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Olympia, WA | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Olympia, WA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Rock Indie




"Featured Artist: Oketo"

Oketo released their self-titled debut EP in November 2014 and the first song, "Like a Child," was recently featured on Spotify's United States Viral 50 playlist. Throughout the last year, the band has played over 50 shows, including a two-week run with Hippo Campus.

In February of this year, Oketo released "I Am Here, You Are Now" followed by a three-week tour that included performances at Audiotree Live in Chicago, NPR Music in NYC, and SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, the band is currently based in Olympia.

Listen for Oketo and other artists from Seattle and the Pacific Northwest on Seattle Alternative Radio. - Seattle Alternative Radio

"Oketo opens the proverbial shoebox, releases exploratory new album | Concert Preview"

It’s Sunday morning around midnight, and the party just got a little quieter.

Some people are sound asleep, others with no concern for the time or outside world. The five bodies that make up Oketo, however, have just slipped out the door.

For the past six months, the Lincoln psychedelic indie-rock band has scurried across town each weekend from 1 to 4 a.m., delivering the Sunday morning paper route.

Just as they’ve been unseen in the dimlit morning hours, Oketo has been absent from the stage, instead working on their newly released album, I Am Here You Are Now. This weekend, at release shows in Omaha and Lincoln (RSVP here and here), the fruits of both labors will finally see the light.

The same hands that roll up stacks of weekly newspapers have been working diligently on the record, practicing daily in a windowless studio above O Street’s Game Room. It is in this space that Oketo’s furtive pursuit has been bubbling under the unseen surface for the past nine months.

It’s also where I met with frontman Steven DeLair just days before the weekend release shows to talk about the long-awaited album.

The act of releasing an album after months of mysterious silence just weeks before they leave on tour, has people wondering where the band has been, and where they intend to go from here.

“Where have I been?” DeLair repeats back to me, quietly searching for the answer. “Hm, well, I’ve been here. But before that I– I was living in a shoebox.”

“A shoebox?” I probe DeLair.

“I was living in a shoebox in the sense that I was scared of myself, scared to be myself, scared of what others thought,” he said.

To shed societal constraints is perhaps what inspired Oketo’s new record. In a world that’s constantly telling people how to live and act, I Am Here You Are Now is a testament to truthful living. The album drops its listeners in the present moment, its lyrics an ode to being oneself in the face of fear. It’s a journey into the hungry lives of Oketo, a band who explores what it means to live without stopping to wonder what people think.

The record contrasts instrumental and lyrical progression. In its title track, Oketo manages to present ideas of delusional societal expectations in a danceable fashion, with lyrics that say ‘Love is lost in our liquid nation, Your money hungry over saturated.’

From start to finish, the album is a humanistic approach to standing up for oneself and one’s art. Ideas that scream ‘I’m too much, but not enough’ are reflective of a young and fearful culture, allowing this album to undoubtedly resonate with its main audience.

“It’s like looking inside yourself,” DeLair said of the album. “Feeling, embracing, breathing. Moving on with natural progression of life. Just being.”

Some songs on the album are more personal and emotional than others, such as “Vogene” which DeLair wrote during Oketo’s recording of their self-titled EP back in 2014.

What appears to be a love song, and is in fact named after DeLair’s partner, “Vogene” is more broadly a reflection of life’s natural rhythm. It’s about relationships that flow in and out of our lives, how some can be more difficult to let go than others, but how it’s necessary to know when to put ourselves first.

“The most important relationship is the relationship you have with yourself, and knowing who you really are,” guitarist Brandon Elwell said. “It’s kind of the theme of the record.”

While the record explores concepts of human connection, it is without question that the audacious absence of Oketo has left their audience feeling disconnected in the recent months.

While the record has been in the works since last August when the group started recording with Sean Joyce (Sean Joyce Audio), some songs date back to even earlier developments, like the intro to “Simple Sound,” a bit they’ve been playing live for over a year. After tracking the album, Oketo took it to another producer — who chose to be unnamed for this story — to finish the mixing process.

With anticipation buzzing, Oketo was secretly scrambling, making tough calls and taking necessary leaps of faith.

However, the record that dropped last week was well worth the band’s silence. I Am Here You Are Now is a search for light in the darkness. It represents the confinements of a box in which DeLair once resided, but could never quite fit in. It’s about gaining the courage to step out of society’s self-deprecating darkness, and to ultimately know and love yourself.

