Avant Garde in WNC: Okapi

Okapi is the duo of Lindsey Miller (cello) and Scott Gorski (upright bass). Originally based in Chicago, they launched Okapi in 2012. While the couple describes their project as a rock duo, the music they make doesn’t conform to most people’s ideas about rock.

Miller believes that an unusual duo like Okapi “isn’t going to get as far trying to connect with people who see themselves as highbrow, people who [just want to] hear Bach for the 5000th time.” For Okapi, rock – or their version of it – is the medium for their message. “Rock has always been a way of expressing what the current times are,” she says.

The music of Okapi is in part a vehicle for the couple to share their philosophy of life. Miller says their beliefs are based upon the teachings of the philosopher Krishnamurti: “Dismantle what you feel is the truth, and seek to find the truth for yourself,” she explains.

Okapi has released a pair of albums – the spooky, subtly baroque Carousel, Pt. 1 in 2018 and a second volume in 2021. But the duo’s highest-profile endeavor to date has been scoring The Wake of Dick Johnson, a transgressive and controversial one-man play and film by Luke Walker. The duo’s mysterious and occasionally unsettling music is an effective component of the work. That challenging character is part and parcel of creating in the avant garde mediums. “People are either intrigued by something they can’t understand right away, embracing the challenge,” Gorski says, “or they’re deterred by it.”

A 2021 BPR feature on Okapi suggested that the couple “might be Asheville’s busiest touring outfit.” The duo does stay busy with performance tour dates, including upcoming local performances at Fleetwood’s (Feb. 24), Revolve (March 11) and The Grey Eagle (April 20). Both Miller and Gorski have day jobs, so the demands of touring have to be worked into an already full schedule. “We try to do local shows, tours, and one-offs,” Gorski says, “things where we can drive back that night, so we don’t miss work the next day.”