At some point as we walk through the woods to our photoshoot location, Ruth O’Hare ceases to be, replaced by the indefatigable Oxo Foxo – our Silver Birch surroundings inspiring a tangible change within the loop-obsessed multi-instrumentalist…
While she will later suggest that the line between the persona and the person is somewhat more blurred than I have made out, there is certainly an excitable shift in the young singer/songwriter’s manner that suggests she is rarely happier than when she is surrounded by nature, seemingly a million miles away from the clutter and constraints of our man-made urban spaces.
Her mad-hatter style tea party in this woodland setting perfectly encompasses the Oxo Foxo sound, as stripped-back, organic minimalism meets unfathomable fantasy. One girl on stage with a mic may not seem like the most otherworldly concept, but her creative use of loop pedals lends Ruth’s sound an etherealness that hints at it existing in some other, mythical realm. It’s quite apt for someone who’s recently taken a keen interest in cryptozoology; welcome to the world of the Fantastical Ms. Foxo…
Obviously, you’re passionate about animals and nature: what is it that you love so much about them?
Well, I’ve always been very self-conscious – I think it’s because I know I’m a bit of a weirdo at heart! With animals though, you never have to worry about how they perceive you, and I find that quite comforting and soothing. Everything about them fascinates me really; there’s so much diversity in the animal kingdom and the fact that you’ll never know all their secrets just makes them so interesting.
To what extent does this passion influence your music?
Very much so. For example, my song ‘Starfish’ is based on this beautiful myth that if you cut off a piece of a starfish it will grow into another starfish. This really affected me, as I feel that nobody ever knows all of you – the whole starfish – rather they “cut off” their own perception of you, and you have no control over that separate piece that they see.
Also, when we were recording it we started to attribute different parts of the music to different sea creatures, so for example there’s a big bass bit that we thought was like the big bullfrogs…
… what triggers that kind of link in your mind?
When the sounds emerge they present themselves to me as animals, and once I’ve made that connection I build on it and seek to manipulate that sound even further to make sure the animal connection is coming across. Even things like Mermaids – there’s a part in there where I was really imagining myself as a siren in the odyssey trying to call in the ships and trying to express that musically.
I’ve always felt that with the way the loops build and layer up, your songs give the impression of a chorus of animals emerging from a wood…
That is exactly what I’m aiming for. I feel that music is very free like an animal in the way it moves – I’m very conscious as a musician that I only have so much control over where my sound goes.
Like with each instrument representing an animal on ‘Starfish’; obviously that was a conscious decision, but the way that those associations emerge isn’t under my control. But with the loops, I like the idea that each new layer represents another Weasel creeping out of something like that.
With regards to your session, aren’t you doing a rather interesting cover for us?
I’m covering ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield…
It is genuinely one of my favourite ever songs, it’s not an ironic cover. Lots of people put it on as a bit of a joke, which is a shame as I have genuine fondness for it. If you listen to it, it has all of those layers coming in and out – like the animals emerging and going back in again. It’s very much how I see my music and represents how I create music. It is actually a very well-crafted song; I actually think I prefer playing it over my own stuff now!