The OK Factor: Have Yourself an OK Christmas
The OK Factor is more than just 'OK.' It's a genre-bending duo whose members met five years ago while attending school at Luther College in Iowa. Violinist Karla Colahan explains how she and cellist Olivia Diercks first met.
"Yeah, we had some mutual friends and we played in the same ensembles and knew of each other, but apparently, she was intimidated by me," Karla explains. "That's what she said. That can't be true. But we had formed an ensemble together called Strangs, which was sort of like a hip-hop string group. And we won the Open Mic night at homecoming three years in a row, I would just like to say. But so that sort of was the impetus for discovering that using our ears and our ear training we can come up with the arrangements of popular tunes and do different things with them."
The popular tunes you'll hear on their new recording will help you celebrate the holidays. It's called, "Have Yourself an OK Christmas."
There is a signature sound that we hear throughout the entire recording. And I think already, even though you've only been together five years, it would be like, 'Oh, I bet that's the OK Factor,' when I hear an arrangement, and that's really quite an accomplishment.
"Well, I think the biggest thing for us is making sure that each arrangement showcases both of our instruments," Karla explains. "We are equals in this partnership in every possible way musically. And you know through all the entrepreneurial business stuff that we have to do, we share the roles and the burden and the joy. But in the music, it's really important for us to find ways to make the cello have solos and to let the violin take an accompaniment role, which isn't what you often traditionally see with these two particular instruments. And so I think that one little thing is part of what makes our sound 'our sound' is that we really try to be equals and showcase both instruments."
"I mean the big thing for us, too, is it's just the two of us," Olivia adds. "And so how are we going to fill the space. And so, we've really had to think outside the box with our instruments, in particular, and what are some different techniques we can use. How can we make these instruments speak in different ways so that it's still new and exciting to people when they hear them? And it fills the role, like you said, of percussive elements that our instruments wouldn't traditionally fill. So it's exciting for us to think of our instruments in new ways and how can we expand the listener's ears with these two instruments."
Do each of you have maybe a personal favorite? I'm wondering, Karla, do you have a piece that it's like, 'Oh, this is my earworm for today'?
"'Festive,' in particular, was the first Christmas piece that we arranged our senior year of college. And so that one has always felt like, you know, if there were any OK Factor piece to choose from that sounded like us I would choose 'Festive.'"
How about you Olivia?
"I love 'O Come Isabella.' I just love the arrangement. I think for me when I hear it, I think about how I feel when I play it and it feels it feels so natural, and it feels like we are sort of celebrating the season, of course, but also what it is that we get to wake up and do every day."
As you were putting this recording together, what turned out to be your biggest surprise?
"I think our collaboration with our percussionist actually was something that was very interesting," Karla says. "Jenny Klukken is a percussionist based here in the Twin Cities. We've done a little bit of work with her in the past, but this was the first time that she's sort of come in to our music, and she laid down a fabulous marimba track on 'Emmanuel.' We came up with the idea three days before we were supposed to record it, called her that day, and said, 'Are you free in two days to come play this on the album?' And, of course luckily she was."
"Yeah, and I think it could have been easy for us to have that idea three days before and say there's no way that that's going to work," Olivia adds. "But we just heard it so clearly in our heads, we thought we've got to ask."
Olivia Diercks, and Karla Colahan, The OK Factor, continue to think outside the box with their instruments. Click above for the extended interview, or download the podcast wherever you get podcasts, to hear more about this recording.
The OK Factor (official site)