We spoke to the breezy pop songwriter about French films, aeroplane anxiety and other ‘really bug-out stuff’
Dazed Faves is the series where we talk all things online – that surreal meme account you’re obsessed with, weird conspiracy theory subreddits, ASMR YouTubes or slime Instagrams.
As a name, ‘Rex Orange County’ perfectly captures the vibe of Alex O’Connor’s music. His romantic songs of youth, love, and eternal summer come from a similar place to genre-agnostic artists like Brockhampton, Frank Ocean, or Steve Lacy, sounding often carefree but never careless. But despite his chosen moniker – and despite his work with Californian rapper Tyler, the Creator on this year’s Flower Boy – O’Connor actually grew up in Haslemere, a suburban town in Surrey, southeast England, with the ‘O.C.’ of his surname giving him both a nickname and a sound to work towards.
At 19 years old, O’Connor is part of a generation of musicians for whom the internet has basically always existed, so we were keen to dig into the more obscure corners of his browsing habits to find out what makes him tick. His picks shed light on his early obsession with Odd Future and how he ended up working with Tyler, as well as why he gets anxious on plane rides. It also includes a French short film, Oh Willy, which surely must have inspired his lovely stop-motion music video for his newest single “Loving is Easy”.
FAVE TWITTER: ALEX TUMAY
Rex Orange County: Alex Tumay is a recording engineer who works a lot with Young Thug and a load of other rappers, like Quavo. I’m just a fan of his work. There are so many songs that I really like that he’s mixed, and I’ve watched a bunch of long interviews he’s done on YouTube. But he just happens to be very funny on Twitter. A lot of people just post boring stuff, but I much prefer the funny shit that Alex has written.
My dad asked why 21 Savage has a cross on his head and I got so excited to say "Issa knife" that I stuttered and ruined it.— alex tumay (@alextumay) September 18, 2016
FAV GAME: CHROME JUMPING T-REX
Rex Orange County: This is pretty lit. Ironically this is not something you can actually do on the internet – it’s something you can only do when you don’t have it (it’s a secret game only activated when Chrome is offline). I find myself without internet a fair bit in the house I live in in Streatham. We tend to not have internet in our room, ever, so I’m bouncing all the time, man.
It would be great to play it on planes too, but to be honest, usually I’m not thinking about going on the internet when I’m on a plane. I’m terrified of – you know when you have to put your phone on aeroplane mode? I put my phone on aeroplane mode before I’m anywhere near the plane. So I don’t want to open up my laptop and try and go on Google Chrome. That would just go against everything I stand for, as far as planes go.
FAVE VIDEO: OH WILLY
Rex Orange County: I think my girlfriend Thea first showed me this. It was on a Reddit thread – neither me nor her actually use Reddit, but there was a certain thread about really bug-out stuff, just weird stuff to watch on the internet. Someone submitted this video. It’s a 20-minute short film, totally stop-motion but so detailed. I go back to watch it every now and then. It’s weird and I still don’t quite know what it means, but it’s really funny with barely any dialogue and barely any music – but the music that is in it is really good. It’s crazy to think that two people just made that in France.
FAVE PERSONALITY: NARDWUAR
Rex Orange County: The first Nardwuar video I watched was, funnily enough, the first Odd Future one. They’re all behind the camera and in-and-out of the video. It’s the first interview I ever saw with Tyler, the Creator, and it was so weird and crazy. I thought, ‘What the fuck is this?’ before realising Nardwuar’s actually been interviewing for years prior to that and is still doing it to this day – to the point where, as an artist, you really just want to be interviewed by him, ‘cos it looks like it’d be a really funny experience.
(If Nardwuar were to interview me) I don’t think I’d be too concerned (about what he’d find). I’d be too excited. I’m sure there’s some awful video of me singing when I was like 13 or 15 at my old school that my dad didn’t take down off YouTube. In fact, I know that’s the case (laughs), but I’d be down to take the wrath of the awkwardness.
FAV YOUTUBE CHANNEL: ILLEGAL CIVILIZATION
Rex Orange County: I found Mikey (Alfred)’s channel probably around the same time I found that Tyler video, because they (Odd Future) were posting random compilations of skate videos (back then). I was really into skateboarding at the time – I probably watched, read up, and followed skateboarding a lot more than I actually skateboarded myself. Mikey’s style of filmmaking was really immediate and made so much sense; the aesthetic was really sure of itself.
Mikey emailed me last year, and it was around the time that Tyler had emailed me as well. I came to realise after starting to work with Tyler that Mikey was the one who actually put my music onto him. That’s not the reason I’m putting him in here, obviously. I just think he’s really sure of himself, and so hard-working it’s kind of weird – he’s so determined and he makes sick stuff. I always watch what he puts out. He wants to do as much as he possibly can – not just skateboarding, but in other media. He’s a good guy, man, it’s actually fun to watch his stuff.
He also did the Tyler documentary (Cherry Bomb). The way that everyone loved Odd Future was made possible by Mikey, I think. Obviously the music was always very seminal and a major part of their success, but him documenting their tours is what made everyone know all about the clothes and their attitude. Everyone loved them – they wanted to be them.