The world outside of the mundane was waiting with open arms, DeLair said. Oketo has no plans of returning to the shoebox that keeps creativity in a four-sided figure, the group more curious than ever to explore the possibilities that exist beyond Lincoln’s premice.

At the end of the month, Oketo will take off on a three-week tour that will start March 1 in Denver and end in Austin, Texas, for the Nebraska SXSW showcase. Beyond that, the group plans to travel to places wide and unknown.

“I am looking for a place where there are ideas that don’t exist here,” DeLair said. “I’ve been here my whole life. I feel like I really need to move on and see, and live somewhere else. Go somewhere where I am going to be completely immersed and challenged. I’m really excited to move and see elsewhere. I love Lincoln, but the world is so big.”

While Oketo has been, in their own right, somewhat inconsistent in the past, the growth of this band to the present has come stunningly full-circle. The group that once thrived in the familiar, now seeks the unknown. Oketo is nothing less than a fruitful formation of friends who’ve committed themselves to their art at all costs. Even if it means getting up at 1 a.m. every Sunday for the morning paper route to scrape up some extra cash, Oketo never fails to show up for the moment.

“I left the shoebox,” DeLair said. “When that happened I saw something that was very beautiful and bright, and said ‘Hello, I love you.’” - Hear Nebraska

"Band of the Week: Oketo"

The show: Oketo album release show with BOTH, Mesonjixx at 9 p.m. Friday at Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.

About Oketo: This Lincoln rock band is capable of strangeness and beauty, often at the same time. The somewhat experimental quintet is ready to release “I Am Here, You Are Now,” a grooving, beautiful and starkly atmospheric six-song album. It was a long time in the making, and the band is excited for it to finally be in the hands of fans. Listen to the album on Omaha.com/music. - Omaha World-Herald

"Nebraska 'exposes' its music at SXSW"

AUSTIN, Texas -- Small red plastic bags emblazoned with “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice” were scattered Wednesday across tables and bars at Cheers Shot Bar.

Up a flight of stairs to the bar’s rooftop, Lincoln’s Oketo took a small stage in front of a banner that read Nebraska Exposed and started its 40-minute set for the first South By Southwest day party/showcase featuring only Nebraska bands.

The crowd at the Sixth Street bar was a bit on the sparse side when Oketo hit its first notes at noon.

“That’s really early for here,” said Jeremy Buckley, one of the trio who put together Nebraska Exposed.

But it grew steadily throughout the afternoon, with festival-goers wandering in, catching a set or a few songs and leaving -- standard operating procedure at the day parties that have turned SXSW into, by far, the biggest multi-day music festival.

Regular festival-goers Buckley and Spencer Munson, who book Lincoln festivals and venues like the Bourbon Theatre, had thought Nebraska needed to be represented at SXSW. A year ago, they and Kyle Gibson, another SXSW regular from Lincoln, got serious about it.

“Last year, Des Moines (Iowa) had a really, really well-produced showcase,” Gibson said. “I left thinking 'Why doesn’t Nebraska do something like that? If Des Moines can do it, why not Nebraska?' ”

Then Gibson discovered that Des Moines paid a whopping $30,000 just to rent the parking lot where its showcase was held. But he, Munson and Buckley didn’t give up on the idea, made some calls and found Cheers Shot Bar -- “The O’Rourkes of Austin” in Buckley’s words -- for considerably less money.

They signed a deal with Cheers to do the showcase, then went looking for sponsors and landed Nebraska Tourism.

“They really made this happen for us,” Gibson said.

Some might question state tourism dollars going to fund one showcase among hundreds in Austin, but the reverse is true.

“I think Nebraska music is a true state resource,” said Scott Hatfield, owner of Duffy’s Tavern, who contributed some cash and the printing of showcase banners and posters. “It’s a valuable resource for Nebraska, a resource well worth banging the drum for.”

And the drums were banging all afternoon and into the evening, with Oketo leading off, then BOTH, the Omaha hip-hop group taking the stage second. The showcase had a last-minute lineup change when Saber Blazek, bassist for Universe Contest, suffered a broken ankle and the band, which had the prime mid-afternoon slot, canceled.

So Jon Dell, a former Lincoln singer/songwriter who now lives in New York, was added along with the Bolzen Beer Band, which annually busks on packed Sixth Street.

“This is the kind of stuff Hear Nebraska has been doing, promoting Nebraska music,” Hatfield said. “For the first one, I think it’s going very well. We’re exposing people to Lincoln music, Nebraska music, but mostly Lincoln music.”

