Scott Gorski and Lindsey Miller are lucky they found each other, because it’s hard to imagine them making music with anyone else.
“You learn what you like by identifying what it is you don’t identify with,” Gorski said. “That’s an easier way of exploring and identifying what it is that resonates with you.”
Gorski plays the upright bass and sings and Miller plays cello in a duo they call Okapi. Their music draws from classical, jazz, Middle Eastern and psychedelia phrasings, and through his lyrics, Gorski tries giving artistic voice to a doctrine and philosophy written like a mission statement on the Okapi website.
“Okapi is this representation of that tabula rasa, starting fresh, and expressing this struggle of trying to become a conscious individual,” Gorski said.
Gorski came up in music playing electric bass in a variety of indie rock bands around Chicago. He wanted to step away from that when he placed an ad in Craigslist in search of a sax player and drummer. Miller was a classically trained cellist who felt bored and trapped along the orchestral performance track before answering Gorski’s ad.
That was six years ago, and they felt an immediate artistic kismet.
“I liked the open-mindedness, not necessarily being a strict genre of any sort and having room to explore and expand,” Miller said. “I was definitely an emo kid, so I really liked the angst that comes from trying to explore what this world means and all the grey areas and not exactly being happy about it.”
Okapi started as a trio, with a drummer behind Gorski and Miller, but people in Chicago didn’t know how to define, let alone appreciate their music. Gorski used his tax refund three years ago to buy an upright bass and pay for a move with Miller to New York City. By then, they were a couple both musically and romantically.
“We get along really well and I have a hard time imagining anyone else really understanding me on such a level,” Miller said.
While they found warm welcomes at venues and house shows, the cost of living and to their spirits drove them out after a year.
Gorski and Miller had passed through this area on a road trip, drew up a pro/con list of moving and planted their flag in West Asheville.
“We weren’t sure what was going to happen with music, if we were even going to continue when we moved here,” Miller said. “Something about the mountains was very healing. Basically, our souls were kind of lost in New York, trying to cope with all this roughness, we just needed a restart. It’s just turning into a much better fit, and financially, we were able to make a recording.”
That record is called “Carousel Part 1,” and it’s a concept album, of sorts. They’re already deep into the writing of “Carousel Part 2.” Okapi are launching “Carousel Part 1” with a Nov. 1 performance at Revolve in Asheville.
“The carousel is this cyclical thing that we’re all on that’s being operated by a higher power who’s having control over this carousel,” Gorski said. “There are pretty lights and sounds with beautiful statutes and horses that are keeping us entertained and distracted from what’s happening outside this carousel. This two-part record is trying to prompt us to step off this carousel and see reality for what it is.”
“People often see our music as dark or aggressive,” Gorski said. “Really, I feel it’s just very normal and embodies the whole emotional spectrum.”
“I think all this for both of us has been really finding our own voices and really the self-exploration of what really speaks to me and what do I identify with,” Miller said. “What seems to be different now, I don’t know if it’s a difference with us and our personalities and how we’re performing or if it’s the people here, but normally whenever we start to play, now, people get quiet and they pay attention, and that’s a beautiful thing.”