Oscar and Martin
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Oscar and Martin

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Earlier this year, Melbourne’s Oscar + Martin released their first album, For You. It’s charming and playful, indebted as much to modern RnB and hip hop as to avant-garde pop. And it sounds as though they don’t take any influence for granted; one track plays like mutant doo wop, underpinned by naggingly dense percussion, and the next almost resembles a tranquilised Usher tune, with little but rubbish-tip percussion to cling to amidst indolent swirls of bubbling, textural synth. Listened to as a whole, one of the most striking things about the record is its consistency; it’s clear the pair share a few ideas about music.

“We both really appreciate the idiosyncratic side of sound,” says Oscar Slorach-Thorn. “We like finding objects and using tape and broken things – obscure sounds and interesting rhythms. But then we also really appreciate RnB and pop and that kind of stuff, in a very similar way. We both like romantic stuff, too. And stuff about dancing.”

Dancing. That’s one thing this music can lord over most of its peers in Australia. Without any contrivance or apparent pretence, an Oscar + Martin live set somehow manages to make everyone in a room move unselfconsciously. Arrangements melt and become malleable, billowing into jams in which both members abandon their instruments to cut loose along with the crowd. That it manages to successfully pour elements of highlife and Afrobeat into an already packed sound can be understood in the context of the music that informed the record. “I was listening to a lot of soul at the time – like Curtis Mayfield and Al Green and Marvin Gaye. But there was also stuff like Flying Lotus,” says Oscar. “With the highlife stuff, Martin’s parents run a thing called the Bawat, which is an international music thing. I really like to dance to it, and like the feel of stuff like that.”

Perhaps most importantly, For You reveals two young dudes who have their heads firmly screwed on with respect to the process of writing and arranging pop music. Some of the tracks sound as though they only just hold together for all of their generic allusions and muted weirdness, but everything – from rudimentary guitar to happy accidents arising out tape-loop experiments – has been carefully considered. This respect for the elements of a piece of music makes sense in light of Slorach-Thorn’s other musical love. “I listen to a lot of modern classical stuff like Benjamin Britten, Gavin Bryars, and Steve Reich,” he says. “I listen to that probably about 50% of the time.”

Curiously, he has the most to say about spiritual minimalist Arvo Pärt. The appeal of this composer to him is apparently ineffable, although Oscar does his best to explain it. “Arvo Pärt I listen to more than anything,” he says. “To me, it’s the sense of relationship within his music and the fact that there are clear melodic figures – the way that there is, within his music, a sense of strife and a sense of grief and flaw, and struggle. And within that music, as well, an absoluteness that comforts that struggle, holds it to itself, and caresses it within. Every single sound is so equally important.” This throws new light onto For You. Note how whole the pieces sound, in spite of their disparate and sometimes eccentric elements. It’s even more remarkable given that Oscar’s method of composition couldn’t be more different from how you’d imagine Pärt would write. “Most of my songs I write while riding my bike,” he says, “so I’m quite adept at doing chest hits and clicks and claps and stuff to make a beat – and I’ll just sing along to that while riding.”

Far from an indie affectation, this has more to do with the peace and absence of distraction that often accompanies exercise. “Your body’s just in a loop, and your mind has more space than it ever does, really,” he says. “You’ve just really got this internal place that you can kind of contemplate on things, and things just come up into your brain. They just sort of appear.” Once the spark of an - The Brag


Oscar + Martin are a lovely duo that you should have heard. If not, it’s okay – we forgive you. And now we’re going to give you a proper introduction. We had a quick chat with the Melbourne boys to find out about their music, their upcoming shows and their place in the industry as the “lovechild of James Blake and Architecture In Helsinki“. Keep reading to hear what they said…

We’ve heard your music described as “wonky pop” and “experimental pop”, what genre do you think your music best fits into?

Oscar: I think something like ‘Alt pop’ would do fine. There is no exact genre we stick to, so something as open ended as Alt pop does fine.
Martin: I read in a review some one said it sounds like R’n'B that got broken. I kinda like that.

You’re well known for using toy instruments and other random utensils on stage… what’s the craziest thing you’ve used to make music?

Oscar: We really haven’t used toys on stage for a long time, because they are quite limited, and messy to get working in a live situation. We do often sample toy keyboards and use them as a starting point for many of the synth sounds we produce. I guess when we were playing in a more intimate environment (8 or 10 friends), the toys gave the performance a particular aesthetic, but in bigger situations they are a hassle, and they get a bit lost on stage, the performance has to be more about energy.

By now, your audiences have grown and you’ve got quite a following, what have you found were the biggest differences between now and before?

Oscar:I find that less close friends are passionate about our music, and suddenly strangers are!
Martin: I had a 5 year old girl come up to me today to say hi because she liked the album so much. It was very cute… it’s kind of strange when you realise people outside of your own age group are listening to your music.

You take influence from lots of different genres, if not your own music, what do you most listen to?

Oscar: I mainly listen to (and have taken influence from) Arvo part, Bjork, Dirty Projectors, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Ghill Scott Heron and lately go through intense phases with different producers; like heRobust, Clams Casino, James Blake and the list goes on. But also locally over the last few years I have been really inspired by acts like Otouto, kid Sam, Galapagoose, Yamaboy, Wife, Scissor lock, Nick Huggins, parking lot experiments, Pikelet, and heaps more!

Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?

