By Hailey Nuthals, Highlighter Editor
Nearly Oratorio, the one-man project of Simon Lam (previously of I’lls and Kllo), took time to chat with WSN about his songwriting process, his growth between projects, and keeping things personal.
WSN: What are your thoughts on the revival of physical music mediums like vinyl and, more recently, cassette? Do you see the physical medium resurgence as a fad or a more significant turn?
Simon Lam: I saw a really interesting article yesterday – I’m not sure how true it was, but it said that vinyl sales were worth more than all digital streaming revenue
WSN: I saw that too, actually.
SL: Is that true?
WSN: Probably, honestly, with the way the payment system is set up.
SL: I found that quite surprising because I knew that vinyl sales are increasing more and more every year, but to hear that was pretty crazy. Cassettes are cool too, but I don’t really have a nice cassette player, and… cassettes might be one of those things that just come in for a little bit, because they’re really good for slacker rock music, but maybe if that style goes down again, then cassettes will go down again with them. But it looks like vinyl’s here to stay for a while longer.
WSN: I think so, too. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with that, eventually.
SL: I’m just waiting for the day that we can 3D-print vinyls at home. I think that’d be pretty fun.
WSN: What, for you, is the most rewarding part of making music – the creative process, the finished product, the way it creates a community with its listeners…?
SL: I think that starting off a project’s really fun, where everything’s just experimenting and you’re just getting ideas out there. Some of them, you might have been holding on to for a while. Usually when you’re alone, that’s really fun, because you can try whatever you want. There’s not a lot of opportunities in daily life to just try whatever you want. And then the middle part of making music is pretty not-so-fun, when you have to actually make the recording sound okay and finish them off. That takes a lot of work. The end of it’s also nice, when you can kind of sit back and listen to the music in the setting that it was intended for, and soak it up as the audience. I really just like it when my close friends say they like it when I show it to them for the first time. That’s always a great moment, probably my favorite point. They’re really supportive. They probably hate it, but they say they like it, nonetheless. They’re great liars.
WSN: You’ve said in a previous interview with I’lls that songwriting alone hasn’t gone that well – that each of those tracks couldn’t have been made without all three of you. How did you go from that to writing your own pieces for Nearly Oratorio?
SL: I actually started this project before I was in I’lls. This was the first thing I ever did in terms of recording original music. I think it’s more that we couldn’t have made the music that we were making in I’lls without all three of us, because it’s just too complex for – well, for me to make, because there’s a lot of jazz chords and things like that, and I don’t know any of that stuff. So I think to me, this project sounds like stripping a third of the style of I’lls and then just leaving that by itself. I think that’s the difference between this and the other projects, the other people’s influences. I’d never be able to write something as complex or intricate by myself. I think it’s just maths, really.
WSN: During your interview with Poncho Podcast, you mentioned that Nearly Oratorio was music that was never meant to be heard. That being said, what is your plan from here out? It’s definitely been heard by now – it’s definitely out there.
SL: It’s all been unexpected. I think… it’s really driven by the close friends around me, because they’re the biggest supporters. They’re just telling me at the moment to just make some more. Lyrically, and the way I record it, I’ll just try to stick to that feeling of not worrying about what people think of it and just worry about how I feel about it, and just write it myself. Originally this music was just written for me to just listen to, just because it’s kind of a bit relaxing to listen to sometimes. I guess it’s like a little notebook for myself or something to… this is the equivalent for me to listen to and it reminds me of a few things thoughts or things I need to remember. So I think I’ll just keep hiding messages in there for myself and keep it super personal. And I think I’ve been lucky enough so far that people have connected with that. I think the vagueness of the lyrics helps personal things be applied to other people’s own lives. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and not try and change it for anyone. Which sounds really arrogant.
WSN: Well if it’s done for that reason, I wouldn’t call it arrogant.
SL: I think it’s just a nice change from the other projects I’ve worked in or am working in, where the whole idea is to make singles that will be able to be played on radio and be able to be synced up to a movie or something.
“Occlude” is now streaming on Spotify and SoundCloud, and Nearly Oratorio’s music can be downloaded via https://nearlyoratorio1.bandcamp.com/album/tin