Author: Jason Lee
Photo by Heaton Johnson
Scroll past the jump for an in-depth interview with Orange Peel Mystic
Across multiple cosmologies and cultural belief systems, oranges are widely believed to have mystical properties. For instance, Hindus offer oranges to Lord Ganesha as a sign of devotion to the giver of divine wisdom and as a manifestation of the eternal “Om.” Meanwhile, Buddhist monks wear orange as a sign of having attained the highest state of mystical illumination.
Likewise, oranges, and the color orange, are common symbols of death (ever watch the Godfather movies?) but also of fertility and good health (associated with the Greek fertility goddess Gaia, and the second Tantric Chakra).
Perched as they are on the periphery of our mortal world and worlds beyond, oranges are often seen an organic means of achieving health and wellness, used in everything from traditional medicine to the practice of magick, while orange peels in particular are a common ingredient in the incense, charm bags, and teas employed by witches, seers, and mystics to cast spells or to see into the future.
But what do oranges sound like?
One need look no further than Cape Cod-based Orange Peel Mystic for answers (alternately stylized as orangepeelmystic, ORANGEPEEL MYSTIC) given how vocalist/keyboardist Orange Peel Mystic and drummer/programmer e.Beet.z so effectively blend reddish emtional hues (aggressive, impulsive, lustful, angry at times) with yellowish musical hues (warm, meditative, nourishing, joy-filled) resulting in a sweet-yet-tart orange creamsicle of sound…
…while just-as-fully embodying the last element of their name (mystic) as defined by Merriam-Webster as a “person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into [a] deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect“…tec
…so no wonder it took me a while to even begin to process the conversation I had a few months back with Orange Peel Mystic and e.Beet.z on a sunny spring day in early May ensconced in Union Pool’s enclosed backyard patio cuz despite the highly pleasant nature of our conversation, excerpts of which are shared below, we got pretty deep into the deep end at times (in the best possible way) which made me think even listening back to the tape could end up opening up some sort of inter-dimensional portal or something…
…but fortunately my fears were unfounded and with OPM playing live tonight (8.2.23) at Baby’s All Right, one night after the biggest supermoon of the year no less, which looked a lot like a big ol’ orange floating in the sky, the timing felt right to share the interview with the world…
…or portions of it anyway which are reproduced below, a series of flights of fancy grounded in the realities of the present moment, taking into account subjects ranging from musical improvisation to giant digital amoebas, from living in a post-fame world to the paradigm-shifting nature of artificial intelligence, and re: the latter we talked before AI became such a hot topic in the mainstream media and before Chat GPT became all the rage, so yeah mystic seers indeed..
…so if all this sounds up your alley come out and see the seers tonight, unless you live in Saskatchewan or something, in which case you could just fire up a Swisher full of orange peels and put on some OPM records instead—records full of of spacey, trance-inducing synthy textures and skittering drum machine beats which prove a fittingly ambient-industrial-psychedelic musical bed for OPM’s creepypasta whispers and moans, shrieks and drones…
…recordings that serve as an interesting compliment/contrast to OPM’s live shows which tend to be much more raucous affairs, where you’ll witness e.Beet.z aggressively attacking the skins to put it mildly—the man’s truly a master of polyrhythm, a full-on sonic technician whose style spans from driving rock to hardcore techno-ish beats to jazz fusion freak-outs—to an extent it’s amazing he doesn’t keel over from sheer overexertion…
…and speaking of keeling over, for her part, Orange Peel Mystic spends much of the set in what appear to be alien yoga poses where she’s either reared back or bent over to an extent it’s amazing she doesn’t topple over while still managing to sing (whisper, moan, scream, chant, etc.) and play synth (textural drones, melodies, sequences) riding her Prophet-12 keyboard like it’s a fine Arab charger complete with long lanky locks swirling about her head in dramatic fashion like a halo of flames thanks to a strategically placed floor fan…
The interviewer suggests that in many ways, in many cases, music is a “mystical” form of expression…
EBZ: For thousands of years music has been inexorably tied into religion. So, to me, music is a prayer in a way. When we play music, it’s like you’re calling to another side that we don’t see all the time.
OPM: Of ourselves. And others.
EBZ: Because I think when people start to listen, to become present…like we’ll play some shows and after the song ends they’ll be applause and then maybe some murmuring at a loud bar, but sometimes…
OPM and EBZ (together): Sometimes it goes dead silent!
OPM: …at the end of every tune.
