*Photo: (Photo: Katherine Rajwar)
Since their E.P “The Squeeze” debuted in late January, Orange Passiona has garnered online attention for their genre-bending psychedelic rock infused with elements of punk, electronica and reggae. Katherine Rajwar spoke to the band ahead of the release of their latest single, “Nasho”.
If there’s anything that comes more naturally to Jesse Elton than music, it’s driving.
The 21-year old bassist by night, paramedic-in-training by day, is aggressively changing the gears on her tiny Mazda as she zips through suburban South Sydney.
With music blaring through the aux cord, she stops abruptly, lugging her gear out of the car and up the driveway to the modest family home of Milton Stathakis, lead singer.
The pair are one half of a four-piece group who perform under the moniker “Orange Passiona”.
After their festival debut at the popular Yours and Owls Festival in 2019, the band found themselves in a whirlwind of gigging from bar to bar across Sydney.
But like the rest of the entertainment industry, this momentum ground to a sudden halt with the arrival of COVID-19.
The lockdown has seen the rise of the “quarantine album” with new releases dropping from pop icons like Taylor Swift and Charli XCX. But what is a backyard Aussie band to do in a global pandemic?
Evidently for Orange Passiona, it’s to push forward – with gusto.
“As soon as we figured out that we couldn’t gig at all for a long time we just switched our minds to learning to produce as well as we could,” Stathakis says, sprawled across the sofa in the makeshift home studio.
The living room has been kitted out with recording equipment, drum set, keyboard and a multitude of guitars – squeezed in amongst household furniture, with amplifiers slotted between bookshelves and electrical chords lining the floor.
Elton and Stathakis are the driving force behind the band’s success and have co-written their upcoming album.
The two young songwriters also find it easy to work alongside one another.
Their shared sense of humour has bled across the production and is evident in the album art, designed by Elton, which is a series of graphic novel-style cartoons.
While they’re missing live gigs immensely, the pandemic has brought with it seemingly endless productivity.
“The live gigs are such a great way to connect to other bands as well…,” Elton says.
“It pretty much leads to a chain of gigs ’cause… we play one gig, meet a band, then they ask us to support them, and then we’ll meet another band there and get them to support us.”
Elton is clearly skilled across multiple platforms, having animated a full-length music video for the band’s last single “Let Me Get Back” alongside her brother, Aaron.
LESS IS MORE
Working from home has given the band more time to focus on their next body of work. Stathakis says they’ve switched to a “less is more” approach.
“We released our EP at the beginning of this year and noticed that people would listen to the first few songs and all the other songs wouldn’t get as many listeners, they’d just drop off after a point. We were like, ‘if we’re going to be putting effort into all these songs we might as well release them as singles’.”
This extra time has allowed the band to curate a unique sound and image.
“We’re creating a whole world around each song now… the sort of thing that’s a bit different… something interesting to see, something vibrant. And when we put it up online people have responded really well to it.”
Along with new music, the band is also increasing its social media presence in order to allow audiences to engage with their creative process.
“I’ve started to try and put more online… like let people into the process, they can see our faces a bit more,” Stathakis says.
However, the group believes social media comes with its own challenges.
“It can be a little intense though, you can get really caught up just watching the statistics, like how many people have watched it,” Elton adds.
While the future of live Australian music remains uncertain as cases continue to appear in Victoria and NSW, the group is hopeful that they can continue to engage with their audience online.
In addition to the release of their new single “Nasho” (August 21) they’re also in the process of recording a series of live concerts.
— Katherine Rajwar @KatRajwar