INTERVIEW: Oliver (2013)
When two guys named Oliver Goldstein and Vaughn Oliver began working together, the group name Oliver made simple, elegant sense. SInce then, the duo have taken a unique path, mixing electronic and nudisco for indie imprint Fools Gold. Listening to their tracks, their musicality is obvious – they aren’t DJs making beats, but musicians and songwriters who elevate the genre to a new level. So it comes as no surprise that they have written and produced songs with Chromeo, Katy Perry, and Bonnie McKee. We recently caught up with Oliver when they were opening for Zedd with Alex Metric in Nashville.
RS: How did the two of you meet up?
Oliver Goldstein: We met through mutual friends. Vaughn was working at a studio in Los Angeles doing some stuff for Atlantic Records, and I was also working with them as well. We were introduced during a session, in LA everyone piles into a room and writes and works together. We played some music for each other and just hit it off; we had the same influences and became friends really quickly.
RS: How long ago was that?
Oliver Goldstein: A couple years ago, I think it was around the end of 2009.
RS: For some reason I am thinking that you guys are Canadian, are you both from Canada?
Oliver Goldstein: Vaughn is.
Vaughn Oliver: I am from Vancouver, West Coast.
RS: So you guys are starting your tour, is it your time first doing a bus tour around the US?
Oliver Goldstein: We just got off of a tour with Dillon Frances and we hit a lot of the same venues. This is our second bus tour as Oliver.
RS: So was there a bus tour before this, but not as Oliver?
Oliver Goldstein: I have worked as a musical director for other artists and have been in bands and played as a session musician for years, so I have done a few other tours.
RS: So you are like a real musician making dance music.
Oliver Goldstein: I guess you could say that.
RS: In your live sets right now, how much of it is your own production?
Vaughn Oliver: It kind of depends, we sort of wing it every show and don’t really have a setlist of songs that we play. We try to work in maybe 25% or so, but the kinds of shows that we are playing right now are really high energy and a lot of our music isn’t really suitable for that kind of a venue. I wish that it could be more, though.
RS: Are you guys more like vibey, disco, ’80s kind of stuff?
Vaughn Oliver: Yeah, exactly and we want to keep the crowd engaged so we try to balance that. It’s challenging.
RS: How did you guys end up on the Zedd tour?
Oliver Goldstein: Gosh, I don’t know, I think somewhere along the line our agent asked us if we were interested in dong the Zedd tour and we said “hell, yeah.” I think that maybe Zedd has a list of artists that want to go on tour or something like that, and it all just came together and we ended up on a bus.
RS: Speaking about ending up on a bus, you have worked with Alex Metric in the past, should we expect a big tour anthem to come from everyone working together?
Vaughn Oliver: We made one.
Oliver Goldstein: There is a song that has just recently been produced.
RS: Do you guys go out to the bus every night and work on new tracks together?
Vaughn Oliver: Our bus is Alex, the two of us, and some of the other crew, but Zedd’s bus is the one with the studio so we don’t really have access to a studio right now. It has almost been like a vacation, we kind of just hang out during the day and stuff but we would like to be working on music.
Oliver Goldstein: It’s a bit harder than people think it is to work while you’re on tour, because the last thing that you want to hear is really loud music and kick drums in your ear when you’re not on stage. That part of your brain gets kind of exhausted, so a lot of it is going back and watching Breaking Bad or playing video games. The tour is 6 weeks long so I am sure that by the end of it we will have some ideas.
RS: How did y’all get on the Donna Summer project?
Vaughn Oliver: That was through Chromeo, we have been working with them a little bit on their new album that is coming out. They asked us if we wanted to collaborate on it and it all just went from there.
Oliver Goldstein: We jumped at the opportunity. We are huge fans of Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder and their groundbreaking electronic disco music. It was a really fun project to work on.
RS: When you two guys work with the two guys from Chromeo how do you collaborate in the studio together, are there 4 sets of hands on the keyboard?
Oliver Goldstein: Sometimes. A couple of the songs that we did with them were originals that we started together, but a lot of it was stuff that they brought in as demos which they started on their own. We just sprinkled our stuff on it and kind of helped co-produce.
Vaughn Oliver: It was really effortless, because we all come from the same background musically and we speak the same language when it comes to referencing records or sounds that we like. We all play keyboards, and Oli and Dave play guitar and bass and so it was definitely a full collaboration and we all had our hands in it.
