Vicky O’Neon is a self-dubbed ‘Riot Grrrl multi-instrumentalist’, whose particular specialisms in body percussion and vegetable orchestras drive her sublime sound.
Her one-woman multimedia performances fuse technology with artistry using loopers, body triggers, drum pads and percussion with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and visuals.
It’s a unique approach, which has led her to work alongside kindred spirits Bishi, Arcadia at Glastonbury Festival and Magnatrack, who make drum triggers out of magnets.
Tomorrow (Thursday) she performs at Bishi’s WITCiH Festival: The State of Gender?, alongside performances from Bishi and Lia Mice.
We catch up with her beforehand to learn what fuels her neon sound…
What was the first song you developed an obsession for?
When I was a kid I loved Swedish pop music in any shape and form, and knew so many songs inside out. Me and my sister loved to perform and took any chance we could to put on a show for our family and friends, including homemade costumes, dance moves etc, serious business. One song that comes to my mind that I used to belt my heart out is Carola’s Fangad av en Stormvind.
What’s the first gig you went to?
Spice Girls came to Finland to perform at the Hartwall Arena for two nights. My dad took me on the first night, which was the very last performance they did as a five-piece, and Geri refused to do the second night. They definitely had a big influence on me and I still draw some inspiration from them in my own artistry.
What’s the first instrument you ever got hold of?
I started playing piano when I was four years old and was obsessed with this beautiful instrument until I was 12. Now, almost 20 years later, I’m picking up the piano again for my songwriting and performance and I’m so grateful for my early introduction to it.
What is your worst musical habit?
Lack of patience to complete thing. I have a really cool creative flow at the moment where new songs come to me every day. I love picking up new instruments to explore and songs just come to me. I record all the ideas, but I now need to really discipline myself to work out which songs are seeds for my album and which were just a fun channelling process and practice of that muscle.
What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever been given?
Chris Coleman (and a few other incredible drummers) has taught me to understand concepts behind rhythms and how they are connected, which is one step deeper than understanding a variety of genres etc.
If you understand the matrix of how it all hangs together, it transcends the idea of dividing your playing into different styles, and you feel free to express yourself at your instrument. However, this only comes when you are connected to yourself, so I learned that the more time I spend focusing on my own healing process, the more I feel free to express myself musically.
Where do you discover new music?
I travel a lot and love to connect and learn about different cultures. I also think this is the best way to discover music. I just came back from Morocco and I’m now in love with Gnawa music and the instruments they use. Music for me is the most healing, powerful language to connect people, which transcends any kind of divisions and borders.
What’s your favourite venue?
Is Glastonbury a venue? My dream for a while has been to do a performance with my own music at the Pyramid Stage.
Who is your current favourite band/artist?
I’ve never worked well with favourites, since my emotions guide me to what I’m listening to, and I think it would limit me a lot if I could only pick one emotion I favour. However, someone who has inspired me a lot in my own creative endeavours is definitely Prince and Sheila E.
What inspirations outside of music impact your songwriting?
Life! For me music and songwriting is a reflection of my reality, what I experience and how I see the world. The writing process is often a healing process, as I work through emotions that no longer serve me or are so incredible that they need to come out. I consider music a very sacred language of transformation, something that’s really needed in the world right now, and for me it’s an incredible tool to make an impact.
What track of yours best represents your sound?
This question is the exact reason it has taken me a long time to release any music. Because I’m a complex human being and reflect all aspects of life through my music, it’s been difficult to narrow down my creative work to represent who I am.
So, I don’t have one specific track that represent my sound, however I’ve decided that the song I was commissioned to write for WITCiH, GoWiLD, will be my first official single that I will push, since it’s a good representation of my socio-political work that I spend a lot of time developing through Girls Rock London (I’m one of the co-founders). It also has a really badass heavy dub feel, that can never go wrong for me.
What do you have in store for your performance at WITCiH Festival?
This is going to be a very special performance for me. The last time I performed my music live was in Mexico at beginning of 2018. I’ve spent this year writing new music, developing myself as an artist, and this will be my first performance in London 2018.
I have a few interesting tricks up my sleeve, including cutting edge technology from Japan and Rotterdam that I can’t wait to share with the audience, and the message of my performance is very powerful. I also play a variety of different instruments that I haven’t performed live with before, so that’s going to be a fun challenge.
What’s next for you?
I have the single GoWiLD coming out later this year. I also have a 40-day Instagram challenge coming out soon, where I share different parts of my creative brain every day for 40 days as well as starting to drip feed some really fun live videos with eight windows looping myself and musicians I’ve collaborated with.
I’m also developing an interactive workshop programme across art forms that I’m planning to do in US, South and Central America as well as Africa for the first few months of next year. I am also working towards my debut album as well as a big live show experience in 2019.
Vicky O’Neon performs at WITCiH: The State of Gender? Festival on Thursday 27 September at The Barge House, London.