Oceanique: The Western Australian Twinduo that is the future of Australian folk.

Radio Fodder chats with indie folk duo Oceanique in support of their release show for debut album 'Would the Light Hold Me'.


Oceanique’s album launch was held in the beloved cocktail lounge Longplay. The stage was everything a cozy set should be. Flower vases were scattered on the floor, with sweet fairy lights wrapped around a merch table, covered with forest green jumpers and tees. A video compilation of regional Victora was projected onto the screen. From the stage production alone, Oceanique distinguishes itself from the familiar and sandy look claimed by the male-dominated Australian indie industry. 


Oceanique, twins Maddy and Jess, are relatively new to Melbourne. Initially from regional Western Australia, they began their musical journey by moving to Perth for study, then to Melbourne this year. The move was logistical; with their involvement in folk festivals and the release of their album Would The Light Hold Me, they wanted to “build a national audience” without “having to fly from Perth”.  This show was the start of their album tour, and what better location than Fitzroy North? 


The benefits to their artistry were also a reason for the move, with “meeting new people” and “collaborating” being a core focus. “It can be hard to find other bands to play with,” they say, referring to their folk focus within Perth’s indie scene. “We opened for a punk band once!” The two giggle. “Perth is a clash of genres, in a good way … it’s a beautiful scene!” Maddy said.


Perhaps that is why the launch openers, Benjamin Trillado, and The Rayes, were perfectly selected appetisers. Both folk artists, Trillado was charming, and The Rayes utilised harmonies similar to the main act, though distinguishable with their base use.


There is no doubt, though, that this was Oceanique’s night. The twins have a mastery over their genre, both in presentation and sound. Folk Indie can be hard to perform in gig spaces where theatrics are often necessary to engage the crowd, as a genre that encourages calmly engaged listening. But Oceanique’s beautiful, ethereal sound combined with the relaxed stage atmosphere. It invited transcendence, making it a shock to the system when it was all over. The show was resting in a beautiful field on a sunny day. To then step out on Melbourne’s harsh winter night was staggering.


It is hard to pick a specific song that shone through, though each speaks to a specific yet universal experience in true folk fashion. Their songs are rooted in coming-of-age struggles, from moving, accepting vulnerability and learning to appreciate the beauty of home town when sitting in their mum’s house. The duo spoke on this, saying that the writing of this album happened in a place “where it felt like we were stepping into the real world”.


“It was a lot of change and a lot of growth.” Jess said, “Just trying to figure out who we were”. This sentiment isn’t just explored in the lyrics, but also in the sounds. “This was the first body of work we released that I was really proud of. .. and even the album name, Will the light hold me … if you step out to this new chapter of life, would the light hold me? Will everything be okay?”.


The album came together over a two-year-long process. “Hiding From You” and “Emotional Weight”, produced by James Newhouse, were recorded first. Despite having other songs prepared, the duo created the rest of the record after recording these two songs. “It kind of just bumped the other songs off the album list”, which the two say ended up feeling right. They laughed, admitting that they didn’t mind discarding the previous songs, “I actually don’t remember what they were”, Maddy laughed.  


The coherence of this album is clear when watching the two in their album launch. Sprinkling in anecdotes like talking to tourists when they both worked similar shifts at IGA, the sisters’ charm is cordial and warm, almost as if when they sing the song after each story, you’re experiencing this situation with them. All of this charm, along with their angelic harmonies and minimalist instruments, make the duo’s work irresistible. 

The duo are songwriters through and through. “There is something really special about creating a song, and recording is a whole other thing of creation”, Maddy shares. “But I am actually at the moment really enjoying performing them”, she says, appreciating how the audience can make the song its own. 


What makes Oceanique unique is their aforementioned use of harmonies, which they can perform as angelically as they recorded. Their mastery of this technique can make anyone forget that the only two instruments on stage are a piano and acoustic guitar. The disembodied experience of letting the calm and harmonised vocals wash over you was pure comfort to the body. Though perhaps there was sincerity in this, Jess joked that the harmonies stemmed from fighting over who would sing what part. “Each of us wanted us to sing lead, so we said oh, let's chuck in a harmony in there, we’ll sing the whole song together … I love it!”.


The harmonies have always been a focus, with Maddy sharing it's her favourite part. Maddy reminisced that when the two studied, Simon and Garfunkel were largely influential, often analysing their harmonies. Studying at Leederville Tafe, the pair completed their diplomas in music performance and music business. 


“Tafe was great”, Maddy shared. Coming from a regional background, Tafe provided the duo with the tools to build a bridge between barriers in their move to the city. “It was a nice bubble to grow our sound,” said Jess. Not only was it where the two first learnt how to use harmonies, but Tafe was an essential background to how they write music now. Their education allowed the two to understand folk music more broadly. The two were not only were influenced by Simon and Garfunkel but also Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Western Australia’s The Waifs, the latter being a longterm inspiration for the two.


There is a reverence for the folk genre and the music, which you witness when watching the duo perform or listening to the album. Their carefully crafted record creates a transcendental experience where time melts as you understand this coming of age. The type of expertness comes with knowledge and respect for the form. 


Listening to Oceanique’s album at the launch, one cannot help but witness the future of Australian Folk Indie. With their charming banter, expert use of storytelling and ethereal harmonies, Oceanique is a refreshing drop in the pool of Australian Indie, and I cannot wait for their splash. 


Listen to Would The Light Hold Me album on Spotify:

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