welcome home, Oh Pep!
Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs, aka Oh Pep!, have just returned home to Melbourne when I catch up with one half of the duo for a quick chat. They could be forgiven for briefly forgetting where home is, having completed six stints of touring in the USA over the past two years.
‘When we go back now, it’s like we’re visiting really good friends. It really is like a second home,’ Emmerrichs tells me.
While the pair met in high school and have been working together ever since, they made a huge blip on the international musical radar when they appeared on the highly coveted NPR Tiny Desk in 2015. It was where I, and many others, first heard the addictive blend of folk/pop and I ask how the gig came about.
‘It was a really surreal experience when we did it,’ Emmerichs says, ‘we drove from New Orleans the day before, which to get to Washington DC is a very long drive. We had been up for 24 hours then we played the Tiny Desk, so it felt even more surreal than it was already, running on complete adrenalin… It’s great because it’s such a simple thing that you’re doing, and so chilled out, then all of a sudden it’s everywhere, so in a way it’s quite nice.’
I ask about what kind of impact the show had on the trajectory of the band.
‘It really impacted our reception everywhere,’ Emmerichs says, ‘It’s just such a huge piece of media. I feel like so many musicians, including us, have watched that for years and years, and discovered so many people through it. We still have people coming up to us at shows wherever it may be, saying we found you through Tiny Desk.’
Since, debut album Stadium Cake was released in June 2016, after recording with producer Daniel Ledwell in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hally and Emmerichs had previously worked with Ledwell for two tracks on their previous EP, Living, and commented that he made the process ‘really fun and creative.’ The lush and melodic tracks encapsulate the essence of the collaboration, with delicate harmonies juxtaposed against lyrics that are deep and poetic exploring themes of uncertainty, desire and empowerment in highly relatable packages of toe tapping goodness.
While spending so much time on the road, I ask about whether there has been any time for writing new music.
‘We have done a couple of things, but it hasn’t been specifically for the next release… we are still going through that… it has been interesting. You don’t really have any time to just sit still and observe and then write.’
Emmerichs mentions that ‘the writing process is always changing, depending on what we’re listening to’ and and lists Lucinda Williams, Mitski and Judee Sill as some of the artists that have made up their recent playlists.
Of Sill she says, ‘she’s this ethereal composer songwriter that blows me away,’ and while it’s not a direct hint at what might be to come for the band, there is definitely some similarities in the vocal prowess and folk sensibilities that make up the Oh Pep! sound.
Now, back at home, despite having a huge amount of experience under their belts, Emmerichs mentions the nerves of performing on home soil are still very present.
‘We’ve been honing our skills so much over the past few years but it’s still nerve-wracking of course, because you know the most people in Australia. A lot of your friends are at shows in Melbourne or Sydney… but even though it’s nerve-wracking, it’s also really nice to share what you’ve learned.’
The pair will be taking the stage tonight at The Corner Hotel in Richmond supporting seminal indie-folk rockers The Mountain Goats on their Australian tour.
‘ We toured with them last year in the States and we found out that the singer John Darnielle liked out stuff,’ Emmerichs tells me, ‘so we put in that we wanted to tour with them and it worked out, so we’re really lucky. Pretty much all the shows are sold out so it’s going to be great.’
You can also catch Oh Pep! in their own shows throughout April, and as for the rest of the year, Emmerich says:
‘We will keep doing all the things, which is our work now, which is so exciting. We will keep touring and we will be writing and recording, always gearing up to the next thing.’