OY: walking through cities with sharpened senses

«Get Going!» Portrait Series 2020

OY ⎪Photo ©Paula Faraco

Joy Frempong and Marcel Blatti make up OY. The Swiss duo, Berliners by choice, plan to go on a sustainable tour and find inspiration as they stroll through cities they are visiting. The «Get Going!» grant from FONDATION SUISA supports them with their “Messages from Walls” project. 

Together with the Bern musician, Marcel Blatti, the Zurich singer, Joy Frempong, deliberately pushes the boundaries of musical genres in the duo OY and transforms them into garish avant-pop with meaningful content. OY’s albums are always conceptual and deal with sociopolitical issues in a variety of ways – often enriched with audiovisual elements or texts and images in book form. With their “Messages from Walls” project, the duo living in Berlin want to search for messages on walls in public spaces during the upcoming tour that have the potential to bring these walls down. With the help of partners, this content will be visually condensed into an artistic political statement, which will subsequently lead to an album of the same name and an accompanying blog.

Joy Frempong and Marcel Blatti, the last OY album “Space Diaspora” was very successful. The next one will be released soon. What can we expect?

Marcel: We’ve summarised our last two albums musically. Joy’s lyrics are consistent throughout these albums and that’s where we pick up from and develop everything further. 

Joy: The record reflects what’s happening around us. It’s both post-past and pre-future (laughs). It’s about identity, injustices, but it also conveys positive aspects of our time.  

You are going on tour with this album – and this is where your «Get going!» project comes in.  

Both of them: Correct! 

How did you come up with this project?

Marcel: We’ve been on tour very often in recent years. That’s something which we’re very fortunate to have experienced, but sometimes things also get very hectic. You travel to the venue, give a concert on the same day, and the tour continues the next day. During this period, we felt a yearning to stay longer in the respective places and to use the stay for research and writing new songs. The ideas that arise during this process are also meant to lead to a live blog – an alternative way of staying in contact with fans far removed from the monopolised Facebook channels. However, this “slow touring” can’t be funded through the usual tour budgets, which is where «Get Going!» comes into play.

Joy: At the same time, we’re thus also able to travel in a more environmentally friendly way.  Touring whilst not forgetting the increase in global warming is an important issue for many. We’re in a paradoxical situation because we’re not a local band, but are generating interest throughout the whole of Europe. One of the reasons people practice this profession is because they like to move around. And artists should have the opportunity for cultural exchange. At the same time, we also have a duty to achieve this in a more sustainable way. 

Marcel: However, not in a form whereby everyone just sits at home streaming concerts. The coronavirus lockdown has clearly shown that this doesn’t work. You have to be able to physically experience the energy of a concert.

An additional component of your project is dealing with statements found on urban walls. 

Joy: If you walk through Berlin, you’ll encounter a lot of street art and political graffiti. Sometimes it’s aimed directly at the neighbourhood, but it can also be philosophical or witty. There is, for example, a jogging track where you can read the following spray-painted text each time you complete a round: “Can’t keep running away”. Not all slogans work as lyrics, but it’s a different approach to getting to know a city and its culture if you try to explore an area based on such statements. 

Wall hunting? 

Marcel: (Laughs) exactly! It’s all about keeping your own senses sharpened  and the question of how what you see then interacts with your own imagination.  

After all, OY is more than just music. The visual implementation, the costumes, the accompanying books – that really is heading towards a complete art form. Was that the plan?  

Marcel: We simply have a wide range of interests. And if you put your whole heart and soul into a band, then everything else that fascinates you automatically flows into it as well. We’ve always had very good contact with other art forms and this has increased over the years. We put a lot of love into our projects – from stage design to the cover.

The OY blog says: “There is hope our society could learn lessons”. Optimism in a world where nothing seems to work?  

Joy: Sometimes you feel powerless against those who call themselves realists. However, I think that a change in the right direction is under way. Sometimes crises trigger upheavals.  There’s a fear that people want to return to the “normal” state of affairs after COVID-19, but like many others, we want to change something, and we’re using this turning point as a catalyst for fundamental change. 

What do you think of «Get Going!» as a funding model?  

Marcel: We are progressive in Switzerland where cultural funding is concerned. Nevertheless, it’s time to find new forms that better cater to creative artists’ daily needs. «Get Going!» is therefore not only a huge stroke of luck for us – it’s also a groundbreaking format.  

Joy: Funding is usually tied to productions. «Get Going!», on the other hand, is more open and intended, for example, as support for the creative process. Especially in our case, all the preparatory work for a new project is very important. “Get Going!” is therefore a huge relief. It’s as if a new window were opening on the horizon. That’s such a great feeling.

Interview: Rudolf Amstutz


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FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of «Get Going!», creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start.