Oliver Goldstein: I was a good feeling and a huge compliment to have Chromeo come to my studio and feel like they didn’t need to get anything extra to bring. P is a synth aficionado, so I felt pretty good about having enough gear there to satisfy everybody.
Vaughn Oliver: Yeah, they really like to work with analog gear and really don’t mess around with plug-ins and stuff like that so it was all very analog.
RS: Speaking about analog and songwriting how did you guys get involved with Bonnie McKee? It seemed like total leftfield for you guys.
Oliver Goldstein: Bonnie is my girlfriend and we met through working together since I am a songwriter and producer. We met through a mutual friend that happens to be the same friend that introduced Vaughn and I. He is the matchmaker and Cupid. Bonnie and I have been writing and doing music together since we met. Alex Metric and I both co-produced and helped write her single “American Girl,” which was a very random connection. When we had an opportunity to remix the song it was a no-brainer and it was a lot of fun.
RS: Since you are close to Bonnie were your hands in the Katy Perry album also?
Oliver Goldstein: I am co-signed by Dr. Luke and he is someone who publishes me, so I work on a lot of music with him. I didn’t do anything on the latest Katy single but I have worked with her in the past.
RS: How do you keep a balance between doing the cool electro and disco stuff for Fools Gold and then doing the pop stuff also?
Oliver Goldstein: We each do stuff separately outside of the Oliver brand, and I think when it comes to doing music that has the Oliver name on it we are very particular in what we choose to work on. Separately we enjoy so many different styles of music that it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as we like it we will work on it. Hopefully in the future Vaughn and I will be doing more collaborations with people that you might not expect, maybe even more commercial stuff.
RS: Is this part of the next album coming out in the fall?
Oliver Goldstein: We are working on music, but I am not sure if it is going to be an album or a series of EPs. Currently we have enough time in the studio back home to just create music but we aren’t really sure what will happen. We have an open mind and hopefully some good songs will come out of that.
RS: How involved are you with your videos?
Vaughn Oliver: Well we really only have 2 videos, the first one was for “MYB” and I did that video entirely. We had a lot of weird clips that we collected off of YouTube for years and did a compilation. I learned how to use the video editing stuff because it’s not like we had a huge budget to do stuff. “Night Is On My Mind” was the first time that we got someone else to do it. We helped with the concept and made sure that it was something interesting, I think that it turned out pretty cool.
Oliver Goldstein: I think what is really nice is being able to sit down with someone and be as collaborative as possible. When you do a project like that and you’re not a video director, you need to find someone that you trust and that has a good idea. We just sat down and had a couple meetings with the guys and literally a week later we had something in our inbox that looked really cool, it was a good experience.
RS: Should we expect to see your light-up shoes in your stage show?
Oliver Goldstein: As far as the live show, we have cool plans in the works that will probably entail us supporting an album or something that makes sense for us to put the time, effort, and money into creating. Who knows, there may be a pair of shoes there or maybe I just won’t wear any on stage and dance around like Alanis Morissette on a carpet.
RS: When you are in the studio what software do you work on?
Vaughn Oliver: Oliver uses Logic and I mostly use Protools. It’s kind of half-and-half, sometimes we start songs in his room on Logic but we always finish stuff in Protools. We mix and master all of our own stuff too.
RS: When you are on stage are you using CD or laptop?
Oliver Goldstein: Both, we use Serato with CD-J.
RS: Regarding the events at Electric Zoo and what happened on the opening night, do you have anything to say about the use of drugs and electronic dance music?
Oliver Goldstein: It is really sad and unfortunate that that happened. Kids are going to do that stuff and there is no way to stop it, it is just part of the culture and the EDM music. I think people need to be a bit more aware and safer about it. I think that is what the issue was; people were taking too many drugs and not drinking water. It’d be nice if people didn’t have to do that stuff to enjoy a show, but it’s kind of the way it is.
Vaughn Oliver: People just need to be safe and aware and help each other out.
Oliver Goldstein: If there is an opportunity to enjoy your environment without taking drugs, I would take that route.
Vaughn Oliver: After Alex and I played we watched the Zedd show completely sober and it was amazing, I don’t think you need any of that stuff.
RS: Good answer. If people want to follow you online what is the best way to do it?
Vaughn Oliver: Basically all of our online stuff is weareoliver so you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with that.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Oliver Goldstein: A big thank you! Thank you for all of your support, we love you.
Interview conducted September 2013. Thanks to BIZ3 for arranging this interview.