For a guy who sports the hairdo of Jim Carrey’s Llyod Christmas from Dumb and Dumber, 26 year old artist, producer, filmmaker Oliver Tree is influencing millennial’s thoughts on music and fashion.
Who is Oliver Tree and where the hell did he come from?
Being brought up on music at a young age, Santa Cruz, Californian native Oliver Tree Nickell received piano lessons at the age of three. Moving on from piano, Nickell learnt how to play the guitar and had a Ska band called Irony. In his high school days, Nickell experimented with hip hop, rap and electronic music. By the time Oliver Tree was eighteen, he recalls;“I’d already gotten the chance to perform with people like Skrillex and Nero and a ton of other artists from the dubstep world.”
In 2013, a relatively still unknown Oliver Tree released a three-song EP Demons and it became something of a start for the young artist.
Within the mix of his musical aspirations, he found another childhood obsession with scooter skating which has shaped and influenced his work, often visually referencing his scooter skating skills in his music and comedy videos.
Oliver Tree – The Alt-Pop Meme Machine
No signs of pretension but an exaggerated version of a millennial youth
You see a Razor scooter, a 80s/90s retro sport jacket (that was formerly belonged to his mum), JNCO-style ultra-wide straight legged jeans that surprisingly fit, speed dealer shades, and the Llyod Christmas bowl cut and you get a wild non-conventional artist known as Oliver Tree.
“I’ve been told only three percent of people can pull off the bowl cut, and somehow I’ve managed to fit into that percentile,” Tree told Rolling Stone Magazine.
And yet there are no signs of pretension about who or what Oliver Tree is representing in his fashion or in his music. Instead Tree has an eccentric personality and there lies a unique representation of the way his artistic mind works in expressing an eccentricity. On the fly he looks like some stereotypical young white American dork sporting a bowl cut but underneath that there is a ingenuity about his looks and work ethic. I believe this sort of mysteriousness about him is one of the reasons why Tree’s audiences are curious about his personality, his own perspective of a world that is influenced by social media and the internet.
With 1.2 million Instagram followers, Oliver Tree is a non stop creative working machine who aims to give his fans comedic nourishment and good tunes and comedic content that is a summary of his life so far.
“I pulled together all the most interesting parts of my own life and my own personality, presenting myself in a way that was probably the most kooky parts of my life put together. And I think it really has connected with people well, because it is authentic and it’s not fake.” – Tree told Altpress Magazine.
Before Oliver Tree broke into the mainstream with his music, he was gaining a lot of attention from his Vine video making days back in 2015 (A now defunct short six second video streaming service – which exploded into a meme-making video platform). By testing the limits of where Vine could take him, Tree created multiple different personas. But one particular persona that stood out was the ecstasy drug dealer known as Turbo. The Turbo persona would evolve into the entertainer identity he has adopted today.
If Turbo was the origin of his meme creativeness, Oliver Tree has immersed himself into that world and could likely be a contender for being meme king of the social media world. Tree has posted endless short videos or images on his social media.
If you don’t know what memes are don’t fear, in a nutshell, memes or meme culture is an aspect of the internet that people would find funny whether it be in the form of pictures or videos about pop culture. People would then share it with someone else for their enjoyment. However, memes have now become such a common part of people’s social media lives and that they are often quoted outside of the internet, with people finding ways to incorporate memes into any and every conversation.
He died for our shins pic.twitter.com/by8DFqOziL
— Oliver Tree (@Olivertree) January 18, 2020
The Music behind Oliver Tree’s EP
Do You Feel Me which gained global appeal from his hit songs, ‘Miracle Man’, ‘Hurt’ & ‘Alien Boy’ show the real side of Oliver Tree.
Do You Feel Me demonstrated lyrical understandings about the man himself. Oliver Tree creates these outlandish indie dance pop tunes that reflect conflicted inhibitions about millennial culture and it appeals to young audiences because they seem to show an empathy or catharsis towards Tree’s music.
David Pramik, a Grammy-nominated songwriter who worked with Tree in his song ‘Miracle Man’ pointed out, “He’s writing these really sharp pop songs under the veneer of this alt world.”
The genre-bending artist, who has been described as 21 Pilots meets Mac DeMarco, gets over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone and has been certified gold in the U.S. with his single ‘Alien Boy,’ Triple J wrote.
The year of 2018 was a turning point for Tree as he released his single ‘Hurt’. He traveled to Ukraine to film the video, which he wrote and co-directed with Brendan Vaughan. In its first week, the music video for “Hurt” reached one million plays while the song received significant radio play.
‘Hurt’ continued to reach unbound success and has peaked over 29 million views on Youtube. The music video captures a humorous yet graphically gory depiction that seems to look into an individual’s own self-existential crisis. In reality though, Tree admits the song’s inspiration came from a scooter accident where he collided with a unseen rock on the ground. But getting back to the existentialism in Tree’s lyrical style, he goes beyond some menial scooter accident. With lyrics like:
I feel left out, I don’t see how
My whole life can change in one week
I don’t mind my own reflection
I don’t see how, you’ve been let down
Don’t speak unless you have to
Why you always seem in a bad mood?
Your whole life you had an attitude
One day, is this so bad for you?
There is a window to Tree’s identity and that’s where we see the real side behind the alter ego Turbo or the Oliver Tree the entertainer. Tree shows a knack of combining such mental personal trauma about his failures, his newfound success with his music and through blending it with comedy we see in the music video there is a subtlety of satire and ingenuity about himself.
“It’s a song I made about a scooter accident I had when I was 18. It was a semifinal run at a pro competition. I’m in this 20-foot roll in and out of nowhere this little pebble shows up. I hit this thing and just go flying — break my left wrist, break my right wrist, and break the joint that connects the thumb to the hand.” Tree recounting the meaning behind ‘Hurt’ to The Verge.
In establishing a big internet presence through his social media, Tree doesn’t seem to care how the public or critics judge his music or image. In being a meme making machine, he acts like a overbearing young adult and a “hybridised” version of his alter ego Turbo and the reception from it makes him alien or a satire from his contemporaries. Thus, Tree can easily weave in and out of the spotlight. His ability to exaggerate his personality in humorous ways makes him more humble about the recognition he is getting from fans and critics.
“Personally, I think all great art is polarizing. But I’m in no place to say that about my own art. I just create, and if I’m lucky people will see it. Critics and the general public get to think whatever they want,” said Tree.
The music video for ‘All That x Alien Boy’ showed how far Oliver Tree could continue to elaborate this idea of weaving in and out of fabricating himself and just being himself.
Oliver Tree; A new spectacle of the entertainer?
In combining all his hobbies such as scooter skating, epitomising his knowledge of pop culture through making comedy videos and unconventional music, Oliver Tree has built himself into a satirical meme making colossal.
The Oliver Tree/Turbo persona showcases an exaggerate caricature of the millennial youth culture, he carries himself with grace and lets his art speak for itself.
For his knack for trolling his audiences and fans, in 2019 he announced that he was planning to quit music altogether but within the same year released a new track called ‘Cash Money’. The song which is apart of his anticipating debut album Ugly Is Beautiful, encourages listeners to think differently about their needless spending on material excess. “How bad do you need that stuff? What’s it all for? Why’s it seem like you still want more?“.
Ugly Is Beautiful is expected to drop in this March, 2020.
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