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OKA rolls back into town

Australian electro-reggae trio tours new album, Milk and Honey




WHO: OKA with "Violin vs. Vinyl" Kytami & The PhonoGraff


WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 10


The last we heard of Byron Bay's OKA, they had stopped over in a "freezing" Edmonton during a winter tour across Canada. They'd never seen anything like the harsh Prairie winters - had hardly seen an Australian winter, for that matter, as they have always  alternated between continents during their respective winter seasons to exist in a single, continuous summer.

Their brand of tribal psychedelic roots plays like a hallucinogenic day at the beach, inspired by the breeziest summer moments. And there our OKA was, slogging through the snow.

"It was a really good experience, that winter," says frontman Stu "Fergie" Forgive now. "That was the first time we had seen snow. I'm definitely going to bring my family back to experience it. I don't think I could live here for the whole winter but visiting, man, is awesome."

They've returned to the Great White North - green and brown for the time being - touring the songs off their new album Milk and Honey, released on July 1.

This is their first album as a three-piece, with percussionist Charles Wall onboard as a full-time member. Since their inception nine years ago, Fergie and guitarist/flutist Chris Lane have manned the board, releasing four albums of the headiest electro-reggae to emerge from their side of the Pacific.

The songs have been cut in half for the new album and feature more vocals than before, but a No Doubt record this is not. When performed live, the songs can easily pass the 15-minute mark.

"We just go with the flow, as we always do," Fergie says.

"That's the thing about the live show. It really depends on what the crowd's feeling and that kind of vibe. Sometimes you can just really open a track up for 10 or 20 minutes, which is how we've always kind of kept it. Spontaneous. When you're playing music you really have to pay attention. You really need to be in the music, you can't just turn up and play some covers."

On a good night, Fergie says he'll lose himself completely in the experience. The crowd disappears. It's all a blur.

"We are kind of tripping out sonically without the drugs, but I think it definitely has a psychedelic flavour for sure," he says.

Much of the texture is thanks to Fergie's use of the didgeridoo. In the aboriginal community where he grew up the instrument is used in traditional practices as the bridge between the spiritual planes and our own. It's the language of the soul. Fergie's grandfather, the ceremonial "didje" player in his community, schooled him in the art from a young age in preparation for one day taking over the role. But while Fergie doesn't play ceremony songs he is bringing to OKA's music the perspective of the soul that he had grown up with, through this instrument.

"I'm bringing myself into the context. I'm bringing the culture. OKA is really us expressing ourselves and for me, it's me expressing me and my heritage and all things that have kind of influenced me," he says.

What that means for the crowd is a more reggae-affected, danceable version of Animal Collective.

It's a trip, man, and a proper start to our late-blooming summer


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