Save BOTH, the rest of the bands on Friday’s bill -- Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, AZP, FREAKABOUT and Laughing Falcon are from Lincoln. They weren’t exactly chosen scientifically.

“We started with people we knew were coming down here anyway,” Gibson said. “We’ll have more of a process next year. We didn’t have time to mess around this year. We put this together in 10 weeks.”

So, what does a band get out of driving 800 miles -- other than gas paid for by the showcase -- to play at Nebraska Exposed?

“I think it gives you a sense of legitimacy,” said Kevin Chasek, Gibson’s bandmate in Laughing Falcon. “It's not every band that does the South By Southwest thing. It was a goal of ours to do this. (Our) short-term goal has been met.”

Hatfield, Gibson and Munson all referred to next year during conversations between bands. Even before it was half over, the gears were turning for Nebraska Exposed 2017 -- bigger and better.

“I want to hit what Des Moines is doing,” Gibson said. “Not next year, but within five years I want to do it, and I think we can do it.”

Munson has an even loftier target -- landing a Nebraska Exposed showcase at night in one of the official SXSW venues.

“The goal is to be picked up by the festival,” Munson said. “To do this well enough, it becomes an official showcase. I think we’re about three years out from that.”

For Wednesday, however, the goal was to have a good showcase with lots of good bands representing Nebraska on the sunny rooftop above SXSW’s main drag. On that, it would have been safe to hang a banner inspired by a certain former president from Texas -- Nebraska Exposed: Mission Accomplished. - Lincoln Journal Star

"Oketo makes music personal, full-time commitment"

On north 27th Street, six young men make a house come alive.

At first glance, the house appears to be rundown with chipped siding, old furniture on the porch and an unkempt lawn. Inside, vinyl records echo off the high ceilings, fliers advertising shows hang from the walls and instruments are strewn about the house’s many rooms. After stepping over the threshold, it’s apparent that the house’s inhabitants live to actively produce music and create a future for the band Oketo.

Oketo’s musicians Steven DeLair, Brandon Elwell, Collin McCarthy, Brad Cleyinger, Kyle Brunner and James Fleege, come together several times a week in this house. Five of the musicians live here with three additional friends. All six of the band members come and leave as they please to bond, collaborate and rehearse. Most of Oketo’s member met while attending Lincoln Southeast High School and participated in musical activities like show choir, jazz band and theater. The band said the experiences in these activities helped their musical ability and performance. DeLair, Elwell and Brunner graduated in 2013 while McCarthy and Cleyinger graduated in 2014. Some of the group members attended college, but decided that to create, produce and tour with Oketo, they had to make the band a full-time commitment.

“We actually want this to happen,” Elwell said. “If we all put our whole selves into it and work our asses off, we can hopefully go somewhere with it. We’d like to make a living and have fun.”

Oketo has constructed its identity in Lincoln with the help of its member’s talent and vision. Originally known as Jeazlepeats, Oketo has changed its name mainly because the members have little resemblance to the previous title.

“We were ready for something new and serious,” Elwell said.

Oketo members said it’s completely different from what the old group use to be.

“We threw away all the music and start fresh,” Brunner said. “There is only one member who use to be in that band. Everybody plays differently and has a different style, we’ve all written our own parts for our songs. The sound it different.”

The name Oketo was pick in June and was the first official action the band took after moving into the house.

“We wanted it to be unique,” Elwell said. “The hardest part so far was picking a name. One day we will find the meaning but Steven really like it and so did we.”

The name was presented by DeLair. The band said they wanted to find one word that could represent the light and serious sides to their music.

The name Oketo was inspired by a small town in Kansas where DeLair would visit his grandparents as a child with his dad. DeLair said that he remembered the town as being odd, dark and desolate.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the town,” DeLair said. “Our music is kind of dark but it also has some beautiful moments, and I’m sure that even though this town is spooky it too had beautiful moments.”

They’ve consistently played shows at Knickerbockers and the Slowdown in Nebraska. This past summer they also played at The Jackpot in Lawrence, Kansas and at Zoofest in downtown Lincoln. The band will be releasing their first EP digitally on Oct. 3, 2014. They will also have physical copies of the EP on CD, cassette and vinyl available for purchase during their release show on Nov. 21.

Oketo music is a conglomerate of different meaning and messages, all presented and refined by the members abilities and diverse background in music.

“We all have the weird things about ourselves, were all pretty weird when we are all together but we can be serious when it comes to the music,” Elwell said. “We like to have fun though.”