EBZ: …where you could hear a pin drop. That’s how I experienced a lot of my influences, coming more from the jazz realm where that’s a common thing, because [the audience] is really tuned in ,really listening, giving the musicians respect. They’re not there for anything else other than the music. And maybe we’re eliciting that through, what you’re saying, bringing out that mystic side where you start to become become more present. And there’s a more immediate, deeply engaged feeling between you and what’s going on right there and right then.
EBZ: I mean, I’m opening that up in my being when I’m playing. I have so much love…this could all be taken away from me like that. *snaps fingers* When you’re given a platform, a stage—and yeah, it’s a lot of hard work—you rally together with other human beings, rather than being so competitive.
OPM: Yeah. We’re programmed to be that way—because of school, and society in general. Sometimes I’ve had to stop myself because you feel pressure to say something between songs. But I don’t want to talk during [the performance]. Just to keep going. To keep the experience going as is.
EBZ: We’re all collectively listening. We’re all tuned into the same thing. Together in the room.
OPM: Like we are in church or something.
EBZ: But it’s interesting you brought that up. I always kind of understood the spirituality to it, but I’ve never full thought through it.
OPM: Maybe there’s this big collective thing now since there’s no idols like there used to be. There are still famous musicians, but not on that same iconic, removed from the mortal world level, where nearly everyone’s paying attention to them.
EBZ: The music business and the fame business are no longer together. They’re separated.
DELI: That’s true, I think. Most of the big stars are more like pop stars these days than idols. Not on the level of, like, a David Bowie or…
EBZ: I think the people we always see on top now can’t always show up and play their instruments for real, compared to back in the day when you didn’t have the studio magic we have now. You only had tape, and time, and skill. So if you were a drummer and you couldn’t play the part, the drum machine was your only other option. Now, you can just patch your parts later and change it up however you like. I think because of that, really good musicians were valued more and had a platform.
OPM: It was just a different time period. Now, because of the Internet, there’s such a collective “amoeba” thing going on, that we’re almost building this insane, collectively created AI pop star. Something more insane than us. One thing I could say from performing, playing shows right now, is that we all learn something from each other, other bands and other musicians. We’re all sharing some sort of information with each other.
It’s a special time, in that way, coming out of this long stretch of isolation. And now we’re oversaturated, wanting to take everything in at once. Hyper-oversaturated. We can see so much. We can go to so many things. So you begin to question, how can *I* stick out when everything is already so over-saturated. How could anyone possibly be famous in the sense of what that used to mean.
There’s a part of me that would absolutely love to play bigger venues. To have a huge audience. We search for it because everyone, every band, every front person, wants that. We want to have some sort of influence, whatever that is, not least because of nostalgia. Nostalgia for the notion of fame itself. So we’ll copy each other until the best replica makes it to that level.
EBZ: Or try be very completely different. To stand out.
OPM: If someone comes to see Orange Peel Mystic, they may think, Oh wow, I really liked that band. She can do that weird thing. Or their drummer is really good. That’s what most of us want. It would be cool to make a name for ourselves. Cool to play bigger venues. But we may only be feeding something bigger. We might only be the food. Maybe we’re just helping the amoeba “amoeba” itself into this huge…
EBZ: Man, we’re getting down into the deep end, I like the amoeba metaphor!
DELI: It’s like we’re just feeding data into the…
OPM: I’ve been trying to retract back from that. Now all I’ll post is stuff that people have filmed of me, to create original content of myself and try to exploit the algorithm to the max, on Instagram. Because it’s the ‘jam’ for our generation. TikTok is for another generation in a way. I can’t connect with it. I just can’t put myself out there with a level of vulnerability that feels, integrity-wise, not where I’m at mentally. I can’t feed the amoeba. So I’ll play live shows because this is what people used to do back in the day.
People have to come out and see humans being weird. So I’d like to think that since we don’t have an album recorded, people will come and see us like we’re trying to record the album every time out.
EBZ: That’s true. I mean, we are going to record an album of tunes that we’ve been playing. But there’s a lot to be said for what you’re talking about. Because what I’m seeing, going forward, for my own creativity’s sake, is trying not to interface with digital culture. So that it all comes back to you. It’s like, what now? Can you outperform me? Because with AI, you have to. Or fuck off and go do something else, don’t play music anymore.
That is a serious reality that could come in 20 years. We’ll still be alive, potentially, and I’ll still be playing. I’m aware of the AI technology that already exists. And it’s crazy. It’s pretty scary what it can do.
OPM: It’s perfection. But messing up is okay!
