We had the good fortune of connecting with Oliver Lemke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Oliver, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’ve had an urge to make music since I was a little kid. There are some very embarrassing cassette tapes that may still be out there somewhere. I didn’t start properly learning instruments until I was about 10, but at that point there was no going back. I started writing songs with my brother, recording them at home. Our grandparents got us a four-track recorder for Christmas one year. Basically it’s just a compelling craft in every way and I knew I wanted to take it as far as I could.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve accompanied a choir on piano, I’ve fronted a high-energy rock band, and I’ve done, well, certainly not everything in between, but a lot of it. My main role currently is doing guitar and backing vocals for one of Phoenix’s most popular local acts, Paper Foxes. I’ve been with them since 2017, and the story of how that happened begins with the band that I fronted, Soft Deadlines. Basically, I’m a big fan of shrill art-punk stuff like Gang of Four, Wire, The Fall, etc, but I also have a soft spot for a good guitar pop song. Soft Deadlines was my effort to synthesize those styles, and I also wanted to make music that people could dance to. I really can’t dance, but I like the idea of it. That a song can be something to move to and lose yourself in. The Paper Foxes guys were fans of what I was doing, and invited me to fill in when their guitarist left. So I was touring with both bands for a while, and it was grueling but also just a ton of fun. Soft Deadlines had to go on hiatus a year ago due to losing a couple of members, so part of what I’m doing now is working on songs for a comeback release. The future of both projects is very promising, but also somewhat on hold as the industry struggles to absorb the impact of COVID.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Rebel Lounge on a weeknight is a great place to go. You’ll see a lot of local talent that’s top notch but maybe still working on finding the right audience. The Lost Leaf and The Lunchbox are also essential for the same reasons. And in terms of dining, it doesn’t get any better than the original Barrio Cafe on 16th Street. To me that’s the best restaurant in town, partly because it offers something that feels unique to Phoenix. All of these places, sadly, are at risk of disappearing right now. I hope they can hang on.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A lot of credit and/or blame goes to my uncle Jason. He was the first person I knew who did home recording, which made me realize I could do it too. He’s always been supportive of my efforts, and also introduced me to tons of music that shaped how I think about songwriting. Basically a lot of 90s college radio bands that I could easily never have known about.
Live photos by Ryan Clark and Patro ZBash, portraits by Angie Cook and CJ Jacobson.