Five Ways Producer/DJ Octo Octa Found Herself — and Her Direction — on 'Where Are We Going?'
Published Mar 31, 2017Maya Bouldry-Morrison's new album is striking for a number of reasons. Born in Chicago, raised in New Hampshire, and now based in Brooklyn, the lush house producer and DJ known as Octo Octa has been exposed to a variety of musical influences — though the merit of her second full-length LP, Where Are We Going? (out now on Honey Soundsystem) stems from something a little more personal than her great taste. After releases on labels like 100% Silk, Where Are We Going?'s approach marks Maya Bouldry-Morrison's confident transition into her new identity as a trans woman on a very public scale.
Straddling the line between ecstasy and introspection, Where Are We Going? is an autobiographical score for Bouldry-Morrison's transition. It offers a more positive trans narrative than most, because in the words of Bouldry-Morrison, "any positive message or at least representation that's not around a tragic moment is nice to read."
1 Maya's last album was a coded queer message.
"I wasn't ready to come out then," she tells Exclaim! "I always knew I wanted to write another album afterwards, but I didn't know how long it would take me to do that. I finish demos, but it takes me a long time to get stuff done. I want albums to have a narrative, and I want them all kind of written around the same time to kind of say something, versus an EP where there are four tracks that might be a little bit related and have ideas together, but I'm not trying to say a grander thing with it."
2 She doesn't mind talking about her transition.
"It's okay now. It's funny — I feel like a lot of people would be really upset, or 'I really just want to talk about the music,' but at the same time, I don't see a lot of trans narratives in electronic music. I talk about DJ Sprinkles way too much. Her records are important to me because they were overtly queer records, talking about queerness, and I really appreciated seeing that. I don't think I'm nearly as important, but I'd like to have this record be a more overt queer message, and talk about it more for the reason that when I was coming out. I really appreciated acknowledgement in the world that we existed, that we were around and able to do things, versus most trans narratives are like, 'another black trans woman was killed.'"
3 Her stage name is an old AOL alias.
"It was Octopus Octagon. I was studying linguistics, I liked the prefix for 'eight.' Here's where all my schooling fails me after eight years. Whatever, it had like two forms, OCTO and OCTA. I liked the differences. So it used to be just Octo/Octa for years, and then eventually chopped the slash in the middle. I was using that name when I sent out the first record to 100% Silk, who I first released with. As soon as I put it out, I was like, well now I'm stuck with it. I can't really change it."
4 She parted ways with her background in linguistics, but her DJ sets will speak to you.
"It's very much selector vibes for everything. The most technical I'm going to get with it is laying a vocal, one on top of another. There's a lot of similar phrases in house tracks, about love or 'missing you.' You can get very fun interplays in between the vocals, talking to each other while you're playing in between them.
5 She always wanted to make drum & bass, but couldn't.
Since I came from drum & bass and jungle, that's what I wanted to make for years and years and years. I tried, and couldn't really do it — but I also didn't really understand sampling as much then. I didn't understand that when I listen to a jungle record, these drums that are on it, they're not from a drum machine. They're taking a record and chopping it up and putting those samples back into a thing for production. The first record I did for 100% Silk has a break, this track "Let Me See You." Once I included that into a song, that was super important to me. This sound of the drum loop that I've always thought of for years, I've now been able to do that.