Words by Oliver Marshall
To say Oh Pep! are a band on the rise may be an understatement. The Melbourne band is currently on a massive European and US tour ahead of the release of their debut LP Stadium Cake on July 1st. Fresh from signing a US record deal with Dualtone Records (home of the Lumineers) and being named NPRs 2016 band to watch, things are looking pretty great for the pop/folk outfit. I caught up with vocalist/guitarist Olivia Hally and Mandolinist/fiddliest Pepita Emmerichs to talk about touring, the upcoming album and pottery classes.
You are in the UK on your European tour and you’ll head off soon to the States soon, how is everything going at the moment?
Olivia: Its been going swimmingly, its been going really good. We’ve been away for over a month so I’m just going back to the start, when we first started playing shows in Europe in April, we were opening for Lake Street Dive at these really huge venues with big crowds and everyone was incredible it was a bit of a shock to the system. You know you rock up in a foreign country and you just play these amazing venues. We’ve been very lucky, I’ve been having a really great time.
You’ve been touring for a month so far and you’ve got a lot more to do, do you think you will get sick of each other?
Olivia: Oh sure, we get sick of each other sometimes, is that an ok thing to say? I think that happens whether we are at home or on tour, its like being on tour with your sister.
Pepita: Its good to have some tension (laughs).
Doctor Doctor is the first single off the upcoming album Stadium Cake, is that the kind of vibe we can expect from a lot of the songs?
Olivia: I mean that (Doctor Doctor) is a good sense of the production of the album and I think that, that song was a great choice for a first single, because it had all the stuff we considered to be Oh Pep! elements in it, which was cool so yeah it is a good indication of what’s coming up.
Pepita: It’s totally a pop song but then it’s got some extra beats here and there and then some big chromatic parts and a funky instrumental. All those things that we usually try to get into a song, there’s lots of ups and downs in the album and although it a pop production essentially we definitely try and have a lot of different moods that are covered, tempos and feels and things like that.
Leading on from that, you do have a few different genres mixed into your songs, like pop and folk for instance, so what are some of your influences?
Olivia: In the past 2 years I’ve been listening to a lot of Lucinda Williams, I mean we listen to new stuff all the time, those kind of people, but Lucinda Williams and Cake have been around high priority for a while now. We come from a classical musical background so there’s that and jazz, you know we listen to all sorts of stuff. What would you Say Pep?
Pepita: well for me I’ve been listening to a bunch of Radiohead, it had taken a long time for me to get into, a lot of people had said check them out.
Olivia: that’s probably the reason you didn’t right?
Pepita: yeah that’s right, ahh nah haha, but yeah I’ve been listening to a lot of Radiohead and Liv introduced me to the Alabama Shakes, they’re just incredible, that new album is great, its so groovy and I think we’ve been pretty into beats and grooves for a while. Hopefully that comes through in the album.
Olivia: We are playing a festival this week (Primavera Sound Festival) and Radiohead are playing. Its one of those moments where its like is that actually happening?
Bob Boilen from NPR said you are his ones to watch this year and last year it was Courtney Barnett, so I mean obviously he was pretty right about that, so is that really exciting to be talked about in that kind of vein?
Olivia: Oh for sure, I mean, you just never know with that kind of stuff. I think when Bob Boilen asked us to do NPR it was a great thing he came up to us after a show and was like hey I want you to do tiny desk (concert) and I was like yeah I love that, I would love to do tiny desk and then it just kind of eventuated and it was this kind of bold naivety that keeps occurring and when stuff like that comes up your like thanks. We are super grateful for everything that’s going on and you know constantly trying not to take it for granted because it means a lot when someone says that regardless of who they are.
Just on that NPR Tiny Desk concert, Pepita you play the violin kind of like a ukulele, is that something you do often because I haven’t actually seen that before?
Pepita: Yeah I do tend to do it a lot, I really like the sound of plucked violin and also holding it like that comes from playing mandolin as well, so I’m used to holding it like that but you can kind of do a little bit more as well. You can alternate what strings you’re plucking and what patterns, much easier than if you were holding it up like a classical fiddle player would. Also I have seen other people do that, it can be a jazz thing sometimes when a fiddle players is plucking the chords when they are not playing a solo, so I probably stole it from someone, I definitely did.
So with Doctor Doctor, it’s a fantastic song lyrically I particularly like the line “I know what I want and its not what I need” so can you tell us what the song means and the context of that line?
Olivia: That song and that line in particularly rings true for so many that’s why you sometimes see people singing it with such conviction, it’s like yeah I totally know that feeling. All the choruses are talking about when you are asking everybody else advice on stuff but you already know the answer, like you already know what you want but you know that everybody else is going to tell you its not what you need to do because that might be the right advice but you are probably going to end up doing what you want anyway. So yeah that song covers a lot of bases.
You touched on it before but the crowds over there in Europe are treating you pretty well?
Olivia: Yeah well there’s such a great listening culture over here, that’s a bit of a generalisation but for the most part the crowds have just been crazy great, like that first show in Paris we were like taken aback by it all, there’s a room full of people and it’s dead silent. That’s amazing for a support, you never know with the support act sometimes. I’ve gone to see plenty of shows where no ones there because they are waiting for the headliner or whatever.
Pepita: It seems very punctual here I guess people turn up when the doors are open and they are there for the support act and then for the main guys.
Olivia: Then also our headline shows have been really exciting as well, having a bunch of people there who are familiar with our stuff, that’s more pinch me moments. Its like oh cool we are on the other side of the world and this persons like “I know what I want and it’s not what I need”. I remember the first time that actually happened because I saw someone singing that song because of NPR and I went up to them afterwards, again completely naively and was like ahhh how do you know that song (laughs) I saw you singing along where did you hear it?
Pepita: Its like I saw it on NPR Yesterday and we’re like oh yeah that came out, you just never know how far things are going or who’s going to be there. Or what that song means to somebody else.
When you go to America you are doing a couple of shows with Lord Huron as well who have been around for a long time and are very well established, are you looking forward to that?
Olivia: Oh man when we arrive in America our first show is with Nathaniel Rateliff and Lord Huron as well they are like by far the biggest shows I’ve ever done it will be like 7 and a half thousand people on the first show we play. I don’t even know what that feels like. So that’s going to be crazy. In saying that there’s a lot of different shows on that tour, there not all to 7 and a half thousand people (laughs).
Yeah I was looking at the dates on the tour and I couldn’t believe how many there were, I mean is that slightly daunting as well as exciting?
Olivia: I don’t know I mean we, well actually ill speak for myself here (laughs), I love touring a lot and because that’s all I want to be doing right now, so it’s not that daunting. Sometimes I’m like geez next time I can I don’t know, hold up I’m trying to think of something I want to do when I get home other than take pottery classes. Next time I can go to my favourite beach will be August or November sometimes I’m like oh that’s a long way away, but things go so fast when you are away. What do you reckon, do you love touring?
Pepita: Yeah I love touring but yeah that is true the next time you do get to do this is in however many months but in the meantime using the beach example you might get introduced to 5 different beaches, that’s just super fantastic, you are meeting new people all the time, it’s a very adrenaline filled lifestyle you live when you are touring, its hard to get sick of it.