Experimental duo Oscar + Martin first captivated our ears back in 2010, when former members of the popular quintet Psuche, Oscar Slorach-Thorn and Martin King, drew fans both old and new with mesmerising beats and playful melodies. Their onstage charisma and clever song writing have since led them to supporting such distinguished acts as Gotye, Architecture in Helsinki, Caribou and Four Tet. Yet it’s not easy becoming a recognised talent in Melbourne, and even when you do, how do you go about progressing beyond the local music scene and establishing yourself in the wider world?
“I think it's hard here because you could be doing something really next level and it can go unnoticed really easily,” Slorach-Thorn muses. “I get the sense that in more Mecca kind of cities there's a breed of person who's looking for music and trying to put it out there and working in that industry, whereas here it's very rare that you'll go to a gig and some industry person will come up to you and be, like, ‘Hey, I work for this label and you know, kid, you've got something’.”
As Slorach-Thorn points out, there is also the difficulty of pinpointing a distinctive Australian ‘sound’ in our relatively green cultural history. “We [Australia] have never really had a defining style of music or genre that the world knows us for. So people talk about, say, electronic music from the UK and there's such a legitimacy to that because there's such a culture and a history of it.”
What makes Oscar + Martin a standout act, however, is that there is no one else out there that sounds quite like they do. Tape loops, miniature keyboards, guitars and drum machines are among their arsenal. From hip-hop and R&B to electro and indie pop, the Oscar + Martin sound tends to blend and engage with a variety of musical stylings. Their rhythms are complex, their harmonies are unusual and their lyrics sincere and rich in detail.
Concerned about the limitations of bringing out records in Australia, they have considered the possibility of making music elsewhere. “There's just the sense that, you know, you're just some guy down the block, I can't take what you do seriously,” Slorach-Thorn says.
Yet, it is their suburban roots that give the pair so much charm. Upon asking the Fitzroy North-based lads what they’ve been up to, King responds with boyish enthusiasm: “Mostly just hanging out and playing basketball together.”
Although it has been a year and a half since the release of their stunning debut album, For You, Oscar + Martin have been up to a lot more than just team sports. With both parties focusing on an array of side projects including Brothers Hand Mirror, The Harpoons and Oscar Key Sung, the Oscar + Martin project has been biding its time, and preparing for what’s to come.
“The way I sort of see it is, if we are going to do more Oscar + Martin stuff, it's got to be next level,” says King. “We want to make it go further than what For You did. It’s got to be more calculated.”
That said, they have come a long way since For You. “I feel like I was a kid when I wrote those songs,” Slorach-Thorn reflects. “I feel so much more adult now. I feel like life is so much more real. There’s no way we could make that [album] again.”
So what’s next on the cards for Oscar + Martin? “We often talk about doing a boy band together,” King says with a surprising lack of irony. By ‘boy band’ he is, of course, talking about the real deal: late 90s sensibility, matching outfits and cheesy posters.
“I thought it was a joke at first, but we've got the members ready,” Slorach-Thorn laughs. “Our friend has been going to the gym, like, every day.”
And though they assure us they will be not be channelling One Direction for inspiration, they plan to do it old school. “N*Sync,” Slorach-Thorn clarifies. “That’s the vibe. And harmonies, straight-up, a one loop beat the whole time, and some good moves, and some just, like, really romantic songs, and choreographed dances, and some cool hats.”
“Golden era boy band shit,” King concludes wistfully. “Do you think it would be cool?”
Oscar + Martin are playing at The Garden Party festival this Friday night (February 8) with Van She and Softwar.
We are giving away a double pass to Oscar + Martin's show at The Garden Party on Friday 8 February. To win, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Oscar + Martin' in the subject line.
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