– GULLIVER’S, MANCHESTER –
My first thoughts about this evening are that there is some impressive lipstick on display – probably from the same stick by the looks of things. Melbourne’s Oh Pep! are Olivia Hally and Pepita Emmerichs – so that’s ‘O’ and ‘Pep’ – backed tonight by a male drummer and bass player, whose lippy makes him resemble Ezra Furman. The showcase tonight (apart from the lipstick) will be songs from their debut album Stadium Cake which was released earlier this year on Dualtone Records.
At only 24 years of age, Oh Pep display a precocious nature highlighted by their insightful lyrics and catchy hooks. It is an experience of a contemporary coming-of-age story; asking questions about self-empowerment on ‘Wanting’ – “I didn’t learn how to say ‘no, you just can’t have it your way all the time’.” During ‘Tea, Milk & Honey’ Hally attempts to channel ‘all the sadness in the room’ with a lonesome ballad about moving on. You can feel the transparency of Hally’s performance as she gazes about the room, the rest of the band stand frozen and silent – “My baby talks at a mile a minute. She sings like a church with a choir in it.” swoons Hally, but people chatting in the audience soften the impact of what is otherwise a touching and powerful song. The chatters amongst us don’t play the villains all night – Emmerichs resembles Annie Clark during her impressive mandolin playing during ‘Only Everyone’ prompting cries of admiration post-solo.
Hally’s voice is quite extraordinary, almost nonchalantly impressive. Her voice has an old-timey quality that is befitted artists like Laura Marling; young and wise beyond her years but without the bleakness and stone-cold gaze persona.
The album’s title comes from when would Hally chant ‘Stadium Cake’ over and over in the studio before takes; this was to remind them that they could one day play to a packed stadium and therefore be able to eat cake. How sweet. Like the album’s title the band was also created circa 2009, which means this album is seven years in the making. Hally explains all this to the audience prior to their last song (aptly titled ‘Afterwards’). It’s a very compelling story; one which is a subtle reminder of the trials and tribulations that new bands face when starting out. They are a long way from home tonight, much like when they recorded the album in Nova Scotia – ‘The furthest place away from Melbourne’. Perhaps they are deserving of a bigger crowd but Oh Pep has made a connection with us with a captivating and honest performance – one worthy of a stadium appearance, and a shit-load of cake.
This review was originally published on Silent Radio