Elwell plays guitar, piano and trombone, but also helps organize and coordinate the group’s public affairs.

“I’m more of the social butterfly,” Elwell said. “I like to talk to people; establishing relationships and make connections with people who can help us open more doors for the bands future. Setting up shows and bring people in.”

Brunner combines saxophone and synthesizer to create a different sound.

“Bring horns in was a good addition to our mix,” Brunner said. “It’s cool instrumentally and lets me do some cool thing electronically.”

Cleyinger is the drummer, he works to bring an personal beat that reflects the style and rhythms of other Oketo members.

“It’s a little taste of Bradley,” Cleyinger said. “Some crispy, custom drum beats, I just kinda mix what comes naturally and what would sound good with everything else.”

McCarthy is lead guitar, his positive and energetic nature is mirrored in his approach to writing music for the group.

“We have the freedom to write all of our own stuff,” McCarthy said. “Steven does a lot of it but I’ve done a few things here and there.”

DeLair is the lead vocalist and uses his personal experiences and knowledge of literary arts to write the bands lyrics.

“Each song is different, I don’t like to write about this same thing,” DeLair said. “So many songs are very personal things going on inside my head. Personal feelings and thoughts put together, it’s just the way my mind works that gets me to understand.”

James Fleege is the bassist and newest member of Oketo. He’s had a long history playing and producing music.

“I have helped the band go through the recording process,” Fleege said. “It’s not live, we bring each guy in individually and do one thing at a time. It helps you hone in on what you bring to the band and when I first started doing it, I found it really benefited the group.”

The band said they’ve worked all summer to promote and perfect Oketo’s identity. With the groups diverse talents and skills, they look forward to the future where they hope to record more and get out of Nebraska to tour.

“The goal is to just play all over,” Clevinger said. “It would be awesome to make a living off of that.”

The band also has a long term goal that is about to be achieved in the release of their first EP.

“We are so anxious,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been waiting quite a while, we want to get it out. I think the biggest achievement that we are going to have is releasing our first EP. For as long as we have been together that is probably going to be the biggest highlight.” - The Daily Nebraskan

"Nebraska nice — and musical spice — travels well to South by Southwest"

AUSTIN, Texas — As South by Southwest revved up, a lot of eyes were on Nebraska.

The music festival’s first official day featured Nebraska Exposed, a free showcase featuring eight bands from Lincoln and Omaha.

Situated on the cozy rooftop of Cheers Shot Bar overlooking festivalgoers buzzing in and out of venues on the street below, the showcase became something of a family reunion as well as a display of Nebraska talent.

A blend of musicians, venue owners, bookers, media and friends filled the small rooftop. Meanwhile, groups including Omaha hip-hop duo Both, Lincoln rock band Freakabout and Lincoln rock/R&B band AZP brought in a lot of unfamiliar faces, too.

All three started their sets with modest crowds, but as they continued, people were drawn into the venue, and the rooftop bar began to fill up.

“There’s some good bands in Nebraska, and it’s so cool we can come down here and play with them,” Freakabout’s Cortney Kirby said.

An impressive slate of bands did well for the crowds that arrived. Both’s hip-hop set was fiery. AZP’s rocking show shook the roof. Oketo gave its Nebraska take on indie rock. Bonehart Flannigan’s heartfelt acoustic songs were a great change of pace, as was Bolzen Beer Band’s irreverent polka.

Freakabout’s wailing rock jams and soaring guitars were the show’s pinnacle, and a booking agent stopped in to see them and AZP.

Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal closed the show with a set full of soul and funk.

Nebraska Exposed grew from an annual meetup at SXSW where those of us from Nebraska would get together, have a beer, exchange tales of the festival and snap a group photo. And with the work of Spencer Munson, Jeremy Buckley and Kyle Gibson, it’s now a much bigger and more public event.

Nebraska Exposed isn’t quite the same affair as the Des Moines Music Embassy. The Iowans occupied a very busy corner of Sixth Street, the festival’s main corridor, and an entire day of Iowa bands are slated to play this week. Other showcases take place at the same venue, but they all play under the banner promoting Des Moines and its various Iowa-based sponsors.

But Nebraska Exposed is a solid event. While other locales have good representation at SXSW, Nebraska bands struggled to get featured unless they were on Saddle Creek Records. The Nebraska Exposed showcase gives an organized platform to show off Omaha and Lincoln talent, and it was successful.

