October Ember is a band comprised of husband and wife, Kevin Holland and Jennifer Dutiel, who met through The Ohio State University’s School of Music.
Though they explore a variety of genres, their sound can be described as indie-lounge, euro-cafe, quirky-pop. Jennifer incorporates the melodica and dreamy vocals partnered with Kevin’s guitar.
They were joined by Troy Kunkler on the drums and vibraphone in the studio.
“Waves” is a song that stems from discussions Jennifer and Kevin have about “being a good ripple in the pond one finds themselves in.” Kevin says that the two thought about light and sound waves and eventually found themselves liking the idea of fundamental elements connecting the universe which eventually inspired the song.
“The End” is a song written by Kevin while he was sitting on Jennifer’s mother’s couch playing on a classical nylon guitar. During that time he reflected on mortality and the limit it places on time people spend with loved ones.
He describes the song as “a love song of gratitude for any time at all that we find companionship in our lives.”
My Devil’s the Storm
“My Devil’s the Storm” was inspired by the moments in their relationship when one partner experienced a period of darkness and while the other tried to help. During the 22 years of their relationship, both experienced taking on each role and they share the importance of “stepping outside of one’s own struggle to offer love and assistance to another,” according to Kevin.
Follow The Band
Meet The Musicians
October Ember (from left): Jennifer Dutiel, Troy Kunkler, Kevin Holland
Interview with Jennifer Dutiel and Kevin Holland
Jennifer and Kevin answer some questions about their time at OSU, holidays, and their favorite instruments.
The Origin Story
Jennifer: When we first met at OSU’s School of Music, we were making music together regularly. Then I let my insecurities get the better of me, and pulled back from the process. We didn’t create together for a very long time.
Jennifer & Kevin: After years working as private guitar and piano teachers, we decided to try on different career hats. We closed down our studio, sold most of our belongings, said goodbye to friends and family, and moved to San Francisco to chase a new dream.
Even though we were making good money and enjoying the city, we hardly ever saw each other because of our work schedules, and the stress nearly tore us apart. It ended up being one of the darkest periods in our lives.
Kevin: We used to buy new instruments instead of groceries, and improvised with friends until the sun came up. Finding a romantic creative partner had been my dream since I was a kid, and I was so grateful to find that in Jennifer. Although I kept writing music and music software, she took a long break and I had to accept that collaborating wasn’t going to be a part of our lives anymore.
Jennifer: When we came back to Columbus, Kevin said to me “If we’re going back, we have to make it worth it.” I decided to stop listening to fear and instead say “yes” to his years-long invitation to be a creative partner.
Kevin: We made a pact to focus on creative work together that fueled our souls. We vowed to never again let anything get in the way of our connection. I started writing songs that reflected the emotional pain we endured while struggling to balance the demands of our lives, the artistic void we felt, and the intensity of almost losing one another. October Ember was born.
How did you come up with your band name?
Jennifer: We met in October 1997, and married in October 2003, so that month has a lot of significance for us. The “Ember” part of our name comes from a couple of places: collaborating on projects together from the embers of creativity that I turned away from for so long, and from our experiences out west being so destructive for us personally.
From that ember, we built and stoke the new fire that sustains us.
Kevin: We love the symbolic, quiet strength of an ember — it can become an inferno, or you can let it die away forever. It seemed to encapsulate our journey together, and stands as a reminder that the fire can go out if you fail to tend to it.
Give Us The Lowdown On Your Sound
Kevin: We write in whatever style seems to fit the message and tone of the lyrics, rather than limit the inspiration to one genre. We wade in jazz, pop, ambient, rock, punk, classical, electronic, to name a few. We’ve been described by different people as carnival music, Brechtian punk cabaret, folk, indie rock …
Jennifer: We like a lot of styles of music, but our elevator speech is that we’re indie-lounge, euro-cafe, quirky-pop. Between Kevin’s masterful guitar playing, Troy’s refined abilities on both drum kit and vibraphone, and the uniqueness of the melodica, I think we try to cover a lot of ground.
What is your favorite thing about working together?
Jennifer: Honestly, after more than 22 years, we still absolutely love spending time together. Creating things together and collaborating has deepened our connection even more and has been life-changing. When we’re playing live together, I’ll frequently look at Kevin as we’re performing, and I’ll sometimes struggle with trying not to cry, as I’m so moved by the experience of being in this life with him.
Kevin: Jennifer is my best friend in the world. Our bond is immense. We’ve endured intense pain together, and experienced supreme bliss in our journey so far. I can’t imagine a life more rewarding than getting to spend the majority of my existence in her presence.
What inspires you to write about certain themes like tortillas and spaceships? And what themes do you want to write about in the future?
Jennifer: We try to write mostly about things that matter deeply to us or that we’re curious about. “Tortilla” is actually a song about grief, and “Pale Blue Dot” was written because we love science and sci-fi. Some of our songs are so deeply personal and intimate, we’re taking aspects of our lives and putting them out into the world, hopefully to be received in ways that the listener relates to in their own way.
Our morning coffee conversations are frequently about space-time, how time isn’t linear in the way we perceive, consciousness, love, and radical empathy. Those are the kinds of topics that get us fired up and often make their way into our songs.
Kevin: Inspiration can come from anything – an interesting conversation with a stranger, staring at a leaf and meditating, losing a loved one, embracing one’s passion. Life is just amazing, right? There is never a drought of ideas if you stay engaged with the world. It’s been said that there are really only two themes: eros and thanatos. We certainly write a lot about both.
How have things changed (living in Columbus) compared to when you were both music students at OSU?
Jennifer: I think our relationship with the city has changed, as we’ve opened ourselves up to the community. There are so many amazing artists in this city, and so many of them are connected through various ways, it feels like it’s a much smaller town than it is. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.
Kevin: We are quite grateful for the strong arts community present here. Since moving back, we’ve made some of the closest friends and connections in our lives. Columbus is indeed a gem.