Packed full of charm and character, Geoff Ong’s music is inherently unique. Coming off the back of a steady series of singles, and recently releasing his full-length album, Maybe It’ll Be Alright, Geoff has solidified himself as a point of difference in the New Zealand pop scene.
We caught up with Geoff to chat about his unique sound, making an album and his songwriting process.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you do?
Hey there! Thanks so much for having me for this Q&A. My name is Geoff (said in the Channing Tatum voice from 21 Jump Street) and I make pop music! I’ve been making music for a little while, and this year and I’m releasing my first ever full-length album, which is equal parts exciting and terrifying ARGH.
Your music has a distinct uniqueness to it but still wouldn’t sound out of place on any commercial radio. Can you tell me a bit about how you would describe your sound?
Thank you, that’s very kind! If I were to try and put it in a genre box, I guess it’s like… indie pop? To be honest I just really love pop music and I’m just trying to make the best pop that I can. But I’ve played in all sorts of bands and I listen to all sorts of music so I think that all kinda mixes in with the pop-ness to make it a little bit left-of-centre 🙂
You’ve released a few singles this year, ‘I Don’t Know, ‘Over and Over Again’ and ‘Into Into you’, which do a really good job in capturing your sound. Can you tell a little bit more about those releases?
Yeah! At the start of this year, I basically made a decision that I wanted to release an album, and that I wanted to release 3 or so new singles over the course of the year. I was feeling really creatively inspired so I just really wanted to ride that wave! I’m really lucky that during lockdown I was able to keep writing and recording music as I have a little recording studio setup at home. ‘I Don’t Know’ in particular really captures how I was feeling during lockdown – just a lot of anxiety about the future and searching for ways to escape.
Tell me about some of your musical inspirations?
Vocally I love old-school soul and R&B. Boyz II Men, Donny Hathaway, and Sam Cooke are a few of my vocal inspirations! Production-wise I’m very into alt-pop artists like Chvrches, Shura, and Yumi Zouma.
You have been making music for a while, with your first release dating back to 2014. Can you tell me how you’ve changed as a musician since then?
Oh man, a lot! I think though the biggest thing was recovering from musical burnout – in 2016 I felt really burnt out on writing and performing my own music and just decided to take a break from it. I thought that it would just be for a couple of months but it ended up being over 2 years! But during those 2 years, I discovered a lot of new sounds and new music which ultimately ended up shaping my new sound… So I think in the end it was for the best!
You’re gearing up to release your new album “Maybe It’ll Be Alright”. Can you tell me a little about that?
Yes! It’s all very exciting. Making a full-length album feels like a big artistic statement to make, and until this year I don’t think I felt ready to do that. But I think I’ve found a sound and a direction that I really love, and I’ve made a record that I’m really proud of and am excited to share with people.
You produce, write and perform all your own songs. Can you tell me a little bit about your workflow when starting a song? Do you play around with production ideas, or do you usually have a hook or something to base a song around?
It’s different every time to be honest! I’ve never been someone who is naturally able to be like “ok, I’m going to sit down for 4 hours and write a song” and then just magically have a song at the end of it. Most of the time an idea will just pop into my head while I’m doing something else, then I’ll just record it as a voice note or write it down. Then when I have some time I’ll pick up that little fragment and build the song around it.
In terms of production specifically, talk to me about your production process. How do you go about putting a song together?
I often have an idea in my head that I’m chasing – and a lot of the time I’m just trying to recreate it in my DAW! Normally I’ll start by creating a drum groove that feels good, then layering bass and chords on top of that. If I have melody ideas ready then I’ll start laying them down here to see how they feel and fit in with everything else. It honestly changes every time! But the one constant is that I do it all myself in my bedroom – I prefer to work on stuff by myself at home where it’s cosy and I can redo the same vocal take as many times as it takes to get it sounding right. So what that means is that I tend to write, record, and produce all at the same time, which is maybe not the most traditional way of doing it, but it works for me.
Do you plan on putting on any shows to celebrate the album release?
Normally I do a show whenever I put out a new release but this time I decided not to! The idea of trying to organise a show at the moment just really stressed me out haha. So instead I’m doing a listening party on Sunday, November 15 at Movespace on Dominion Rd in Auckland – it’s going to be a very chill affair, we’re gonna have snacks, drinks, maybe bean bags (?) and just listen through the album and if people are interested I’ll talk about the inspirations and ideas behind different tracks 🙂
You can listen to the album below.