The crowd at Nebraska Exposed snatched up free “Nebraska Nice” beer koozies and red T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan from Nebraska Tourism, one of the showcase’s sponsors. Lincoln radio station KZUM handed out download cards featuring Lincoln artists, and record label Silver Street provided free CDs from its bands.

“Nebraska’s here. It’s awesome,” said Munson, one of the showcase’s organizers. “All the bands are really excited. What makes Lincoln great or Nebraska great is the camaraderie the bands have.”

Munson was already thinking of ways to expand the showcase and ways to improve the experience. But a slate of great and rather diverse bands showing the variety of great music from Omaha and Lincoln has already done a lot.

Even the bands are impressed.

“We got new fans,” said Both’s Nate Asad, who goes by INFNTLP.

“We didn’t know what to expect from South by,” added Sky Reed, better known as Scky Rei. “It turned out great.” - Omaha GO

"100 Bands in 100 Days — Day 29: Oketo"

Music fans of the Pacific Northwest, hello and welcome back to our third annual year-end daily countdown, 100 Bands in 100 Days, where every day until December 31st, we’re showcasing a new band or artist you have to know about, presented by Verity Credit Union. Follow the #100Bands100Days hashtag on Twitter to stay on top of all the bands featured and make sure to follow Verity on Twitter as well. Some days the featured act could be an established and locally-adored northwest-based musician that perhaps you haven’t been turned onto yet, and other times they could be a band with a small following that just hasn’t had their deserved time in the sun yet. Either way, we’re fairly confident you can come away from this daily segment with plenty of new favorites. Today we’d like to take a bit of a detour as we shine our spotlight down on one of the newest and most worthwhile additions to Olympia’s large and fertile music scene, Oketo!

The dynamic quintet that decided to call themselves Oketo met and formed the band in the members’ original hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, where they would first capture the hearts of hungry underground music enthusiasts with their unique approach to alternative and indie rock, which feels as easygoing as it does out-of-left-field. The band quickly gained attention following their debut self-titled, three-song EP, released late in October, a collection of three songs that may have been somewhat breezy rock and pop music, but had a strong and incredibly intricate instrumental backbone, with each of the seven members that performed on the EP contributing their fair share of meaty instrumental accompaniment, with guitarist and pianist Steven DeLair also taking lead vocal duty throughout these tracks. After making the rounds in Nebraska’s music scene, the band made the decision to relocate to Washington’s capital fairly recently, where the quintet bought and now occupy a house, where they’re in the midst of writing and recording their debut studio album. This one of course follows up their latest EP, I Am Here You Are Now, released towards the beginning of this year.

Listening to the groovy and impressively wide-ranging music that Oketo has unleashed on the world so far, it’s not hard to see why they’ve been gaining so much traction wherever they’re currently operating out of. While I Am Here You Are Now featured sparser instrumental backing in the sense that the album featured five musicians instead of the self-titled EP’s seven, Oketo’s instrumentation feels livelier than ever on this series of tracks, and the band’s tendency towards clever studio trickery led to songs with more creative textures and more surprises up its sleeves, such as the sudden shifts in structure on “Simple Sound” or the almost IDM-esque “Forward Feeling,” one of the more drum machine-heavy songs the band has put together. The band’s music often sits on the quieter side of the spectrum, but While I Am Here You Are Now‘s title track is a gloriously multi-faceted and huge-sounding closer for the EP, one of those larger-than-life proggy tracks that more or less serves as a band flexing to the haters, showing skeptics and fans alike just what they’re capable of. If the band is capable of writing both epic, multi-tiered songs and songs that have more of a straightforward, catchy, groove-oriented feel, who knows just what majesties await us on their much-anticipated studio debut.

You can follow Oketo on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and keep up with the band through their official website, oketomusic.com. You can find the band’s music available for streaming and purchase/download at oketo.bandcamp.com. Watch Oketo perform “Forward Feeling” at a Sofar Sounds New York private session here. Listen to “Like a Child” off their self-titled EP below via YouTube. - Northwest Music Scene

"Oketo @ Duffy's Tavern"

Frontman Steven DeLair might have it in him to be one of the most engaging frontmen in the state. He’s in control of his own presence, and certainly his own voice, swinging dramatically from sweet falsetto to throat-scratching screams. DeLair often loses himself in his own songs. And it’s earnest, not trite, when he says, “We’re here because of music and that’s beautiful.” - Hear Nebraska

"Oketo EP Release Show Review"

Oketo’s “Like A Child” is a distant cry from four chords and a chorus.

