Name: Arjuna Oakes & Callum Mower aka Serebii
Nationality: New Zealand
Occupation: Producers, singer-songwriters
Current release: Arjuna Oakes & Serebii's Final Days EP is out via Innovative Leisure on October 14th 2022.
Recommendations: Serebii: I would recommend reading anything from the wonderful author Thich Nhat Hanh. Such powerful yet simplistic messages that we can all benefit from hearing.
A film I saw in London recently and absolutely adored is Fire Of Love directed by Sara Dosa!
Arjuna: I’ve been listening a lot to an album that my flatmate recommended me. It’s Ney Nava by Hossein Alizadeh, incredible string arrangements.
I’d also very much recommend the book Human Kind by Rutger Bregman
If you enjoyed this interview with Arjuna Oakes & Serebii and would like to find out more about their music, visit the official website of Arjuna Oakes and the Instagram of Serebii.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Serebii: On my 9th birthday my mum gifted me Thriller as my first CD. I remember how it really moved me as a child both inside and out.
I would grab glue sticks in class, jump up on the desk and bust out my best moves and vocals.
Arjuna: I remember singing before I could talk, almost everything around me was musical when I was a kid: The birds in our garden, the albums that were always blearing in the car, my parents playing guitar in the lounge. My family encouraged me to express myself and have fun through music, I suppose they were my first influences.
I’d bang a drumstick on my grandads guitar (sorry grandad), or just badly strum a ukelele and sing about lions and santa clause.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Serebii: When good music hits me I feel free from time and physical space, free from doubts and fears, a sense of connection and belonging. From this point I can begin to enter a trance, an obe or a visual world.
Arjuna: When I get lost in a piece of music It’s like everything else falls away, I’m totally present.
I sometimes get this uncontroloble excitement that bubbles up from my stomach, usually makes me want to run home and create something.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Serebii: I first found my voice in music production, storytelling through textures and layers rather than the traditional singer songwriter. I believe breakthroughs for me have been in small increments, such as feeling understood or touching someone with my sound.
The biggest challenge has been to let go of self doubt and trust in myself.
Arjuna: I started learning the piano when I was 7, and I’ve always used it as a tool for improvisation. When I really should have been practicing my classical piano pieces, I was instead exploring and making things up.
I discovered early on that the best Ideas come from mistakes, things that catch you off guard but then spark your imagination.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Serebii: I feel very lucky to have grown up in Aotearoa, New Zealand as a white male from a working class family. Fortunately my upbringing showed me a lot of different culture, love and pain. I believe these things shaped my way of creating and taste for listening to art.
I can love any music that has a greater sense of self. I generally feel more attracted to music that has exciting and unexpected rhythms and melodies
Arjuna: Like Serebii, I also feel very lucky to have grown up in Aeoteroa, and it has influenced me greatly as an artist and as a person. My parents were jewlers when I was growing up and we used to travel to craft markets all over the country. There I experienced all sorts of music, Celtic Folk, Latin, West African music etc, it all just felt so good to get lost in. I think those experiences helped me to always be curious even as an adult.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Serebii: I want people to feel sexy in their own skin. I want the music to bring people together, I mean who doesn’t? It’s important to share stories for personal growth and as a global consciousness, through words, melodies & dance.
My approach is always to search for the above, or sometime in a producer role to facilitate another artists vision / story.
Arjuna: Humanity. Music always has to feel human and organic to me, it has to feel real. I’m always trying to reach something inside of myself that feels buried but is bubbling to the surface, a release that only music can give me.
That can come in many forms, music that is dancy and sexy, or something more cerebrial and strange. Humans are complicated and beautiful creatures, I want to express it all.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Serebii: This one is tricky for me ... originality, innovation, perfection and timelessness can work successfully in any order. For example, me being a perfectionist has given me originality and innovation in my craft.
It’s all a big soup really, I’m interested in people who can show originality through personality and character but also by soaking up the wonderful creations and lessons around them.
Arjuna: I wouldn’t say that I’m a perfectionist in the traditional sense. I’m meticulous but I’m striving for something that feels organic and honest.
What I try and practice is to always let my intuition lead the way, I don’t want the music to feel contrived. Originality is important to me, but only if it’s coming from the heart.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Serebii: My ears and my instruments / perception and refinement
Arjuna: Playing the piano has been an incredible way for me to really understand music and especially harmony, which I think is an essential storytelling tool within music. I’ve been able to use my understanding of harmony to push my songwriting to places that I might not have explored otherwise.
Obviously I’ve worked a lot on my voice and production, but playing piano is my #1 weapon.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Serebii: I’ve been travelling around Europe for the last three months therefore I have no routine at all. I do love a big breakfast with lots of coffee.
The routine I’m working on is to begin with exercise, meditation, breakfast, coffee, open the music work space, pursue two uberman-esque sleep regiments throughout each 8-10 hour music session, quick snack on fruit and nuts for lunch, dinner, evening bush walk for clarification, perspective and rejuvenation.
Arjuna: At the moment I’ve been working on my debut solo album so I’ve been focusing on that every day.
Usually I’ll start the morning by giving my partner a lift to work and then going to the gym or going on an hour long walk. Then I’ll come home and get stuck in some music. Around lunchtime I might take care of some admin stuff, I don’t like to do this first thing, more inspiring to exercise and create first.
I’ll do some more work on my album and then I teach piano most afternoons for about 3-4 hours.