EBZ: I’ve taken this from some of my mentors, and it’s true, even if I’m simplifying it now, that being able to improvise and to achieve originality—working to create a new syntax, or to change it—is the one thing left that will set us apart.
OPM: AI is so advanced. And it’s gonna get crazier.
EBM: It wants to understand, over time, how we’ll develop with it. It’s not so much about how we work. It’s how we’re going to develop with it. Because it’s the only way it can consistently keep up, and conform as we change. But, if we’re continuously being prepared to improvise and change, to be ready for whatever is coming, musically, I feel like it’s really the best bet. Otherwise you’ll just get lumped together, and fall right off the map with everybody else.
There’s all of these preexisting styles and standards, the classic forms whether it’s rock, reggae, jazz, dance, drum and bass, or something else, if you could take all this knowledge and try instead not to classify what you’re doing, to just play music without thinking it’s this or that…
OPM: We can talk about our music itself…
EBZ: …our music, really, just feels like it comes out of the ether. That true of so much of what we do, even when we repeat stuff.
OPM: I’m not a trained musician. I don’t come from that background.
EBZ: Well, I’m self-taught. You’re self-taught too.
OPM: True, but it’s a different story. For me, I have all of these songs that come to me in my dreams, literally, full on original songs. But for some reason I can not, in my mind, in this reality, transcribe what is going on in that other reality.
EBZ: That’s wild.
OPM: So luckily, with you accompanying me on the drums, it helps make possible what I can do in this realty. Basically, what I play is more like anthems. They’re not verse/chorus type songs.
EBZ: She’s incredibly good at it—at creating hooks, or chants…you call them anthems, but I call them “chants” (editor’s note: I like “mantras” myself!) We’ll just be goofing off, maybe making some food in the kitchen, and she’ll just make something up, you’ll come up with some shit on the spot that makes a great hook…
OPM: I’m able to make up lyrics on the spot. I could be a jingle writer, making the musical hooks for commercials.
EBZ: And then when you share it with someone else, it’ll get stuck in their head half the time. So it’s really literally a hook. You have that ability.
DELI: Is that what you’re able to bring back from the other reality? The chant, or the hook?
OPM: Yeah, that’s what I can contribute. Sometimes it’s a challenge because I’m doing so much other than making music. I’m pretty creatively overloaded. I have my own plant-based make-up business. I want to farm. We grow a lot of our own food. I’m always wanting to learn about this or that. But the challenge, with music, is something I’ve wanted to do forever.
There’s been a keyboard around wherever I’ve been since I was very small. And my first song, which I wrote when I was very young, five years old or so, was [singing] a cat / a dog / and everything / and everything! My mom had a keyboard, and I was super into the programmed…what is it called?
EBZ: Sequenced drums? Like an arpeggiation, or a sequencer…
OPM: Sequences! I’m like a fucking alien when it comes to music. (laughs) But if I hear something, I can put lyrics over it. So what we perform it’s my try, within these limitations, to make music. I can’t do it like other people do it, and I don’t even know why…
EBZ: It’s funny hearing you say that. Because you’ll be doing something for two hours where I don’t know what you’re doing, and then you’ll show me a few pieces of music that are all complete. And it’s just, what? Each one is like a planet of its own. None of them sound similar. And I’m thinking, you just did this right now?
You’re self-critical but you don’t need to be. Because what you’re producing is coming out of that ether, almost fully formed from that other place. And you never say, oh, this part needs work. Instead, you release it and let it go. And that’s a big part of facing vulnerability, not being afraid to put yourself out there liek that. That’s what I think is really cool.
OPM: I’ll record for 2 or 3 months, thinking, all right, I’m going to record music now. I’ll make what I call a “filler album.” We don’t sit down and write, compose or anything in a methodical way. The beats e.beet.z has made, I’ll use them, but otherwise I’ll just concentrate and make up things on the spot using Ableton. That’s how our current album Dinosaurs and Megaphones was made.
EBZ: You just did it all yourself. She recorded with a mixer…
OPM: I wanna get to this point, maybe with the next filler album, where I’m actually taking more time to develop a sound. Because I’m so spontaneous, I’ll think, Oh, I like this beat. I like this. I’m putting this down. This, this, and this. Alright, done! I don’t look back…
EBZ: That’s the improvisation element, where you go with whatever comes to mind in the moment…
OPM: It’s like, these are my thoughts, this is my diary, right now. But it’d be really sick to be more of a pro at it. (laughs)
EBZ: Well, I think, again, you just keep doing it. We’re not part of the thing that we’ve been talking about. I’ve never liked putting labels, or titles, on what I do or we do, grouping them and classifying them.