The Lincoln band’s aesthetic love for packing shifty movements together is in peak form. It begins with parlaying one bopping guitar part into another that sweeps underneath it. Then the horns. Then singer Steven DeLair rolling through his version of verses, but they’re more like stanzas.

Deep into the song Friday night at Vega, hundreds of voices rose up at once with DeLair’s: “Just love me like you used to!” That’s when Oketo unequivocally won their own night. It’s a scream tucked three minutes into the tune, proving Oketo not only carries scores of Lincoln fans, but fans who engage with both impressively and incongruously arranged songs.

Try to plan your own musical gala, your EP release blowout, and plenty can go wrong. Bands can drop off billings. Guitars can feed back at bad times. Bartenders can call in sick. Someone in the band gets too drunk to play. People you invited months ago just stay home. It happens all the time. It was a genuine pleasure to see everything ostensibly go right on Friday.

Oketo packed Vega nearly to capacity, the most people I’ve seen there for a local show besides Universe Contest on New Year’s Eve 2013. All the more promising for a band that just released its first recordings, the vast majority of the people there were under 25.

The Lincoln six-piece headlined to a crowd that knew their songs, knew their beats, knew their idiosyncrasies. The first real mosh of the night didn’t happen until three-quarters through the set: a sustained energy apparently born of the band’s hybrid pop-rock/jazz-roots sensibility.

From guitarist Collin McCarthy’s Miami Vice-esque digs, to DeLair playing “Untitled” on a chair in the middle of the crowd, to the bashfully appreciative way trombonist Brandon Elwell kept thanking the crowd for the experience, it had the feeling of an event. Mind you, anyone can schedule an event. But the feeling of an event is something you can’t confirm until you’re watching a band simultaneously transfix a crowd and bring it along with them. - Hear Nebraska

"Oketo's Self Titled EP"

When Steven DeLair’s voice transforms into a wretched growl two minutes into “Like A Child,” it seems like Oketo is putting its own song on notice.

“If you thought you knew what the boundaries of the song were — (read: clean, spunky indie pop) — fuck your map.”

In a number of ways, this applies to all three songs released over the weekend by the Lincoln rock band Oketo. It’s a self-titled EP, produced and mixed by BZZZ (Sean Beste and James Fleege) at Silver Street Studios. It’ll be released physically at a Nov. 21 show with Twinsmith and LIFE is COOL. RSVP here.

Elsewhere in the six-minute song (3:08), DeLair sings like Biz Markie. Seconds after that, it’s some sort of affected neo-reggae voice. Moments later, it’s fun with consonants, an English scientist who sounds like he’s describing gadgets that all start with ‘P.’ All this to horns, harmony, plucky bass and riffy guitars. Oketo is fun and earnestly all over the place: chaos and eagerness.

The second track, “Mordor,” starts with sounds like a baritone video game struggling to boot up, followed by urban nightlife guitar riffs that sound like they’d soundtrack a Michael Mann movie. Like if you could only get to the Eye of Sauron by driving a Corvette silently through downtown Los Angeles.

The third track, “Wooden Eyes,” eventually bursts into an Arcade Fire-esque driving chorus in a song where the horns of Brandon Elwell and Kyle Brunner really get their playtime.

Zooming outward, it’s really quite difficult to talk about how Oketo is different than Jeazlepeats, the band it changed its name from earlier this year. Through the last couple years, there was a massive swing in an already big lineup. In both incarnations, songs are fundamentally pointy and harmony-centric. When Oketo came on Hear Nebraska FM two months ago, its members put on a brilliant acoustic performance, but no one (myself included) could really explain how or why this was different than Jeazlepeats. Just that it really, really was, the band made clear. This EP seems to indicate why, based on pure mentality. No band this young, with this much energy, is looking backward. Declaring newness and autonomy must feel deeply important.

These three songs feel like a deliberate sampling, like Oketo intentionally not picking a “thing.” If you considered a superficial set of parts, for instance, Oketo could easily shoot to be Twinsmith. But, no, the songs on the EP come off too restless, too weird, too interested in occasionally shredding their own charm.

Exhibit A is that the song they called “Liam” on the radio show a mere two months ago came out on the EP with a new title, “Like A Child,” and a boatload of rearranged lyrics.

