OTEO. A Cologne-based duo that started thanks to the ‘umbilical cord of the Internet’ and their own sense of vocation towards music. The distance between OTEO’s Matteo Luis (producer) and Alvin Paris (vocalist) spanned over 6000km while writing their debut EP, Walking Blind. Traces from Marrakesh, Berlin, New York and Cologne are scattered throughout the release.
The story begins in 2015 when Alvin left towards Morocco on a rattling motorcycle as an attempt to leave his old life behind seeking only to return with an iPhone full of potential songs. Meanwhile, Matteo quit his mathematics studies to instead pursue music in both Berlin and New York. Their separation across space and musical backgrounds have ultimately led to a cohesive release that drips with groove, novelty, and wit.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with OTEO to dig deeper into the formation of the duo as well as to gain some insight into their approach to writing their spectacular EP, Walking Blind.
The Press Release: How does the concept of “Walking Blind” relate to the creation of OTEO?
OTEO: The EP reflects a personal and musical process leading to a positive and nonchalant approach to our own doing. Distance doesn’t matter so much anymore, as we found common ground. One could say that “Walking Blind’s” and OTEO’s creation happened simultaneously.
Alvin: How did it feel to uproot your life to further pursue music back in 2015?
At that time I wanted a change of scene anyway. I decided to leave some old shit behind to give room for new impressions. Music has always been a way for me to let off steam since I started learning an instrument. So when I met all these different people and extraordinary places I sometimes got confused. Writing down stuff helps me overcoming confusion. Then notes can be turned into rhymes, into songs and you sort of capture a feeling or moment like Pokémon.
How would you describe the overall mood of your debut EP?
It somehow feels like a soundtrack to our journey. Our story surely has some sentimental aspects, but after all results in a light-footed version of ourselves.
What is the significance of your writing requirement, “each song has to be told in three sentences”?
It’s a bit like a crash test during the production phase. We try to focus on everyday stuff. Stuff people can relate to without long time explanation required.
“The result for us was the best of both worlds within the ultimate freedom of pop music.”
With both of you coming from different musical backgrounds, can you tell me what it’s been like developing your signature sound?
We first went on various excursions within the sound library of Matteo’s DAW, then narrowed it down to what we both digged. Some sounds each of us only learned to appreciate during our cooperation. At that time Matteo’s production focus was electronic music, whereas Alvin used to perform in different alternative-rock bands. We shared a fascination for rap and rnb though. The result for us was the best of both worlds within the ultimate freedom of pop music.
How did collaborating via the internet impact your writing process?
At the start we sat next to each other working on the whole production. Through all this sending back and forth files and working separately we sort of established skill and interest based focuses. Matteo is making the instrumentals, Alvin the songwriting. Then we usually meet up for the fine tuning, before calling it a wrap.
How did you ensure the music written became a cohesive piece?
By going over and over it again. Experimenting a lot and finally finding our peace with our sound. As mentioned before, the EP was as well a learning process. Learning what was important to us and what wasn’t. Conceptual work is one of the things we both enjoy a lot which is why the overall outcome might appear coherent.
“We’re both attracted by oddities. Things that don’t make sense at first sight.”
Do you remember who sent who the first song or lyrics? What did that feel like?
Alvin: The first time we met to work on one of my layouts, that later resulted in “Creature”. Matteo hit me up, because he listened to it with a common friend and instantly fell in love with the bridge vocals. I still remember when he sent me back his first interpretation a couple of days later. I stood in my room and wouldn’t believe or understand the new direction it broke out in. I felt overrun in a good way. That still happens when we send each other drafts or even when we work together in the same room.
Other than music, what other sources do you turn to for inspiration?
Everyday observations. We’re both attracted by oddities. Things that don’t make sense at first sight. Can be anything from the description. For example a doggie in designer clothing resulted in Pink Ties and a person in a weird monster costume became the inspiration for how “Creature” – the inner voice of irrationality might look like.
Matteo: With your experience creating sound installations, do you intend to incorporate similar elements into your live performances?
Surely yes. I remember experiencing outstanding concerts at sound art festivals such as Berlin Atonal and Transmediale. The impact the tools of sound art can have to a live show is tremendous and we have been seeking to make our shows one-of-a-kind acoustic journeys since day one.
In addition to the both of you having such extensive travel experience, what other journeys do you hope OTEO will take you on this year?
We’d love to carry our music across borders. A concert in the places we spent loads of time and got a lot of our inspiration from like New York and Toronto, London and Paris or Marrakesh and Saint Louis would be amazing.
Keep up with OTEO’s journey below.