The brainchild of Deptford’s Manny Folorunso and singer Marissa HFHFHF, A.O.S.O.O.N. blew up on soundcloud with their first EP, NAME. “Under”, a flawless “life-sometimes-fucking-sucks-but-keep-going” acoustic dream of a track, was picked up by Majestic Casual and it wasn’t long before the duo found themselves bombarded with offers from record labels. A publishing deal with Kobalt allowed them to release their music through Manny’s own label, Orange is the Label, and though Marissa and Manny have now parted ways A.O.S.O.O.N. is still going strong, with different vocalists continuing to bring Manny’s songs to life.
The latest single, Lover’s Don’t Sleep, is a dreamy, candid look at the romance and realities of a long-term relationship. Ella Squirrel weaves lazily through the ups and downs, her clear tones painting a picture – “French martinis on a Sunday” followed soon after by the highly relatable “you’ve got me all by myself, watching Netflix alone”. It’s more refined than some of the project’s earlier music, but if it’s lost a little of the rawness that first got people talking it’s because A.O.S.O.O.N. isn’t just about making the kind of music you’ll replay with nostalgia a few years down the line – it’s about expressing feelings that are always going to be valid, through stories and sounds that are varied enough to remind you of that.
I sat down with Manny at Brick Lane’s Café 1001 – a favourite haunt of his – to talk about the single, the label, and his upcoming personal projects.
Let’s start with the basics. How did you first get into music?
My dad was a Pastor and he had his own church, so like any good church it needs soime music, so we always had music in the house. We had a bunch of instruments and my brothers were playing music too – so it was natural.
I really got into music in school. I used to bootleg CDs and go into school and sell them for like £2. Back then I was one of the few people who had dial-up on their computer, and I was allowed to leave my computer on all night so I’d just be downloading these new songs and selling them.
On your grind from go then?
Yeah exactly. I look back now and it was sort of inevitable for me.
And how do you go from bootlegging CDs to starting our own label?
That’s a big jump! I was at college studying IT, and at the last minute I filled out a form for Westminster [university]. I could barely play the bass, I learned a song for hours to go and play for them and I got in, and I was like “fuck this is a new chapter in my life, this is it.” And ever since I’ve never looked back, I’ve just been steeped in doing music.
Off the back of the first A.O.S.O.O.N. EP we were offered record deals and at the time we just wanted to do it our way. This was our first EP, we still hadn’t really found ourselves yet, so we found ourselves a publishing deal with Kobalt instead.
Kobalt’s deals are really cool, they’re really forward thinking in terms of artist independence, and that’s what I’m about, what I’ve always been about. Through that they offered us our own label – it just made sense at the time.
That’s the dream, right?
Well yeah, there’s a lot of bullshit in between, but I don’t want to bore you with the little details.
How did A.O.S.O.O.N come about?
I was 21, I think, the quiet bass player that loved playing, head down, rocking away – AOSOON was my first brainchild. I met Marissa in Church through a mutual friend who went to my uni, and we just clicked instantly. We were the odd kids in church that liked left-field music, like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and stuff like that. We just got working on this EP. We put it out not expecting too much of it, and it just blew up online. The name stands for “a lot of something out of nothing”. It’s about using what you’ve got to make something.
The kind of music you’ve been putting out has been quintessential London – the the realities of relationships, struggling with isolation and city fatigue. What is your songwriting process like, and has it changed since working with Ella?
London is tough but it’s not all bad. We want to show that. For me, writing’s about the imagination and building a picture. And it’s always been like that, whether I’m working with Marissa or Ella, the process has been the same.
When High Grade came out, you said it was as if Bob Marley was sat in a room songwriting with you – apart from him, who are your musical influences?
Oh man there’s so many. My dad used to play Al Greene in the car, everyone from Biggie to Tupac to Pharell; Jaco Pistorias the bass player,Marcus Miller. There’s tonnes, so much music. I’m a sponge, I just take in whatever’s around.
“Lovers Don’t Sleeo” it’s similar to your old stuff in that it’s pretty matter of fact but it still sounds sincere. What were you trying to say with it?
There’s a little story behind it. That song was for my personal project, called Oranges and Hyacinths, and the basis of that project was immortality. The song’s based on two lovers who live a very long time,, it’s this eternal sort of love. And even though they go through things, they stop and start, but it still never goes away. That’s the concept behind it.
We’ve had it on repeat! It’s good to finally hear you on the vocals too. And we’ll be hearing more of that hopefully, because as well as A.O.S.O.O.N. you’ve got your personal project Manny T Deroy, right? How is that different from your work with A.O.S.O.O.N.?
I just want to present the person that’s been writing these songs. I just want to experiment, and they say there’s no better person to express music that the one who wrote it. I’ve developed enough confidence in myself to give it a try.
So when can we expect some new releases from Manny T Deroy?
Let’s talk about the label. Why is Orange the Label?
Orange is the Label because orange is the new black.
No. There’s been orange connotations coming up for me for a while though. I love the colour itself, but the word is also an anagram of “no rage” and “no age”. It’s just interesting, it’s kind of what I am. So Orange is the Label. And Orange is the Label because we make great music.
So what’s next for you?
So much. We’ve got the new AOSOON single coming out tomorrow, new stuff from Manny T Desroy coming out in the Summer, and I just want to keep going, seeing what we can come up with. It’s an experiment, my little laboratory. I just want to tie up all the loose ends before I get on with the live stuff later on.
We can’t wait to hear more. You can listen to A.O.S.O.O.N.’s latest single here below.
Words by: Amardeep Singh Dhillon