Things sound like they’re moving quickly at Oketo HQ. For a band that’s maybe the biggest under-21 draw in Lincoln right now (with some band members not even of-age), the wildness, the willingness to steer the entire train off the tracks (despite popping and crackling production) is very much worth mewing along to. And then, if the mood strikes, shouting about. - HearNebraska

"Oketo To Release Debut EP"

The guys in Oketo sat on couches and chairs in the living room of the old central Lincoln house they share, ready to talk about the EP they’re releasing on Friday just a couple of weeks before the anniversary of the young band’s first show.

Five of the six Oketo members knew each other while attending Lincoln Southeast High School, where they all were part of music and theater programs or played in bands, but not with each other.

“We’d think, ‘What if someday we make a band? We’re all creative and motivated,” said Brandon Elwell, who plays keyboards, guitar and trombone. “That time came to see what we could do together …

“We decided to all postpone school and move in together and go for working and the band. We want to tour and stuff. It’s hard to do that as a college student.”

Working out a schedule between job requirements -- “some of us open, some of us close, so it can be hard to get us all together here,” Elwell said. Oketo practices three or four times a week in the house. There are “sectional rehearsals” when the full band can’t get together.

“You’ll never see a day when there isn’t anything coming out of this place in some way,” said Kyle Brunner, who plays saxophone and synthesizer. “There’s always some kind of music played here.”

What kind of music? Well, that’s a little more difficult to describe.

Oketo is a six-piece outfit that incorporates sax, trombone and synthesizers into the standard bass-drums-guitars mix. Four of the six sing, creating vocal harmony in songs that spin progressive elements into classic Beatlesque pop.

“We all grew up with parents who gave us a wide variety of music,” said singer Steven DeLair II. “We were all listening to really old music when we were little kids, everything from Elvis to the Louvin Brothers, gospel and R&B …

“Listening to so many kinds of music at such a young age sparks the creative yearning for something you can’t put a genre on. People ask us what kind of music we play. What am I supposed to tell them? It’s our own sound, and you can’t put a label on it.”

Perhaps some influences will help explain the Oketo sound. In addition to the Beatles, the Oketo members rattled off this list: Fleet Foxes, tUne-yArDs, Tame Impala and the National.

Oketo began as a seven-piece, but lost a synth player. Elwell and Brunner picked up some of the synth parts as has James Fleege, the newest and oldest member of the group.

Fleege didn’t go to Southeast with the other Oketo guys. Rather, he got involved with the band after seeing a Lincoln Exposed performance in February and asking if they’d like to record with BZZZ, his production team with Sean Beste.

The band started to cut some songs, first at Beste’s Studio F, then at Silver Street in Ashland. Midway through that process, Oketo’s original bassist left the band.

”They needed a bass player,” Fleege said. “I was missing playing live shows, and the opportunity presented itself. I thought it would be fun to do. I’d enjoyed the start of the recording process we were doing … It was pretty easy to learn the bass parts for the first two songs we were working on. I’d been listening to them every day. Stuff in the studio and live stuff are different realms. It’s good to do both.”

The EP will be released at a show at Vega, one of the few performances Oketo now has scheduled -- by design.

Oketo also has booked a Wednesday show at Omaha's Slowdown with Twinsmith and Stephen Nichols and a Chicago date on Black Friday.

Then it’s back to rehearsing and getting ready not for recording an album but for hitting the road.

“The first goal is to tour,” Elwell said. “Right now we have a friend helping us book a tour. We’re doing two or three weeks in the spring, separated weeks.”

“We’re all on the same page when it comes to that,” said guitarist Collin McCarthy. “We all have that same direction.”

As the interview wound down, and the remainder of the band members, including drummer Bradley Clevinger, talked about becoming old enough to join Fleege and play pool at O'Rourke’s, I asked if there was anything else anyone wanted to add.

At that point I was reminded that I hadn’t asked about the origin of Oketo.

“It’s a very small town in Kansas off Highway 77 right off the Nebraska border,” DeLair said. “It’s where my great-great-great-grandparents homesteaded. We just thought it was an interesting name, and the town is interesting. … It can be dark and scary and sometimes beautiful, which is kind of like our music.”

“It’s also really hard to find a band name,” Elwell said. - Lincoln Journal Star

"Oketo Live Performance on KZUM"

We catch Oketo at an odd spot in their lifespan tonight.

On the one hand, nominally speaking, they’re a two-month old band just a handful of weeks away from the release of their debut EP.

And on the other, you’d know them historically as Jeazlepeats, a moniker that’s been around since 2009, though only two of their six members can really speak to the past identity of that band.

