, the project of songwriter, musician and producer Alex Katsaropoulos. Below, Katsaropoulos vividly describes the winding journey behind his debut single.
This song began over 3 years ago when the chord progression to a The War on Drugs song called “An Ocean Between the Waves” really caught my attention. It was a simple back and forth between D major and E minor for the entire song but that feeling of constant flux was something I really enjoyed. It’s funny to look back at the water imagery of the song that inspired “The Wild What” because the subject matter and title of the track came from another source.
Around the same period of time I was reading a book called “Things That Are” by Amy Leach, and in the book there’s an essay and an idea called "The Wild What." Essentially The Wild What embodies possibilities and potential, anything in the ether and the unknown. I thought that this was a perfect metaphor for the start of a relationship when things are fresh and it could be anything. At the time I had just started seeing someone so it felt right. To go deeper, that unknown can be like the ocean: exciting but often terrifying and overwhelming. I for sure was feeling that in the moment so that’s where all of the water imagery came back into play.
Originally the song was a lot happier the way the chords were played but as the rest of the album developed it was clear that it might need a slightly darker tone. So I changed the way the first chord was shaped to give it a tone that wasn’t as bright. It also had a totally different chorus for a while that felt too happy, so I rewrote that in the pre-production stage. We recorded the nylon string guitar and the drums at a studio called the Mixin' Administration in Chicago and then the vocals were tracked at my home studio in Andersonville.
All the pieces were there but something was missing, it didn’t have that THING that made the track stand out. Jonathan Alvin, the producer, suggested a string quartet for the chorus to try to mimic sinking into the waves, almost like drowning. I thought about recording live strings, but felt that I wanted something weirder and slightly more alien than usual. So after I wrote the part I began finding audio online of each note being played by different people and created a strange sample instrument with them that I could play. And that’s where the uncanny nature of the strings comes from.
Another thing that really draws your attention in this song is the distorted and pitched up vocals, which is a consistent theme throughout the rest of the album. Some of the really high parts are me singing the note in falsetto and then adding a higher octave to it. And that’s pretty much how the song came together. It reflects a lot of other ideas on the album as far as production and style goes but it’s unique in that it’s the only track that somewhat resembles a love song.
Now that you've got the backstory, dive into the exclusive premiere of "The Wild What" from Oku's debut album, which is due out this September.