Chemical is the colourful reunion of rock and pop we’ve been hanging around for; Billy Otto melds the things we love about both with a little help from a smoke machine.
If you haven’t heard the name Billy Otto, it’s about to become that one you’ll see everywhere. And you won’t mind, either. Otto is somewhat of an industry veteran.
Raised in sun-soaked Newcastle and now based in Sydney, he’s boy-next-door charm meets city-beach connoisseur, and it’s infectious. This latest edition to his anthology of dreamy, folk melismas is something quite disparate. So if Chemical is your introduction to Billy Otto, you’ve joined at a time of visual awakening – welcome.
Having spent the most part of the last couple years touring around the world, it’s appropriate that Chemical is an ode to performance art. The fast-spliced-together clip features Otto with and without a guitar, with and without a shirt on. It’s this gemini affect throughout the video that’s an enticing peer down the psyche of an artist’s duality. Vibrantly lit frames of Otto and his band are tightly shot and intimate while cuts of black and white Super 8 filter are abstract and edgy.
The synergy of Chemical is the driving force, both aesthetically and sonically. Swirling new wave synths compete with compressed energetic drums and the repetition of “Chemical got me rising, got me rising” has a quickening mantra-like potency. And like those coke-bottle/volcano tests of schoolyard science class, the bubbles have nowhere to go but up! Hooky tendrils of pop melody crystallise Chemical as modern classic in the making. Immerse yourself in Otto’s world of head banging brilliance below:
Just when you think the pace has subsided to a more seductive, broodish finish, curious hints of a string section again heighten the tension. A fine line is walked between restlessness and urgency. And similarly to a Methyl Ethyl art-rock track, they nail it. The smokey vocals of Otto are ever-presently warm-blooded and ultimately wield a story of importance that reaches far beyond the near perfect production of Chemical. Of it’s delicate and timely essence, Otto says:
“I want everyone to know that it’s ok to not be ok and that especially as men, because vulnerability is beautiful. Men are dying all over the world from mental health battles and I want the conversation around mental health to be normalised.”
Having worked on projects with Aussie heavyweights like Gang of Youths and Sticky Fingers, it’s no surprise he’s had music royalty sit in on this one too. Daryl Chin of Kira Puru helped lay down the beats and Jenny McCullagh of I Know Leopard brought some French-noir vocals and sweepingly delicious strings. The chemistry project was complete at the mixing hands of Ian Pritchett (Angus and Julia Stone).
More than a singer-songwriter-producer, Otto is a passionate man. An advocate for mental health and environmentalism, you can catch Billy Otto in Bondi wearing fluro on Friday’s for OneWave: a non-profit, anti-bad vibes surf community. And while you’re there, catch him and his band on March 20th at The Bucketlist Bondi for an early set at 6pm.
A darling and daring musician, Billy Otto is one to watch. And more significantly, one to embrace.