"I'm extremely calculated, but to an outside perspective, it looks like an absolute shitstorm," Olli Appleyard says nonchalantly as he discusses his meticulous state of mind when it comes to curating the artistic vision of his post-hardcore band Static Dress.
Fumbling around for something off-screen, he likens his thought process to that of walking into someone's room and being taken aback by what you perceive as a mess, but in actual fact, is controlled chaos. "It's all on here," he continues, revealing a palm-sized hard drive. "You wouldn't be able to understand it or translate it because as far as I'm aware, from when I've tried to show people before, it's basically like hieroglyphics. There are obvious themes and other things going on, but I'd say honestly, the next two years are pretty much planned out."
It may come as a surprise to hear of such precision from an artist whose band has only been in existence since late-2019, but the further you dive into the world of Static Dress, with its cinematic and cryptographic undertones, it becomes apparent that there is a mastermind creating a narrative within both the music and their visual counterparts.
How, then, does one become adept with a world that is so rooted in mystery? The first step would be to try and put yourself in the shoes of its creator – though it might be a little difficult to try and keep up with someone as manically productive as Olli. Our Zoom conversation's initial moments are spent with him filling us in on the relentless work schedule that he's currently undertaking in the lead up to the band's second livestream of the year. As a jack-of-all-trades in the creative media industry, and the ringleader of a fully independent DIY band, you begin to wonder if he ever truly has moments of downtime, as it seems as though these processes are simply as important as breathing for him.
With the need to constantly be creative permeating his existence, Olli often finds himself racked with guilt if ever he happens to stumble into a moment of stillness. With a hand over his mouth, he chuckles to himself as he realises that everything he does somehow links back to creating art. "Switching off and coming out of it isn't really an option yet," he explains. "I don't think I've ever gone a whole day without thinking about the band…" he sighs before revealing how unhealthy his passion can get: "I saw eating as a waste of time, and it got kind of dangerous. I think with all of this being closed off from friends, you don't realise how bad it is, and I don't think anyone saw how bad I got because I was in my room on my own. You can fixate on something so much that you can end up ruining it so easily by not taking that step back."
Static Dress aim to create worlds in which the listener can escape the cacophony of their daily lives. With a frenetic sound that is rooted in late 00s post-hardcore and emo akin to Underoath, Emery and My Chemical Romance, they take familiar elements of that catharsis and transpose it into an entirely new means of escapism that focuses on the intrigue of the unknown.
They desire to be an amorphous identity that has the ability to shift into whatever it needs to be for that given moment, hence there being no distinct meaning behind the name. "When you hear 'Adidas', you don't immediately think of it as a sportswear or clothing brand – it doesn't identify as something," Olli says. "That for me was the biggest thing because if we ever wanted to evolve into a clothing brand or a media outlet, we fully could do that because it's not a solidified thing."
This nebulousness seeps into all creative aspects of the band. Olli admits that he hates listening to just one type of music at any time, and enjoys that they have two completely different spectrums of sound between the classic post-hardcore realm of 'clean' and the James Blake/The 1975-inspired synthesised melancholia of 'DSC_301'. This feeds into two distinct timelines that run through everything that they do, and for those unassimilated with their world, it will begin to make sense once more easter eggs are revealed in their future releases.
With a creative process that is described as throwing many different influences into a blender, you might find yourself watching the band's music videos and feeling as though you've entered a time-warp world akin to The Matrix or The Shining. Olli, who also looks to Quentin Tarantino and horror movies from the 70s and 80s for inspiration, finds himself drawn to the mystery of art. "A lot of it is about escapism between real and fake and being able to pull yourself between different worlds," he says. Between esoteric lyrical content and secret binary messages embedded within the visuals, Static Dress invite their listeners to assimilate themselves into a world that embraces art for its longevity and authenticity.
Expressing disdain towards TikTok culture while acknowledging its ability to catapult someone into the spotlight, Olli is impassioned when contemplating the hyper-consumerism of art in the context of social media. "I want to be able to provide a platform and something that can change this because I don't believe that the only way of getting attention nowadays is embarrassing yourself," he says. "Imagine you've just seen Keanu Reeves in John Wick, and you're thinking that it's the coolest thing ever but, on the way out of the cinema, there's a billboard of him doing some kind of dance – it's immediately ruined any type of perception!
"Breaking character is a short way to success, but your longevity will be completely eradicated," he continues. "So much disposable music is now made, that the longevity of these apps will just outlive the art that you make. I'd rather do it the other way around and make art that will forever surpass any type of social media. People still look at Michael Jackson's albums, or they go through hip-hop from the early stages, and NWA are still one of the best rap groups of all time. No app, no social media, no iPhone that comes out, will ever eradicate those albums from existence. I want to bring back the people getting involved with a record."
Does Olli ever worry that he might forget to enjoy the journey if he's so immersed in the process of having a two-year plan? He's adamant that such a thing isn't a possibility. "I feel like getting lost in the process isn't so much a thing when you're doing the entire process on your own, because you are so involved in it, and you're so hands-on with it," he says. "I think if this was any other project, that could be the case, but this isn't about being the biggest band in the world, or being the biggest thing on Spotify, or having the most numbers or the most likes on Instagram. For me and the other guys, it's very much about creating something which will inspire other people to do better."
Taken from the April issue of Upset.
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