New Orleans Based Rapper Oculo Dives Into Inspiration, Community, Nature and...a College Art Assignment?

Oculo thrives on collaboration, originally leading him to music through wanting to make sounds with friends. He's stuck by that approach from day one and it's continuing to pay off with great music.

Coyote Music: First, thanks for taking some time to visit with us and answer some questions!

Oculo: For sure man, thanks for having me.

Let's begin with your performing name: Oculo. It's interesting. What does it mean and how did you decide on it?

Oculo: Oculo is the latin root for having to do with the eyes or vision. In my experience, nothing gets done without a vision, and I wanted a name for the project that would remind me of why I started out in the first place.

CM: Your music definitely has a consistent vibe. Who are some artists who have influenced your sound and style--both from a production standpoint and your lyrical flow?

Oculo: A lot of the artists that initially influenced me musically are not people that I sound like now. The emotional direction of the project was inspired by acts like La Dispute, Listener, Seven Lions, music that cuts straight to the root. I would say I have more sonic overlap with Mac Miller, Juice Wrld, Yung Lean, folks with more pop vocal delivery over hip-hop beats but still making music just because they have a lot to get out of their heads.

CM: You've done quite a few collabs. Can you talk about some of the artists you've worked with and some of the differences between writing for yourself versus writing with others?

Oculo: When I first got into hip hop I was mostly into the idea of making music with friends, that was sort of the point of moving away from electronic music, which was starting to feel lonely. So a lot of the early hip hop tunes were just with people I was hanging out with already, a lot of them had never written a song before. Leam is the exception, he was making music before me and still is cranking out a lot of incredibly dope music, so shout out to him. I love making all kinds of art with my friends. As things have been taking off a little more recently I've been branching out to make music with other artists I've never met, like Timentes, 645AR, people I found on the internet that I've been listening to for a while without ever actually reaching out. I craft lyrics pretty much the same way regardless though, I just have things swirling around in my head that I need to get out. I may direct the writing process a little more based on the subject matter to have a bit of overlap but I don't consider it much of a difference.

Life is the juiciest thing, we're swimming in inspiration all around us 24/7.

CM: Your lyrics seem pretty spiritual. What is it that inspires you to write?

Oculo: Everything, man. Life is the juiciest thing, we're swimming in inspiration all around us 24/7. I suppose routine discussion of spiritual concepts isn't quite culturally normalized, maybe that's why I feel the need to make music about it.

CM: I noticed in your bio that mention times around a campfire. Are you more of an outdoor person and, if so, does nature play a big role in your writing?

Oculo: Maybe not nature per say, like specifically flora and fauna, but the nature of reality in general definitely plays a role in my music. I do love staying active and enjoy extreme outdoor sports as a way to connect with nature, less so since moving south because it's so hot, but I am fascinated by the natural world.

CM: You're from Indianapolis, now living in New Orleans. Those are two pretty different cities with very different vibes. Has your music changed since moving to New Orleans, or have you always written kinda the same way and you eventually just discovered that New Orleans was a better 'fit' for you?

Oculo: The music industry is pretty gnarly anywhere you go, but I found in Indianapolis there was a particularly viscious environment centered on acts and promoters trying to stomp each other out to compete for attention. I wouldn't say the core interest of the music has changed, I've gravitated more towards vocal performance as I've felt I have more and more to say. But I've certainly felt more free to collaborate, explore and innovate since moving down here.

CM: You've got two full sleeves of tattoos. That's a lot of artist expression in all that ink. Do you have any stories behind your tattoos that you'd be willing to share?

Oculo: Haha sure, every tattoo has a different meaning behind it and I designed most of them myself so that question could be a bit of a rabbit hole. The wooden heart on my left forearm is for a song by Listener, that band I mentioned earlier.

CM: Your latest single is called "Consider Moon." What does that mean? And the artwork for it is grandiose and gorgeous. What's the story behind it?

Oculo: That song was inspired by a week I spent in Vancouver with a girl I met at burning man last year. She was an art student and one of her favorite professors gave them an assignment: "Consider moon, let moon consider you, bring moon to class." I made the artwork, I've been experimenting with digital art for these last few single releases and am trying to thread a story between the songs leading up to the album. I came across this artist a while ago who is making music and also using the single art to make a visual story over time, so I tried to make a little story with the Spotify canvas visuals on the last album, Input OS, but I think it will be easier with still images this time around.

CM: Do you perform live much or are you more of a studio artist, focusing on writing and recording?

Oculo: I'll DJ a house party or a burn here and there but I don't think I've had a live vocal performance since moving to New Orleans. Maybe I'm traumatized from how the shows used to go in Indianpolis, that's a rough city to be an artist. I mostly just live my life and when something builds up in my heart and needs out, I make a song about it. Sometimes I record it, sometimes I mix it, sometimes I put it on the internet.

CM: What's next for you?

Oculo: I'll probably go get lunch. Haha it's mostly going to be singles for the rest of this year, I'm branching out to try collaborating with artists I've been listening to for now and I'm planning to release an album, Alchemical Bloom, next year.

CM: That's all great. Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck on the upcoming album!

Oculo: Thanks again for having me! I'm a big fan of the site, y'all been at this since before I was born. It's a huge honor.

Posted on 7/6/24