3rd-year BCIT Architecture Sciences student Kieran Jenkins is on a path to success, both in the classroom and in the studio where he produces tracks under the name OAKUM. Lately, Kieran’s been getting more attention and more chances to play his music for a live crowd, and he’s loving every minute of it. We sat down with Kieran before he heads off on a study exchange to Germany next semester, to get a unique look into the mind of a musician we think will be in regular rotation on your playlists from now on.
photos by Jake Agudera
When and how did your love of music start?
It was back in grade 5 when I had to choose my instrument for band. I went to the store and rented a bass guitar, and we ended up having trials because there were too many bass players. I remember thinking my fingers were too soft, so I’d be stepping on my fingers to rough up my hands. Once I got to play in the band, I kind of fell in love. I remember there was a grade 12 band and the teacher would show the music they play, and I remember wanting to learn it, so I asked him for the music and memorized it. I played it for a grade 12 guy and he was like “What the heck?” From then on I did all the music stuff I could, especially jazz band.
When did you realize you wanted to start making music yourself?
It was when I had to do solos in jazz band, and I loved it so much that I started making my own lines and stuff. It was during high school that I got my first program for making music. That inspired me to start working on things on my own.
Listening to some of your stuff, I got a chill vibe to your recent music. What are the emotions you try to evoke from those listening?
Whenever I make a song, it seems like whatever emotion I’m feeling at the moment is the emotion that comes through in the song. Some of my songs on SoundCloud are very chill, and that comes because sometimes when I make music I sit in the dark with my headphones on playing the piano. I’m trying to progress my music because now that I’m getting DJ opportunities, I want to get into more stuff that people can vibe to on the dance floor. I’m trying to make more beats now and transition my music. I’m also trying to find singers to collab with, because I think singing adds a lot more emotion and makes songs more memorable.
Where did the name OAKUM come from?
I actually had an old name on my original SoundCloud account. For this one, I wanted it to have the sound and look match the music. For my business card it has this gold leaf around it. And I tried to make the name sound organic and to do with nature.
Why did you switch names? Was it a rebranding of sorts?
I started in grade 11 and 12, when people started listening to my music. Looking back there, the production quality wasn’t up to where it was now. Eventually I felt like I should just make an EP. It didn’t match the old style, plus I had left high school. I didn’t want people to associate me with my older stuff, so I wanted this to only have the best stuff I’ve produced.
What do you get personally out of making music?
Whenever I’m stressed, it’s really nice to sit back and get that release. When I need to relax, I’ll just pull out my computer and make a light melody. Even at school, I’ll just start playing piano on my program to change my mood. If something comes from that, great, but if not, it just helps me ease my mind. It also depends on what kind of music I’m making. If I make a chill track, I’m mellow after. If I make an awesome drop, I’m hyped and want to listen to it loud in my car. I guess it depends on what comes from the vibe of the song.
“Because music is subjective, your success can depend on if other people like it, so it’s a much bigger risk.”
You’re a 3rd-year architecture student here at BCIT. Going back to high school, did you always plan to pursue something like that in school or was there a consideration of going all-in on music?
Throughout high school, I was super involved with music. My teacher loved me and pushed me to pursue it. I also took an architecture drafting course, and I loved that too. Oftentimes, the two would overlap and I’d have to forego music opportunities. At a certain point, it seemed like music was the harder, riskier route to take, whereas architecture is much more stable. Because music is subjective, your success can depend on if other people like it, so it’s a much bigger risk. I ended up choosing architecture at BCIT because I liked it and thought it was going to provide me with a stable job. I figured music could be a side gig and something I did in my free time.
Being a full-time student at BCIT is a serious time commitment. How do you find balance between your busy schedule and trying not to sacrifice your music?|
The last two years we didn’t have a studio, so I was at school most of the time and I’ve had trouble finding time to make music. There were times where I wanted to make a song and had an idea in my head, but it wasn’t able to turn into anything. I remember during high school, I would go to my mom and tell her I wanted to go to music school and I had made up my mind, and she was supportive. But I would go back and think about the stability of architecture. It was very back and forth.
How do you feel about your decision now?
I definitely wonder if I had risked it and gone all-in on music, where would I be now? When you continue making music, you’re always in the zone it seems. There are times when school gets in the way of being creative with music, because architecture is very technical. It totally takes me out of the creative mindset, so I opt against trying to make music.
Looking forward, is your intention to always have music as a side gig while you pursue a career in architecture?
I want to keep architecture going. I have a job right now, and want to keep one hundred percent focus on that. At the same time, when I’m working, I’ll have more free time than I do currently in school. When I graduate, I want to really push my music by finding singers, working in studios, making a proper mix, and also ramping up my DJing. I want to be able to work my day job in the day, then at night play a gig or record a song.
If things started really working out with your music, would you consider putting architecture on hold?
If all of a sudden I was DJing big venues, people started to know me and I could start traveling with my music, I would definitely leave architecture. It would be a big risk, but music is my passion. So the moment I get a big connection, I would take days off work or do whatever it takes to jump at the opportunity. I really want to push it right now, and I think I would definitely be willing to take a risk. I feel like I’m at the point where I can really make something cool if I put a hundred percent of my energy into it. I think once I get that first big break, architecture will become less of a priority. If I could make enough money with music, I would just keep rolling with that.
“I really want to be able to travel around with my laptop and mini keyboard.”
You’re going to Germany for exchange in March. What role is music going to play in your trip?
I live with my parents, so I’m just excited to be living in my own place and be able to play my music loud. I have some German friends with music connections. A couple DJs who play in the area. I’ll be bringing all my music stuff with me, and I really want to be able to travel around with my laptop and mini keyboard. Then if I find a place that’s cool and unique, I want to be able to stay there for a day and write a tune, and name it after the place I’m at. It would be incredible to write an album while I’m there that is a compilation of songs from different places, all with feelings of the places I wrote them in. When I write a song, I always think back to how I felt in the moment, and this would be the best possible way to remember Germany.
You just had your first big gig. Tell me about that experience.
When I’m playing, I totally get in the zone. Seeing a crowd like that in front of me, something I had never experienced before, it made me realize for sure that I could see myself doing that every day. It’s so much fun and I love getting a reaction out of the crowd. Even when I’m at home playing in front of my window, time will fly by. All of a sudden it’s two in the morning and I realize I have school, but I don’t want to stop. This gig definitely just confirmed that I could do this and love every second. There is an event going on that is basically a BCIT Christmas party on the 15th, and its downtown at the Harbour Centre. I’m playing with about 500-800 people there, before the Redbull DJ. I want to be super prepared for that and practice so much. It’s a two-hour time slot and it’s a big opportunity to make a connection with the DJ and show what I can do. I get shivers just thinking about what it’s going to be like in front of that many people.
What does the dream scenario for your music career entail?
Initially, to be able to travel around and play sets for people all the time. Touring and travelling would be so fun. Then after that, just be able to focus on making music and also figure out how to make a great show for people. The ideal scenario would be to tour around the world, play my show, go back to the studio and make an album, then go back out and tour. I would love that and keep doing that forever.
There’s still time to get tickets to see OAKUM play live at the BCIT Holla Day party (December 15 @Harbour Centre). If you miss the show though, OAKUM is down to play your next club event, house party or fundraiser, and is open to collaborating on video projects that need chill music to go along with it. Email OAKUM at: email@example.com