nice to meet you

The Band O’Hara on Dreams, Ceviche, and Making Music as a Couple

Laurence and Denma. Self-Portrait by O’Hara.

This is “Nice to Meet You,” for all your need-to-know information on the need-to-get-to-know new voices in pop culture. Think of it as a blind date, if the date were cooler than anyone you’ll probably ever go out with. Allow us to break the ice; we promise you’ll fall in love.

Most of our encounters, if not all, are fated—or at most guided by the stars. Such is the case for the band O’Hara, a duo comprised of Laurence and Denma. Both halves of the couple hail from different parts of the world—where? It doesn’t really matter, and neither does their age. They’re mysterious like that, and they like it. Laurence and Denma met in Paris through a series of very fortunate events that could only happen in Paris. Now they’ve released an eponymous EP, which they crafted and finished during their time in quarantine in London and Los Angeles. Their sound is reflective of their très-cool and jeune approach to life, often mixing spoken word with beats reminiscent of the Frank Ocean Channel Orange era. In their latest video for “Crystallize Sadness,” Laurence and Denma show their alchemy as a couple who thrives on escaping and creating together. On the occasion of their new visual, O’Hara spoke with Interview from a music workshop in Hawaii about Vedic Astrology,  their musical and personal relationship, and Alejandro Jodorowsky.


On Their Sound:

LAURENCE: Our sound is constantly changing and evolving, like us. But it’s not so much about the sound. It’s more about the experience.  When we’re making music we’re following the music. It’s just more like following what the song wants, and it’s evident. It’s more like I’m being guided through the process.

DENMA: For example, for “Crystallize Sadness,” we had a sample of [the jazz player] Jerry Granelli playing these samples on a sampler of airplanes, and we started improvising that. Then there’s also really been a feeling of wanting to resonate and connect with culture. We were reading a lot of science fiction at the time, like Ursula Le Guin and William Gibson. There’s this quality of needing to face yourself, needing to look into your shadow. In William Gibson, The Neuromancer, it’s about AI kind of knowing itself. 


On Astrology:

LAURENCE: We just started looking into our Vedic Astrology. How would you describe it, Denma?  Another system. Sign changes and stuff. It’s very predictive, and it’s very, very interesting. So, I am Taurus with Aquarius rising, and moon in Sagittarius, Mars in Scorpio, and Venus conjunction. 

DENMA: It’s Indian astrology. It’s about 20 degrees different, and we found it to be even more precise. I’m Cancer sun. My rising is Capricorn, but in Vedic astrology, it changes to Sagittarius, which I like. And my moon is in Cancer.


On their relationship:

LAURENCE: We’re in the process of writing and recording, so it’s waking up and just doing a bit of stuff on our side. I do some kind of yoga and stuff, and then we usually just go in the studio in the early afternoon these days.

DENMA: Being in a relationship and working together has been hugely life-changing for both of us. One of the things that we had to figure out is our schedule. So we wake up, we go on our own sides and do whatever practices. Then we have lunch. We’re very European. I learned that from Laurence. We sit down and eat a meal together, and then we go and get in our studio and we work until late. 


On Arca and Beverly Glenn-Copeland:

DENMA: We’ve been very inspired by Beverly Glenn-Copeland. We’re in this moment in the world where it has so much negativity—there’s such a feedback loop of negativity everywhere you look, and it could be just so easy to just get disheartened and say, “Fuck it.” And Beverly Glenn-Copeland, he’s just so positive.

LAURENCE: For me, he reflects and embodies what I feel. What he has to say and what he embodies just really resonates with me. He’s positive, but there’s this openness that he literally puts out, and that is so needed, I feel, in this moment.

DENMA: He said this thing: ”We need everyone. We need all of you, and we need everyone to come to a place where you can hold hope.” That’s just so touching and beautiful. Following somebody who is now maybe probably in his 70s, but always followed how we felt, and following how we feels. He reminds me every day to actually honor my feelings and follow them despite whatever. Lately also Arca. I’m very moved by how she embraced no matter how she feels, and who she feels she is. And that is so moving, and so inspiring, and such a great reminder too.


On their motivating mantra:

DENMA: This is really important for us right now, which is from Kae Tempest: “The question is no longer when will this change, but how far am I willing to go to meet the changes and bring them about in myself?”

LAURENCE: Embracing oneself and honoring oneself—that message for me is one I’m really just so moved and inspired by at this moment.


On ceviche:

LAURENCE: When we were in London, I just loved cooking, and then I don’t know why I can’t stand cooking now. It just changes all the time. So now, Denma is cooking all the time. I haven’t cooked once in months. In L.A., I wasn’t cooking either.

DENMA: Now if I could, I’d be happy to not cook, but we cooked a lot.

LAURENCE: He makes so much ceviche. I can’t stand it anymore. I love it, but we get to a point where I’m like, “No, please. Don’t do ceviche.”


On their meet-cute:

LAURENCE: Just before we met, I went to New York for some work, and my friend gave me Santa Sangre. So, I watched this movie and Alejandro [Jodorowsky] just was really what I was needing at the time. That was eight years ago. I went back to Paris, then it was in August. I walked from my place from the 12th to Bastille. As I was walking down this street and I see an old man across the street, and then I was like, “What the heck? He just looks like Alejandro.” I realized it was him. So, I just took a deep breath and crossed the road, started talking to him, and we started chatting. He stopped and looked up, and he was like, “I usually don’t do that, but let’s stay in touch.” So we exchanged phone numbers. Anyway, he ended up inviting me to his place to read me tarot.

I was not acting at the time, so he got me on for acting. I auditioned for Hypermarche, a play with his son Brontis for this character called Electricity, which is kind of the sexual creative character in the play. I got the part. He sent met to a workshop. He was like, “You need to go with that guy and learn about masks.” His name is Philippe Gaulier. So he sent me to that workshop, a three-week workshop about masks, and Denma was there, and that’s how we met.


On dreams:

LAURENCE: For me, I would say, dreams are an expression of different parts of myself or my soul or whatever is happening. It’s kind of accessing those different places within myself, and space, and going in these different dimensions which feel very real. I wake up sometimes, and I dream about stuff, and people I never met, and I feel like I actually met them somewhere in another place. That’s just how I experience it, and I love that.


On their bookshelf:

DENMA: I just started reading Rimbaud, which I had never read before, and it’s been literally just blowing my mind. I’m reading A Season In Hell. It feels extremely relevant for this moment.

LAURENCE: I read Arthur Rimbaud too because Denma is not satisfied with any of the translations online. He literally makes me translate over and over and over to get the essence of it. So, that’s what I’ve been reading. Out loud.