The impulse to drive on a darkened highway in the middle of nowhere is probably a Midwestern thing. Nashville-based Oginalii’s latest offering “Light As A Feather” features the foreboding vocals and tense vibe needed to brave the winding night.
With a ticking clock is an opening harbinger, Guitarist Emma Hoeflinger’s voice twists and turns throughout the song like gnarled trees in oncoming headlights. Bandmates Ryan Quarles (guitar), Simon Knudtson (drums), and Emma Lambiase (bass) attack from all angles, creating a call and response between the music and lyrics. Hoeflinger says the single channels both anxious energy and childhood mythos:
“Light as a Feather” came out of the departure of a meditation. Stress and anxiety are two things that I have strived my hardest to cope with in the healthiest way I can. Self doubt can perpetuate itself into a spiral staircase that leads back to its start; feeding on the insecurities within you. After sitting in meditation during one of these instances, I began to reflect on how I used to understand/cope with my own reflection as a kid. My mind immediately went to playing the game ‘light as a feather’ blindly, in good intent with childhood friends. It was an incantation that was eye opening, and gave me a moment to step outside of myself and reflect on who I was before and what I am now. This is the essence of the ideas behind the record: our journey to love, leading with what we’ve learned along the way.
Listen AudioFemme’s exclusive premiere of “Light As A Feather” below:
AF: Oginalii is the Cherokee word for “my friend.” How did that word find its way into your lexicon?
EMMA HOEFLINGER: I grew up in Cherokee County right near New Echota (the capital of the Cherokee Nation). When we were looking for band names originally, I was looking for the words ‘blue rose’ which is a concept near and dear to my heart and a connection I have with my father. However, I am insanely sensitive to combinations of vowels and consonants so when I stumbled upon the word Oginalii I got goosebumps. It sounded so lovely and warm. Then when I scanned the page over I found out what it meant, that was it.
AF: The band started up in 2013 and has since gone electric. What was the catalyst for that musical shift?
EH: The need for inspiration is the short answer. During that time I was healing from lots of wounds inflicted by others and myself. I needed the energy and ferocity that comes from an electric guitar. It saved me honestly, that feeling that happens when you’re surrounded by a heavy fuzzy guitar makes me want to cry and punch a wall. Which for those that know me pretty much sums up my personality.
AF: “Light As A Feather” has such a delightful, creepy intro. Was the riff the start of this song, or did you start with a concept?
EH: The concept and the voice memo were some of the oldest that ended up on the record, but the finished product was the last song we completed, actually the week before we recorded the whole record. The intro riff that comes back later in the song was one of the last things added to it. It happened when we were demoing out the song and once we figured out the placement along with Ben Mcleod’s guidance (our producer and spiritual riff lord) for the intro vocals it turned into this ethereal weird space that matches the trance and ritualistic energy we wanted to create.
AF: You’ve said you’re a huge Led Zepplin fan. You’re three tattoos deep in dedication, right?
EH: Technically I only have two but one is a two for one. My first was my first tattoo actually and during the same time, I turned to the electric guitar. It was impulsive, I went by myself, and came out with Robert Plant’s symbol on my left side. It launched me forward in this way that kind of sealed my fate for what I knew I had to pour my soul into. Which is how I feel when I hear Plant sing; you feel that man’s soul. My second is my favorite lyrics/song off Zeppelin III, “All that lives is born to die.” Those words are so grounding and a reminder that we aren’t permanent so be present and put as much love as you can back into the world. I took those lyrics and translated them into another love of mine, Elvish: the language created from my favorite books in the world, Lord of the Rings. If you’re a Zeppelin fan, or if you’re not, just listen to “Ramble On” and you’ll hear the references all over to LOTR.
AF: What is it about Led Zepplin’s music that speaks to you?
EH: It’s the time and place, which for me is all music. The combination of the musicians present, the era when it was created, the restrictions of technology, the energy created. It’s moments I remember in my life when I was listening to them. The energy I feel when I listen to them is home for me and I can find home wherever I am because of the music. I could go on about all the technical aspects of the sonic beauty but it’s my heart that the music owns.
AF: Can you name a few current/new bands that you’re drawing from right now?
EH: The list is infinite and I’ll be pissed cause I left one out but here goes: Idles, Shame, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Queens of the Stone Age, Savages, Screaming Females, St. Vincent, Bat House, Electric Wizard.
AF: You could be front row at any show (any time period)? Who, where, why?
EH: 1970, Cincinnati. Iggy Pop covered himself in peanut butter and crowd surfed. What a legend, a performer in his bones, and an idol of mine. I would kill to have seen him in the prime era of The Stooges.
AF: You’ve got some shows coming up here in the spring. What kind of vibe should an audience member expect from an Oginalii live set?
EH: Expect heavy, grateful energy, and the humbling feeling we all have that we are out here doing what we love and that people want to listen. Thicc riffs.
AF: What advice do you have for kids just picking up their instruments/plinking out their first songs?
EH: Find what makes you cry, what makes you laugh, and what fills you with love. Fuel your art with what makes up YOUR frame of mind, then forget it. Let yourself change and become an empathetic person okay with change, and growing into a musician you’re proud of. Oh and practice your ass off cause we’re all nothing without woodshedding in our rooms for hours on end.