OPM: Our genre was made up by other people collectively [e.g., extraterrestrial avant-garde psych pop, goblincore, experimental noise-trance] because we don’t know!
EBZ: That need only came in because of marketing. The need for commercial categories. Selling it to people. Because of that dichotomy, a lot of things fall between the cracks. Things that don’t adhere to the bigger headings. But I feel like, for me, and for us, we think, how can I change this familiar thing? How can I put something new of my own on that? Make it into something that’s my voice.
OPM: But I don’t think we’re even trying to do that. We’re not trying. We’re just doing.
EBZ: It’s just because I’m a curious person. And also, you know, humans get easily bored sometimes. As a drummer, there’s something crucial about consistency, and playing in the pocket. I think it’s good to come up with foundations. But then it’s how you express yourself through that tool or medium or phrase or function, in a way that really makes you you, that allows people to really hear you, and hear us. Because again, I said there are things we do that could get tagged as genres—like “electronic dance music” or techno—but the funny thing is it’s trying to go in between that, it’s just what were into at the time. It’s an expression of the time.
OPM: I feel super lucky to be able to make original music, that comes through me, and I feel like there’s so many musicians that want to do that so bad. It feels like I’ve had to work my whole life up to now to get to this place. And it didn’t come from playing as many shows as possible, or recording as many albums as possible. It just came from life experience, and being ready to just try it out and do this because it’s been in me for so long. So it ends up being kind of unclassifiable, even though there’s all these things feeding into it.
EBZ: Human beings are generally trying to find order. And that’s kind of what music is, right? We’re trying to make sense of the world in this way, through these structured sounds and these mathematical kinds of relationships, and to survive in that playing field. And that’s fine. But when I’m playing, I want to open a conversation with people where some people may not understand where the hell we’re coming from, where we may fit in the larger field of music, where our heads are at.
One of my greatest influences as a drummer, when people ask this drummer, who I’m not naming because I’m weird that way, what kind of music he plays—I’d say he plays very abstract, heady jazz where sometimes you’re not even sure where he’s putting the beat or how you could ever fiture out the groove yourself never mind how to classify it—he responds that what he plays is “good music” because that’s exactly how it feels. To add anything else, you’re going to start making assumptions if you call it this or that name, genre, style.
OPM: This genre that we’ve created, or that was created for us, at least it’s something for people to latch on to. Because I don’t know what we are. And that’s super cool. There’s plenty of people from that iconic era, that famous era, that can teach us and inspire us. They still hold that gravitational power.
EBZ: When it comes to gravitational power, Orange Peel Mystic the equivalent of two individual planets trying to come into orbit with one another, in one way or another. Really the only way to do it is by being communicative. Drums are a very communicative instrument. When I’m playing, I want to spark a conversation. Between the two of us. Between us and the audience. Like a match sparking a fire.
OPM: We’re just creating a fire. If you actually light dry orange peels on fire, they light up like they’re like igniters. They are igniters. That’s the “orange peel” in Orange Peel Mystic. And “orange” is the fire of inspiration. We’re just trying to inspire. Maybe we’re just programming AI. Maybe we’re programming the future generation.
EBZ: Maybe we’re preparing people to improvise.
OPM: Maybe we’re going to blast off and get abducted into outer space. Like, who the fuck knows?
DELI: I love it. I’m down for it!
EBZ: It’s cool to have this effect on people. Because everyone’s a musician. We all listen and perceive sound somehow, interpret it somehow.
OPM: Exactly, I agree completely. That’s how I started, I was an observer for so long.
EBZ: Like if your mother calls you, “Come here right now!” You emotionally react to your mother calling you.
OPM: The mothership!
EBZ: We’re very responsive to sounds and interactions. Even people who aren’t playing an instrument, who just observe music, they come away with that feeling still. In my hometown, we played in front of people I’ve known for however long, they come away with this…
OPM: People are like, what the fuck was that?! And their eyes are all googly. And I’m not in it for myself even though, in a way, a small part of my ego would love that. But it’s literally just about giving energy to people.
EBZ: And then it comes back. And then it goes back. That’s the only thing that is happening.
OPM: What else can we do. It’s like this is my job, spiritually, or some shit. It’s my old dream becoming real right the fuck now. Whatever I’ve been through my whole life up to this point, this is me getting to be myself. Whether that’s for 30 minutes during a performance or forever.