If you listen to the Jeazlepeats’ self-titled 2013 EP, you hear something with a Fleet Foxes choral lift to it, and a kind of Aqualung drapery over a real taste for the riffs on which entire songs are built. It’ll all fairly melancholic, as well.

It’s only in the recent history of the band — this year — that they’d become go-to acts for New Year’s Eve celebrations and pool parties with the introduction of saxophone and trombone into the band. So while they’ve been performing live at Lincoln Exposed and the Amizade Music & Arts Festival, what Oketo really sounds like — recording to listener — remains to be seen. We’ll see how close we get tonight at the band joins us in the studio for an acoustic set.

You can see them Friday night at The Bourbon at the Flippin’ Awesome Fundraiser for KZUM, along with Handsomer Jaws, Amateur Geologists and Meadow Rave. But right now they are with us live. Ladies and gentlemen, take a listen to Oketo. - KZUM/Hear Nebraska

"Oketo to play tour kickoff show"

On Friday, Oketo will play the Bourbon Theatre. On Feb. 25, the five band members will load their instruments into their new used Ford Econoline van, pile into the seats and hit the road to Iowa City, Iowa, for the first show on their first tour.

The two-week tour will take Oketo to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, Canton, Ohio, Cleveland and Chicago as well as Omaha and Lawrence, Kansas.

“We’ve only played Lawrence once and Chicago once,” said keyboardist Brandon Elwell, who booked the tour along with bassist James Fleege. “We’ll be playing with locals in every city except for Cleveland. In Cleveland, we’re playing an Ariana Grande preshow party in a bar that’s across from the arena there. That should be fun.”

Oketo, which bought the 12-passenger 2003 van for the tour, isn’t heading out with the intention of getting rich or instantly conquering the Midwest.

“We’ve got a couple guarantees for pay,” Elwell said. “We’re not out to make money. We’re out to not lose any money and build a foundation. So the next time we go out we can come back to those places. We’re all about making connections and building a foundation for the future.”

As is the case for many bands heading out of town, Oketo is counting on building a financial cushion from Friday’s show to help them break even on the tour. Cover charge for Friday’s 9 p.m. show is $5 in advance, $6 day of show. Advance tickets are at the Bourbon box office. Omaha band Both will open.

The show is, appropriately, an all-ages affair, reflecting Oketo’s youthful audience. Minors will be charged an additional $2 at the door. - Lincoln Journal Star


Oketo - EP (2014)

  1. Like A Child
  2. Mordor
  3. Wooden Eyes
I Am Here You Are Now (2016)
  1. Box of Blue
  2. Simple Sound
  3. Vogene
  4. Forward Feeling
  5. In Between Invisible Lines
  6. I Am Here You Are Now
Oketo on Audiotree Live (2016)
  1. They Will Give You a Box of Chocolates and Tell You to Believe in It
  2. Forward Feeling
  3. In Between Invisible Lines
  4. Vogene
  5. Bone Dance
  6. Like A Child



Oketo is a group made up of four musicians forming creative musical arrangements by incorporating a wide array of instrumentation. Drawing upon the inspiration of Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, tUne-yArDs, Tame Impala and more, Oketo manufactures luscious soundscapes for its fans at their energetic live show. It is controlled chaos, refined through years of perseverance. Though the members of Oketo are often considered young, the maturity and emotion presented in their music suggests otherwise.

In November 2014, Oketo released their self-titled debut EP. The breakout single "Like a Child" was recently featured on Spotify's United States Viral 50 playlist, and has reached over 1 million streams to date.

Throughout the last year Oketo has played over 50 shows outside of their home state, including a two week run with Hippo Campus (Minneapolis Indie Rockers on Grand Jury Records NYC). Oketo has received favorable press and radio spots throughout the Midwest region, as well as a nomination for 2014 and 2015 OEAA Indie Alternative Band of the Year. The band has also shared the stage with bands such as Temples, Cory Henry, The Dodos, Desert Noises, Fever the Ghost, Jamaican Queens, Ben Kweller, Icky Blossoms and more. 

Oketo released their sophomore record , "I Am Here, You Are Now" in February of 2016 to a nearly sold out crowd at the Bourbon Theatre in their hometown of Lincoln, NE. Following the release was a three week tour including performances at Audiotree Live in Chicago, NPR Music in NYC, and SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. 

After relocating to the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2016, Oketo continues to refine their writing and performance prowess as they gear up for a 2017 album and national tour.

Band Members