As a member of Australian indie rock band Oh Mercy, guitarist Simon Okely achieved a respectable level of chart success. The group didn’t quite manage to crack the States, but a triumphant appearance at SXSW in 2013 at least earned them a few friends in the industry. Still, Okely felt the need to stretch his songwriting legs a little more, so while Oh Mercy remains an ongoing concern, Okely left the band in 2014 to focus on his solo Slow Dancer project.
“The lead singer (Alexander Gow) has always been a fan, and a great supporter of Slow Dancer,” Okely says. “So I just threw myself into that pretty seriously around 2014. I produced my first record (Surrender) and released that independently, and just recently completed a new, forthcoming record.”
Slow Dancer’s name comes from a lyric in the song “Please,” on the debut album. The song, says Okely, is essentially an instruction manual on how to slow dance, and the chill, romantic vibe fits the project.
“Someone called the music ‘station-wagon rock’ once, and I really liked that,” Okely says. “I suppose the reality is that it’s a real melting pot of all my favorite influences, predominantly from the 1970s. Lots of classic rock, lots of folk, lots of R&B music, put through my lens.”
“I do really appreciate having control over my own music.”
Okely and the Slow Dancer sound was born in the cultural melting pot that is the Melbourne music scene, an eclectic artistic community that also gifted the world with psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, and singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett.
Slow Dancer’s new deal with ATO Records came about when A&R man Jon Salter showed up at a Melbourne gig. The label will be reissuing Okely’s debut, and follow that with a new album. In-between, there will be singles.
“Jon and the team are really artist-focused,” Okely says. “I suppose it’s often something that comes up—an artist finding it harder and harder to make a huge fortune from deals and from the industry itself. The flipside for somebody like me is that there’s never been more control, and I do really appreciate having control over my own music. ATO has been nothing but supportive. They seem to really understand what it is that I’m doing, and are happy to put the records out and get behind them.”
With dates in Europe and the United States ahead of them, 2017 promises to be a big, busy year for Okely and Slow Dancer and, with NPR already giving the project love, the sky’s the limit.
Slow Dancer’s debut album Surrender is out now. A new album is due in June.