Alex Smith: Who are Occlusions, and how did you all form both as a band an artistic entity?
Leigh Bahari: Oh gosh what a question! Alex and I have been working together for many years. We met a party, must have been 2011 — we struck up a conversation about music, I was in a band, a rock band, and we talked a little bit about potentially working together. We tried to do a little pop project, worked on maybe two songs together, didn’t really work out at the time so we put that away. I continued working on Power Cassette, which was an entirely different project, I was like screaming in a rock band so at the time it was a little difficult to make the switch to pop. But as that band ended, it was Alex’s start of this project.
Alex Gorischek: Yeah, like you were saying we tried to do some pop stuff and it wasn’t lining up at the time. I needed like a change of pace, I needed to do something darker and more textured, more sultry or something. I was like, I know somebody I need to reconnect with. The timing ended up being right and we gave it another shot, we came in with a different aesthetic mindset this time around and it lined up. The whole project — Leigh and I are very different people, very different lives, but the project is all about this really small overlap between our differing head-spaces and trying to find as much material in that space as possible. I think it’s proven really fruitful.
AS: It seems like it really works when you are able to meet in this weird Venn diagram and sort of strip everything away, you come up with your true identity. Was the approach to this ghostly RnB sound, was that deliberate or did that just sort of happen based on you hearing some lyrics or vocals?
LB: I think it was very intentional.
AS: Sometimes you have to be.
LB: Yeah! We threw a bunch of ideas at the wall– Alex has been doing production in various genres for awhile, so we started out with Alex just sending me beats and I picked the ones that I vibed with. Some of them were more poppy, like he sent me some trap beats. There’s definitely some half-written, half-recorded songs on Alex’s hard-drive somewhere, but as we kept going things just really solidified and gelled. In the time between our first EP and now with this full length record, our sound has also evolved to be even more dark. What I have realized is that in our efforts towards this dark, grungy sound, a lot of my rock influences are seeping in there, in the production and also in just the way that I sing. It’s really cool to blend those worlds.
AS: How has the transition been for you? Is there a learning curve to singing versus the more yelling style? How does punk energy inform what you’re doing now?
LB: So I will take this way back! I grew up singing, my whole family, my grandmothers were in the church choir. My mom is a classically trained opera singer. I grew up with lots of music so as a kid, and I remember this really vividly, I had my Lou Bega album and my Papa Roach album that I just blasted in 5th grade. I grew up with all these influences, writing songs in 6th grade. So I went back and forth really, between different genres because that’s what was in my home. I went to my mom’s opera recitals and I also went to punk shows in Seattle. But I also loved Nelly so much growing up. [laughs]
So the transition — it didn’t really feel like a transition, it felt like — I just feel that I wanted to be really well-rounded in my music experiences, so I’ve sorta gone through phases. I went through my folk rock phase, sort of singer-song writer guitar in high school. I also did Power Cassette, later changed to Dirty Neon. The lyrics have always been the driving force. I started writing poetry at a really young age, doing slams; always writing from my heart and my personal experience and sometimes those personal experiences are really sultry and sexy and sometimes those personal experiences are really political and so I’ve been able to express different parts of myself through different genres.
AS: Has there been any pushback (from audiences)?
LB: It’s been nothing but love! I just moved to Philly, like, last year and as far as this music community I haven’t really formally introduced myself! But the Seattle community was just so welcoming. It’s a really diverse community of Black queer artists who are — some of them in the punk space, but also rappers, RnB artists, pop singers, jazz. Everybody is just so welcoming.