On the phone with Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs, the eponymous core of Oh Pep!, I disgraced myself, three minutes in, by asking the ultimate hack question, “How would you describe the music on the EP?” Luckily they knew something about it: “We do write pop songs [but] the way we arrange them, our influences are very much from folk music.” Lyrically they diverge from pop as well, travel and The Sea prominent among their recurring motifs. “We’ll have a song based on a myth or folklore, things more associated with folk than pop, which might just be about love all the time; my boyfriend this, my boyfriend that.”
Their impulse towards folk music was always strong, even when focused on other genres. The two became friends in the classical music hothouse of the VCA Secondary School, Liv studying guitar and vocals, and Pepita classical violin. They were drawn together by chance and extra-curricular taste. “It was so refreshing to find a friend who could understand someone like Ryan Adams.” Taking out a list of the artists they bonded over, they recite a diverse pantheon from folk, country and rock: Leonard Cohen, Townes van Zandt, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Björk, Arcade Fire, and “Paul Kelly. Heaps of Paul Kelly.”
From 2009 they played mainly as a duo before forming the current five piece lineup in mid-2011. The group came together through mutual admiration, seeing each other play around the traps. “Justin (Olson) jumped right on board as soon as we asked him. He’s a jazz drummer but mainly plays pop. He comes at the tunes from a different angle.” They met bass player Stuart West when they supported his other band at a Melting Pot gig and he enthused over their music. “We asked him to play double bass and he’s awesome. We didn’t want a bluegrass or country type of bass. He’s an electric player so he has this really groovy thing going on all the time.” Paddy Montgomery (bouzouki, mandolin) had only recently moved from Adelaide. “Incredible all-round folk musician. Plays about twenty instruments…the first time we jammed he just fitted right in straight away.”
It’s clearly worked out well, supporting Vaudeville Smash and Liz Stringer amongst others, and playing around town at the Espy, the Corner, the East, and taking out the songwriting award at the Maldon Folk Festival. They hit the studio for five days in April-May to lay down the EP, recording it live at producer Cam Trewin’s suggestion. “Though there was no audience there we still conjured up the same vibe… the energy is so important in what we do and [the songs] just kind of blossomed.”
Taking a break post-recording, Pep studied overseas and Liv spent time in central Australia. “We’re keeping it fresh for the launch… but we’re rehearsing now [and] we’ve written quite a few new songs.” They compose as a duo, but “we’re getting so many rehearsals and getting tighter and more of a band sound now. We haven’t played them [for an audience] before… so that’ll be fun at the launch.”
And will more boyfriends turn to seafaring wanderers and spurned lovers become vengeful Sirens? We’ll have to go and find out.
Oh Pep! will launch their EP at the Toff in Town on September 6, supported by Canary and Staffan’s Songs (francolin). This will be followed by a residency at Pure Pop Records throughout September.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsSF Lyons
SF is a Melbourne based freelance writer. He is also working on a novel and some stories. His musical tastes are catholic, crippled by authoritarian impulses and nebulous feelings of guilt. He recently obtained a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing from RMIT but isn't sure where to put it.