INTERVIEW: OAKTOPIA PEEPS

We have our fair share of music festivals in Denton, and that's not a bad thing at all. Last year, Oaktopia was an upstart with some hopes, dreams, and a bunch of sweet bands that they got to play in Denton. Things went over pretty dang well - much better than you'd expect for a music festival in its infancy. This year, they've upped the ante on all fronts and we'll see the fruits of their labor this Friday and Saturday. High profile bands such as Baths, Aesop Rock and many more will grace multiple stages across the city of Denton. Two day passes are only $30, y'all. So get on it and buy a pair here, if you haven't done so already. We spoke with Preston Ehram, Corey Claytor and Matt Battaglia about Oaktopia then and now. Tacos never came up, though, strangely enough. 

  Preston Ehrsam, Corey "S. Good" Claytor, and Matt Battaglia, founder of Oaktopia

Preston Ehrsam, Corey "S. Good" Claytor, and Matt Battaglia, founder of Oaktopia


WDDI: Explain where the name “Oaktopia” comes from.

Originally, all of the shows for the fest were booked on Oak St.

A lot of our memories and influences happened directly on that street, so we knew we wanted to incorporate “Oak” into the name.... Without it being a generic “Oak St. Fest.”

I used to rap, so when I write, I naturally try to make things flow. I was walking around the square one day saying different combinations of “Oak + “a word” when “Oaktopia” popped into my head. I thought it flowed nicely, and had the double “utopia” meaning going on. Josh Milam (one of the co-founders) and Corey instantly agreed, so the name stuck.

 

What’s the biggest lesson you learned from last year?

My friend Shane McCormick told us early on that it takes a community to make a music festival. We absorbed what he was saying, but the fest and event planning was so new to us that we didn’t really understand it. We only had 3 months to plan so it was really hard to let others in last year. We stripped that away this year and opened the fest to the people, and it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.

 

WDDI: Last year y’all managed to get Del the Funky Homosapien to play Oaktopia. What name did you call him in person?

Honestly, we barely got to talk to him, but for the brief moment we did, we called him Del.

 

WDDI: What’s Oaktopia’s dream artist that is on your list for the future?

Matt: My dream artist is Kid Cudi or Modest Mouse.

Corey: Pixies and Nas

P: The Deftones and Radiohead

 

WDDI: Do you feel that there has been any stigma from being a “young” person booking a festival? Any animosity you’ve felt in those regards?

The vast majority of people have nothing but support for us. People with experience in festivals told us not to do it. Not because they didn’t support us, but because they knew that we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into (which we didn’t). As far as animosity, not that I can remember. If there is, they haven’t told us about it!

WDDI: Who are you most excited about playing this year?

M: Over 100 local acts on one fest! National act wise, I really want to catch XXYYXX’s set.

C: Friends and Family. But for the most part, I hear that dude S.Good’s real nice.

P: I want to see as many of the acts I can get my eyes on, there’s ton of quality on both days.


WDDI: Last year y’all got some noise complaints. Are y’all taking any precautions as far as noise goes, this year?

Ya know, we don’t want to mess anyone’s day up by keeping them from getting sleep… This year we’re going to bring fliers and information to all the businesses and residences in the area. Just like last year, we have all our sound permits and we’re going to follow the city codes and regulations to a T.  


WDDI: What’s different about Oaktopia this year as opposed to last year?

We had a lot of help from family and friends last year. It would never have happened without them… but there was only about 20 of us to work the entire fest. This year we have an amazing group of over 100 volunteers. People from all over the country have come together to help us, and they go above and beyond. It’s incredibly humbling and inspirational to see so many people with a common goal.

Fest-wise, we’ve had a lot more time to plan and with that comes decorations, events, activities, and surprises! Plus, it’s two days and we have more headliners!


Did you all have a focus this year in what bands you wanted to play?

Above all else, we’re local music fans. If we could, we’d have every single local artist play. Basically, we always want to keep the fest at least 80% local acts. In garages, living rooms, porches, street corners, and anywhere else you can think of across Denton there’s songwriters and artists. People influenced by the same things we’re all influenced by, and it’s beautiful. We tried to get a nice mix of genres to represent that diversity.

National-acts are a little trickier. We always want to bring underground hip-hop legends to Denton if we can, but we love all types of music. This year, we decided to add some up-and-coming electronic artists to the bill. We’re going to keep adding artists from different genres until we have a well-rounded bill.


WDDI: What’s in the future for y’all?

We have an irrational love for Denton. All of our ideas are directly related to making Denton a more fun and interesting place to live. Without saying too much, we have some things in the works that we haven’t seen done around these parts.



You can learn more about Oaktopia at their website. We'll have more on the bands playing this year's fest and more throughout the week including an interview with Will Weisenfeld of Baths so make sure to check back later!