Comprised of Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs, Melbourne, Australia-based electro folk duo Oh, Pep! derive their name from the first names of both members of the act, and they can trace the origins of their collaboration to when both Hally and Emmerichs were studying a a music secondary school. And with the release of three critically praised EPs since 2012, the duo have received both national and international attention — they played a series of widely praised sets at last year’s CMJ Festival, which were praised by KCRW, and NPR’s Bob Boilen, who invited the duo and their backing band to perform a NPR Tiny Desk Concert set, which you’ll see above. Adding to a growing nationally and internationally recognized profile, Hally and Emmerichs also made appearances at The Woodford Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, The National Folk Festival in Canberra, and Folk Alliance International, Kansas City, and at the 2014 The Age Music Victoria Awards, the duo was nominated in the Young Folk Performer of the Year and Best Folk Roots Category, winning the nod for Young Folk Performer of the Year.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may know that 2016 may be the biggest year to date for the duo, as their much-anticipated full-length debut Stadium Cake is slated for a June 24, 2016 release through Dualtone Records. Recorded in Echo Lake, Nova Scotia last August with producer Daniel Ledwell, Stadium Cake reportedly has the duo subtly expanding upon the songwriting approach and sound that first won them attention — in particular, an uncanny ability to write buoyant and ethereal pop that possesses an underlying bittersweet sadness as the songs focus on fully fleshed out characters, who suffer from self-doubt, heartache, confusion, crippling indecision and an ability to move forward with their lives while life and their cohorts seem to be rushing past them. In some way, the material sounds and feels as though it accurately captures the uncertainties, compromises and difficult decisions we find ourselves in as we try to set our own paths.
This particular NPR Tiny Desk session features two somewhat stripped down versions of songs which I’ve previously written about — set opener “The Race” points out life’s heartbreak with an ironic whimsy, thanks to Hally and Emmerich’s harmonies and a buoyant hook in a song that at its very core seems to say “Life will always break your heart. You’ll find a way to move on — mostly. ” “Doctor Doctor,” the first single off Stadium Cake and the second song of the set is a song that clearly possesses the underlying tension between carefully crafted, hook-laden pop and thoughtful and confessional singer/songwriter balladry; in fact, this version reveals the plaintive and urgent yearning within the song that listeners may have initially missed. Closing out the set is a mournful and beautiful “Tea, Milk and Honey” a song which focuses on a dysfunctional relationship in which the song’s narrator recognizes will end in a complicated and messy fashion — and worse, yet the narrator is subconsciously aware of the fact that in life things often begin and end at their own pace. Not only is the song one of the more mature songs they’ve released to date, it’s by far the most emotionally honest and thoughtful.
Certainly, what I enjoyed about this particular NPR Tiny Desk Concert is the fact that although the Australian duo have clearly traveled halfway around the world, they’re clearly thrilled and amused to be a part of a concert series that they’ve watched and admired for years on end. Most of the time, they seem to be aware of the moment’s surreal quality — and it’s a touching reminder that at the end of the day, we started out as fans of a particular show or artist.
You can catch Hally, Emmerich and company throughout the Spring and Summer as they’re in the middle of a lengthy world tour that includes a June 29 stop at The Mercury Lounge.