Photo by Olivia Bee
London O’Connor was talking shit on Twitter before we met at his friend’s apartment. The plan was to chat about his upcoming self-released project, O∆, over a couple games of Super Smash Bros. As I walked over to his friend’s apartment in the Lower East Side, he texted me a picture of a waffle, boasting that he was going to “devour the waffle then devour me.”
We sit in London’s friend’s living room area, with a toaster on the floor next to the microwave beside the TV with a router stacked on top of the Nintendo Wii. London and his two friends Ben and Alec have already started playing Super Smash Bros. Melee before I arrive, and coincidence strikes when London and I both pick the sword-wielding Fire Emblem character Marth as our mains. Over several heated games, we discuss the creation process of O∆, London’s experience at New York University, as well as how it feels to live and create out of a duffle bag.
The stripped-back feel of O∆ combined with the DIY aesthetic may give the impression that London’s effortless pop sound is some sort of a happy accident, but his artistic decisions are super calculated. He has a deep understanding of the acoustics of sound, and knows how to “behave in a room and how to get a good recording out of it for your vocals.” London attended New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, to be specific, a program he describes as full of “people who just cared about art.” He’s taken the lessons he learned there and applied them to his work. While at Clive Davis, London had access to fully equipped studios to learn the principles of recording, but the music he makes today is all out of his backpack. “This is dope,” he said at the time, “but I’m never gonna make shit in these studios, because I’m going to graduate and not have a studio.”
London writes honest songs, tackling topics and experiences he has lived through. O∆ is deeply personal, and after listening you begin to understand the type of person London is. From the real-world implications of Internet obsession on “Nobody Hangs Out Anymore” to the candid romantic story of “Love Song,” these are topics that anyone who’s been a teenager can relate to.
To London, nothing is more important than creating. He claims to have no need for money, noting the fact that he recently stopped working at his day job—a gig he declines to identify, apart from revealing that it’s recently become “extremely flex.” London’s co-workers have been writing his signature Circle Triangle symbol everywhere, and since he already has all the equipment he needs to record, London says, “I don’t really need much money for things, I don’t do much but skate and make shit.”
the O∆. is the symbol for exploration. As a greeting, it can be synonymous with Go Forward, Go Inward, Get Out of yourself, Be Free, Explore
— LONDON O'CONNOR (@LondonOConnor) June 5, 2015
London has no home at the moment and lives a bit of a nomadic lifestyle crashing on the couches of friends. It’s the type of existence where all his possessions fit inside his duffle. He owns maybe 10 pieces of clothing, often wearing what he describes as “the uniform”: a long-sleeved sweater adorned with his Circle Triangle logo, jeans, and Vans. He’s been couch surfing for nine months, and while there have been some Airbnbs and trips during that period of time, he hasn’t had an actual home since his debut single “Oatmeal” was released on The FADER with an accompanying video game.
Don’t bother asking about the recording equipment that’s in his backpack. “Nope,” London says at the first mention of the topic. “Not telling nobody!” But he does reveal that each piece of equipment in the bag is something he “saved up for, studied, and sought after for months.” He compares it to how Link from The Legend of Zelda (his favorite video game series) has to seek different pearls. With each piece of equipment he acquired, he said to himself “Yes—the inventory’s getting a little bit stronger.” And in fact the resulting album speaks for itself.
O∆ is a cohesive statement from London, and he says “the whole thing depends on itself. Every song needs every other song, and it should feel like a movie or an arc.” Besides the pop songs on O∆, there are also several ambient landscapes labeled as coordinates like “Coordinates 00 36” and “09 87 (Where is your Home).” London revealed that for a while now he’s made a bunch of “landscapes or like ambient stuff that I just think of it as space, and I don’t give them song titles. They just all have coordinates.” It’s something London’s done as an escape for years, especially in his hometown of San Marcos, California, “when I would just feel like spiteful like there’s nowhere to go.” In addition to the placements on the album, London’s coordinates also live on his ED1 (exploration device 1) that appears on the banner of his Twitter account. On the device is a dial for direction, and London says you can “set which direction you’re going to and it has headphones. Basically, you travel through time and space.”
As we wrap up our interview, London challenges me to a final one vs. one mirror match using Marth. Though I put up a decent enough fight, London proceeds to send my character flying offstage, winning our one vs. one face-off by a clean two stocks, and making good on his promise to devour me in Super Smash Bros. Throughout London’s work, he stresses how anyone can do anything they put their mind to. O∆ is just the first step in London’s journey to move beyond, and he stresses throughout his work the mantra “you can do anything.” London’s debut project exemplifies that belief, from how it written out of a backpack to how he’s found success while being truly independent with no record label backing. There’s no denying that O∆ is a story of how to win on your own terms, and London is most definitely winning—at Super Smash Bros. and with O∆
Stream and download O∆ below.