The Boy The World is Watching: Meet Octavian
It's a bleak Friday afternoon in Silvertown and I'm kicking back in Octavian's home while his manager Cillian unveils some unreleased music, including a preview of his forthcoming video '100 Degrees'. Basking in mellow purple lighting, there are various home studio set ups around the room and a lingering smell that suggests last night was a good night. Along with producer Armin, the trio recently moved in to the building - still under construction - and make a triple-threat combination of flatmates. This isn't your standard South London living room. This is where a new wave of music is created before travelling from the walls of the unfinished complex to the other side of the world where Octavian's own heroes are listening.
After a while, Octavian emerges from his bedroom, extends a friendly hand and greets me with his distinctive husky voice. His eyes are tired but that doesn't dim their twinkle as he offers to make a round of tea. "There's no sugar left," he realises before reaching into the cupboard for a jar of syrup which he proceeds to pour into his mug. As he takes a seat opposite me and begins to roll a joint, I notice a small tattoo on his left cheekbone. “I got it two months ago. It’s an 'x' - it means you’re leaving something behind. So I look in the mirror and I think... my life used to be crazy. But it’s even crazier now I guess." And through bloodshot eyes and gold teeth, he begins to tell the tale of the song that changed everything for him.
"'PARTY HERE' WAS MY LAST HOPE, YOU CAN HEAR IT IN THE LYRICS"
Born in Lille, France, Octavian moved to London when he was three-years-old and explains it wasn't a musical background that led him to experiment with sound. “It was other things... the experiences I had with people, the grime influence, everything I did. My brother was into bad stuff, but I always viewed life differently. I think I used music as an escape from my situations. And to show people that I'm more than just a poor guy, I can do things.”
Rewinding to the very beginning of his musical journey, the 21-year-old artist describes the first song he ever uploaded as a teenager. “It was a song called 'Mary Jane'. And I made it with everyone who’s here now. Cillian filmed it and Jordan, who produced 'Party Here', was rapping on it.“ It's clear Octavian and his boys have come together to form an unstoppable creative force, but did he always have the perfect team around him? “I'd say it took four or five years to structure that real team. It’s all about trust and knowing that the people around you have your best intentions and you have theirs. As long as you know that, you can make great things. And I think that takes a long time."
And even when you have all the resources to make great music, he insists nobody is immune to writers' block. “I do get it sometimes, 100%. Anyone can get writers’ block... or even f***ing life block. I feel like it just depends on the situation and the mind state you’re in. When I get writers' block I just know it’s because I'm at a stage in my life where I haven’t got much to say to the world. At the moment, I don’t have it because there’s so much to talk about.”
"DRAKE IS SINGING ALONG TO A SONG WE MADE IN THE F***ING HOOD"
Despite his warm manner throughout the interview, Octavian makes no effort to disguise his raw and rebellious, nothing-to-lose attitude in the music. And on the subject of school, he confesses he was never the teachers' favourite. “I got excluded from Charter and was sent to France for two years to be with my uncle. I guess now I think about it, I just didn’t like being told what to do." He was fortunate enough to attend Brit school upon his return but admits, "it didn’t help me personally because I was in mad situations... I got kicked out of my mum’s when I was fifteen.”
Discussing the moment where things turned around for him, I was surprised to hear he hasn't been doing music full time for very long. “Since about a month ago…. really, really recently. Before that, the side hustle was just surviving day-to-day, finding somewhere to stay at night and also doing music at the same time. And on top of that, trying to make people believe that I was talented and that music would work. And that was a constant struggle, because it wasn’t working. It was all going downhill."
But things began to turn around towards the end of last year, when Octavian caught the attention of labels and later signed on the dotted line with Black Butter Records. "'Party Here' was my last hope, you can hear it in the song. We tried to make it different, we did everything we could, we got everyone involved, everyone came down for the video... and there was just this feeling. It was finally working.” And it is truly a musical masterpiece - from the beat, to the bars, to the delivery. Delving further into the production, he explains "I wanted the song to be quite empty so I came up with this initial idea and Jordan made it sound amazing. Then we sent it off to some proper professional guy and he made it sound the way it does.”
"YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE NEXT WAVE WILL BE - YOU HAVE TO BE VERSATILE"
For someone who appears to be pioneering a new wave of music in the UK, I'm intrigued to hear about Octavian's musical influences and who he looks up to for inspiration. “Drake is definitely one. He's so versatile. People hate on Drake but he's managed to push his music everywhere, which is what any artist would want. But also I love 6LACK, Bon Iver, Rudimental - I love their music and versatility, it’s all about versatility for me. Although Migos haven’t changed one bit and they’re still on top of the game, which is sick. But people like Drake can take different cultures and just fully embrace them and do well - and that’s what I wanna do in the future.”
Things blew up on social media for the rapper recently when Drake himself posted a photo on Instagram using lyrics from 'Party Here' for the caption; he then posted footage of himself singing along to the song. "I just woke up at home and found out online. I can’t even be that shocked anymore because everything’s so crazy. It’s mad because he is a huge influence on me and now he’s singing along to the lyrics of a song we made in the f***ing hood. In the basement. We had no idea where it would end up."
But despite his loyal fandom to Drake, there was no question about who he'd jump in the studio with if he could collaborate with anyone in the world. “Travis Scott, 100%, oh my God. We were watching his shows online yesterday and every single song he’s made is a banger. Not one song isn’t a banger. He’s sick.”
When I ask what he's been plotting in the studio, he tells me a bit about his forthcoming mixtape 'Revenge'. "It’s just different kinda sounds. I feel like there are a lot of artists who only have one sound, but because times are always changing, you never know what the next wave is going to be so you have to be versatile - that’s what I’m practising. But my next move is the '100 Degrees' single coming out on 26th. We're really going to have to back it though... I don't know what everyone's expecting, but it’s different to 'Party Here'."
But just as 'Party Here' was different to anything else coming out of the UK, there's no doubt the future star's new music will be greatly received, from fans old and new.
Watch the video for 'Party Here' below, directed by Cillian and Armin: