Who Are Ya?! - Breaking It Down With Olan
Article by: Jessica Duncan
Luzana Flores, who performs using the stage name Olan, has been making music since she was eight years old. She was born close to Savannah, Georgia but grew up in Columbus, Georgia because her dad was stationed at Fort Benning. The name Olan came about during a flight from Belgium to Korea with her dad. They had a stop in Finland where they went into a restaurant to grab some food. She looked up an item on the menu, olan, which is an Indian soup. She used the name initially for a photography project she started while living in Korea, but ended up keeping it as her stage name.
Olan received piano lessons as a child but wasn't very serious about music until she joined the orchestra in middle school. Then in high school, she was more interested in cross country but an illness prevented her from pursuing it further, so at 14 she leaned back into music, focusing on writing songs and learning how to record bands. She learned how to play guitar and bass, and she is also a vocalist. Back during high school, she was listening to bands with strong female vocalists like Paramore and Flyleaf as well as R&B, Hip Hop and Soul.
Olan began producing at age 17 in 2011, starting with Cakewalk and since moving on to Ableton. She was inspired by bands that use electronic elements to make complex music like Little Dragon, Bonobo, Mutemath, Miike Snow, Phantogram, Two Door Cinema Club and LCD Soundsystem.
She also draws inspiration from electronic artists and songs, like long-time collaborator Mat Zo’s debut album Damage Control, specifically the song “Only For You” featuring Rachel Collier. She remembers, “That was the album that made me be like ‘Oh shit, you can do that with sounds?! This song is making me feel a lot of happy feelings.’”
“Ritual Union” by Little Dragon, “Cirrus” by Bonobo and “Warp 1.9” by The Bloody Beetroots are other electronic songs that stood out to her. Other influences include Porter Robinson, Chromeo, The M Machine, The Prodigy, and Fatboy Slim.
Mat Zo has been very influential on her sound and her career. “I compare him to Pai Mei from Kill Bill and I’m Uma Thurman’s character. How I attack songwriting, how I go about my production, how I go about how I make my drums, a lot of that comes from being at Mat’s house for weeks on end.” She first connected with him seven years ago through Twitter when he was looking for vocalists.
She sent him some vocals he liked and he invited her out to his house to record a song. They bonded over recording live instruments and it led to the creation of three songs from his album Illusion of Depth: “Problems,” “Colours,” and “Paralysis.” They have also created a side project called RollCage that is more focused on being a live band than an electronic act. For anyone who hasn’t previously listened to any of her songs, she recommends checking out “Promise to Keep,” “After Life,” and the RollCage song “Killer.”
There were a few months when she took a break from making music because she was going through a phase where she was comparing herself too much to Mat Zo and his other artists like Chee, Shadient and Kraysh. She recalls, “I wasn’t like any of those people and I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted Mat to like me.” She felt like she couldn’t keep up with bass sound designers, but that wasn’t the type of music she was trying to create anyways.
Olan’s sound is a mixture of all the different genres of music she enjoys. According to her “Breakbeat just feels like the closest thing to what I do want to make, which is rock records with a hip-hop influence. My goal is to incorporate breakbeat, big beat, and have gritty and punk elements.”
She doesn’t listen to a lot of electronic music anymore, instead listening to more hip-hop and R&B. She admires Isaiah Rashad, Ari Lennox, SZA and Daniel Caesar, and she listens to Khruangbin a lot. Of course, she still loves going to DJ sets and dancing.
If she could collaborate with anyone on a song, her top choices would be Little Dragon, Darren King (the drummer from Mutemath), Isaiah Rashad, Ari Lennox, Baby Keem or Kendrick Lamar. Some female artists she would like to work with are Nia Archives, Pink Panthress, TSHA and Logic 1000.
She lived in Las Vegas from 2016 to 2018 and says, “Vegas is probably the one place I have the most formative memories of things that determined who I am as a person and as an artist. Vegas set the standard for a lot of why I am the way I am.” The Rabbit Hole Collective was the group that gave her a lot of her earliest shows. She used to play at the Bunkhouse Saloon, reminiscing “I usually got first pick if there was an act I wanted to open for playing there, I could just ask. Because of that, I was able to open for Neon Indian, Elderbrook, and Kaki King.” She also worked with groups like Bodywork, Crykit’s Playhouse, Collective Zoo and We The Beat. I was fortunate enough to see Olan open for Big Gigantic at Collective Zoo’s Block Party in 2019.
Some of the most memorable moments of her music career so far have happened in the last few years. In 2017, she played her first club show ever in Los Angeles with Mat Zo, A-Trak and The M Machine. In June 2018, she played a set for Mixmag and got to meet Paavo from Above & Beyond, which helped start her partnership with Anjunadeep.
In 2019, Olan secured a spot to play the Corona Electric Beach stage at EDC Las Vegas. From there, she started to play at a club called Ravine in Atlanta, where she was able to open for artists like Domebresky, Laidback Luke and SNBRN. At the end of 2020, she played one of Insomniac’s Park N Raves alongside Mat Zo and Kill The Noise.
Her song “In Motion” with Nourey landed on the cover of Spotify’s New Music Friday Cratediggers in March of 2021. She also had the opportunity to play Red Rocks Amphitheater with Above & Beyond in October 2021. And 2022 has already been a jam-packed year, with performances at both Beyond Wonderland and Ultra Miami already in the books.
Olan’s debut album Contra will be released via Anjunadeep on June 10. She wrote a lot of it while streaming during the pandemic lockdown in 2020. The electronic elements of it were more of an afterthought. It was partially inspired by the video game Outer Wilds, where in Olan’s words “one of the main themes is things only have meaning because you perceive them and choose their meaning. A lot of Contra is basically me trying to unpack that.”
One of the things she’s most excited about is that the album is being released on vinyl — “I’m mostly excited to hold a physical copy.” If you’re a vinyl collector and want to add a copy to your collection, you can order it from the Anjuna Music Store. Her friend Kyle is also creating a one-of-a-kind refurbished boombox with a Contra theme that she is planning a giveaway for. She’s also excited to finally have these songs released because they have been finished for a long time. “I’m realizing the reward of once songs are out, people sing along to them and that’s really fun,” she remarks.
Prior to her album release, Olan released multiple singles with AjunaDeep. “Anjuna is a really good place to develop, which is what they’re letting me do. It has been life-changing.” There were other opportunities that fell through, but everything worked out as it was supposed to. RollCage’s songs have been released through Kitsune.
In addition to releasing her album, some other goals for her project include the ability to tour behind the album and the creation of a live show experience. “I’ve always dreamed of having a two-to-four piece band on stage so there is room for error and improv.” She also plans to continue honing in on her sound to get it closer to the sound that she wants. This includes writing more and creating songs that are meant for a live band. Another goal is to release songs on Ninja Tune “just to have the freedom to drop an R&B record and no one would freak out.”
You can catch Olan on tour this summer at Electric Forest, Anjunadeep’s Open Air in Denver, and Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy Weekender. She is looking forward to getting more comfortable DJing and building up her live show repertoire. If she could play shows anywhere in the world, she would like to play in South America, particularly Brazil and Argentina. She would also like to have shows in Africa, specifically Nigeria. Some places a little closer to home include Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. According to Olan, “I want to eat food and experience what the people are like” in those places.
Outside of creating music, Olan is a big foodie. She likes to cook and enjoys going to dinner with friends and doing wine tastings. While traveling, she enjoys watching Bobby Flay and the Food Network. She’s even been debating whether or not to start doing some cooking streams in addition to her production streams. But now that she travels more, she has come to enjoy the quiet of being at home and spending time with her Beagle, Lily.
Stay up to date with everything Olan has going on and listen to Contra when it’s released later this week using the links below. You can catch her streaming on either her YouTube channel or Anjuna’s YouTube channel every Wednesday at 2:00 pm ET.
CONNECT with OLAN:
LISTEN to OLAN: