J.D. King & Pete Yorn Backstage at Silencio.  Paris, September 2013. Photo by © Beth Yorn

J.D. King & Pete Yorn Backstage at Silencio. Paris, September 2013. Photo by © Beth Yorn

Pete Yorn & J.D. King: The Olms

THE OLMS is a two-member musical group made up of singer-songwriter Pete Yorn and musician, artist, and photographer J.D. King. Their eponymous debut album was recorded in King’s Los Angeles home studio. This laid-back setting allowed the two friends to create in a stress-free manner. The album, born out of the simple joy of musical collaboration, offers a ‘free-wheeling sound, which melds folk, rock, country-rock, and Brit pop, thanks to jangly acoustic guitar, wistful melodies, radiant harmonies, and unexpected instrumental flourishes.’

An Olm, by the way, is a cave-dwelling salamander. In a recent article for WWD Pete explains: “They live their whole lives in complete blackness, yet they have made the most of their situation by developing super sensory perception. The Olms are light within darkness.”

To hear The Olms please visit: www.theolmsmusic.com


Interview by Will Kitson


You both began playing music from an early age. Tell us about what initially compelled you to express yourself through music. 

PY: For me it just came really naturally. My older brothers had drums and old guitars sitting around our basement and I was just drawn to them. As soon as I started tinkering with the instruments I began writing songs. I never really gave much thought to it.

JD: Feeling the magic of good music made me feel everything more deeply and shaped my everyday thoughts. It noticeably brought people together. I think a lot of enthusiastic conversations were had about music in my youth and the music itself had a magnetically profound affect on me personally then as it still does today. Any way I could be around great music I would leap at the chance and still do.

How did playing music impact/influence you as you were growing up and how has your attitude towards music changed over the years?

PY: Growing up, music was a large part of my identity. Early on I was very into Brit metal bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Then when I was 12 years old my older brother played me a few songs by the Smiths and the Cure and REM and that just changed everything. I wanted to write songs like those artists and I would mimic them until I was able to develop my personal style. Sometimes I laugh that my personal style to this day is just me trying to mimic my favorite bands, but badly.

JD: Playing music and listening to music were two separate things to me while growing up. I played piano and saxophone for a while since about 7 years old or so and had to read music which was a bit confining to me and I didn’t really like having to play the selected material all the time. When I turned about 12 or so I began to play bass and began to write little garage rock three/four chord songs mimicking the music I was actually listening to which was more gratifying and actually fun. My taste has evolved since then and has become more vividly complex, but my satisfaction in great sounding tone and depth of feeling in a great performance remains unaltered.


Youʼve only recently begun collaborating together as The Olms and, beforehand, you both worked mainly as soloists. Why did you decide to make this step and how has it affected your creative approach?

PY: Since I’ve been a very solitary writer in the past, I wanted to try something different and was interested in a project where I could collaborate with another song writer. JD was an old friend and seemed to fit the bill and when we attempted to write together, we just had a pretty instant connection. It is nice to have a writing partner for a change.

Youʼre both multitalented instrumentalists. Do either of you have a favorite instrument? And if so, why does it suit you so particularly?

PY: Drums were my first love and still are my favorite to play. I also love playing bass. It’s something about rhythm I think.

JD: My first love was initially a good sounding piano, but it’s hard to choose now. Some days I just want to hear my flute in the garden, others I want to dig into guitar and find all the little pockets of expression I can reach. Apples and oranges as they say.

Apart from music, do you both have other creative passions? Tell us what your current obsessions are:

PY: Tennis, professional and recreational, male and female. Also, Mind Expansion … the process of constantly learning and creating.

JD: Neuroscience, physics, astrophysics, art and design, vintage motorcycles, Da Vincian philosophy, the psychological mind, the higher consciousness, history, photography, cinematography, meditation, classic film and literature, inventions, the metaphysical.

Olm salamander from the Dinaric Alps.

Olm salamander from the Dinaric Alps.

Do you have a ritual before going on stage live?

PY: It varies from show to show. I’ve gone through phases where I would do the same thing every night just before getting on stage, like making notes on a set list and drawing on my arms. It comes and goes. These days, sometimes JD and I will have a little warm up singing session backstage. Main thing is to get myself into a headspace where I can really connect with the audience; to forget about myself and just morph into the higher frequencies present in the room.

JD: Perhaps I’ll take a moment to have a brief meditation, and/or have a warm up.

PY: If the atmosphere is loose and carefree then mostly I’ll just roll with the environments gift of good vibes and let it flow.

How do you maintain your creative enthusiasm?

PY: When I was younger, and somewhat asleep at the wheel, spiritually speaking, I found it easier to keep up a sort of enthusiasm. Now, I believe that the secret to enduring enthusiasm is the knowledge that enthusiasm is something that you need to cultivate and work for. Since I figured that out, I find it much easier to tap into creativity and excitement, on a higher and deeper level than before. Most people think enthusiasm triggers desire and creativity. I believe it is the other way around … You have to start to work for it, then the enthusiasm comes, usually from a source you can never predict … and that is the biggest secret I can tell you today.



Published: October 8th, 2013

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A case for failing better

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