Oscar: From first hand experience or the experiences of my close circle mainly. I would also think that I am inspired by normal conversation, or normal phrasing. It would be lovely to have singing that sounds as genuine as speaking, but I don’t think I have achieved that just yet!!

What’s your favourite place for making music?

Oscar: It depends on what I’m making, there is something lovely about making music really quite at home late at night, like your whispering every part and instrument. But that vibe will translate into the music. I make most of my vocal ideas while riding my bike (hitting my chest and clicking my fingers) or walking home late at night, when it feels like a ghost town.

What has been your favourite show to date?

It would be pretty hard to top the Gotye shows in Brisbane last month, its rare to play to such an attentive crowd, particularly one that big.

Your label mates on Two Bright Lakes are all pretty awesome, what’s it like to be on such a roster? Do you ever collaborate?

Martin: yeah, Hazel Brown who is one of the three main label guys, also doubles as our manager. On top of that she sings on our album and gets up on stage with us at some of our shows. Also, my other band the Harpoons has recently signed to TBL, and Bec, the lead singer of that band features on a couple of O+M tracks.

You’ve just kicked off your summer tour, which will end at Falls Festival, what show are you most looking forward to?

Martin: Meredith and falls are obviousl - Purple Sneakers


I can’t remember being this excited about getting my hands on a CD for a while, nor being this fulfilled when I finally did. Trips to the record store on Friday and Monday both frustrated my desire, apparently this little Melbourne duo’s debut had sold out, an underestimation of their popularity on behalf of the shop, perhaps, or a sign of the much more widespread existence of the excitement I felt.
I finally got my hands on it on the Tuesday after its release, dug out my old Discman and connected it to speakers – ripping it would not only take too long, it seemed vaguely wrong; For You needed to envelop my living room, get some space. Give me some space too, it seemed, for the first thing I thought when the skittery, polyglottal opener ‘My Blood’ came on was, “My god, this is good”, and that was about the last thing for the rest of the album’s running time, occupied as I was bouncing around the living room like an idiot, dancing and skipping to these blissful sounds.

Oscar + Martin - Do The Right Thing by 00remotecontrol

Anyway, some background. Phoenix, ashes; you know the story. Formerly members of Melbourne ensemble Psuche, Oscar Slorach-Thorn and Martin King decided to continue the ensemble’s visionary art-pop experiments and Slorach-Thorn’s stories of romance and reincarnation, but this time with the mood set squarely on “upbeat”.
And For You is all light and air, nothing drags you down. Effusive, lean, incredibly catchy. Yet the pair have lost none of their sonic adventurousness or voraciousness – playful samples, synth squiggles and Slorach-Thorn’s incredible facility for striking vocal loops and harmonies are all here. It’s just unlike Psuche, none of these things are scratchy or arcane, but shaped into a joyous, concise malt-shop pop sensibility.
Well pop, or possibly hip-hop – so much of For You seems influenced by the latter, with its heavy-hitting digital and natural beats, wonky baselines and guest vocals (Bec Rigby’s longing, soulful cut for ‘What I Know’ is particularly amazing). With the addition of these more effusive elements, Oscar + Martin seem to have landed on an undeniably sweet spot that just evaded Psuche, creating a brilliant, propulsive set of tracks that provokes the dumbstruck, open self-description of its pleasures that I began with but – more than that – movement. Because detailing the formula these two young artists have hit upon can only suggest so much, all you really need to feel this album’s immense joy is to hear it: I just hope you can find a copy.
by Lawson Fletcher - Mess and Noise


Oscar + Martin sound like a soulful retelling of a trek to Shaky Henry's Barbershop, with a short detour via Lovers Lane on the way back to the Melbourne suburbs, courtesy of your old mate Gangsta Toby and his purple 808-and-diesel 1976 Impala Lowrider. Urgh. You know, when you spend 75% of your day deleting press releases, eventually some of their "Radiohead deep-throating R.Kelly" hyperbole will sneak into your psyche. Ticks burrowing deep into your brain like the infectious pop grooves of this record, eventually blocking messages to your soul and ultimately railroading your Sunday evening plans with Jessica, the sweet and innocent young girl you've been having casual dry-humping sessions with for three months but secretly wish was wearing a Commitment Ring matching yours. A heart-wrenching tale which, appropriately enough, is probably a fairly accurate way to describe the album's lyrical focus.

Oscar + Martin don't fit into any of your pre-defined genre boxes. Furthermore, they don't sound like any of the other endless fake clowns attempting to mimic their way through the Australian left-of-centre pop landscape with a single memorable hook and heaps of positive quotes from respected interns at the national indie radio station. A million PR monkeys working for a million days (with HR-approved breaks for launch parties, cocktail pre-release listening sessions and booking in Brag adverts) will attempt to pigeonhole their sound with a fancy label. Kitchen Sink RnB. Twitch-hop. Wonky Tropical Soul. They all (kinda) fit — if you squint your ears enough. And they're also fictional genre crazes which don't do the duo any justice.

It feels unfitting to over-analyse this. It is — quite simply — comfortable music. Oscar + Martin's feet are firmly planted in both the experimental and pop campsites, yet this record achieves the almost impossible task of stylistically contrasting itself — mostly through the large void between the heavy hip-pop basslines and the uncertain and compassionate crooning — and yet also sounding completely natural and free. Equally, this lust for balance is extended to the record's welcoming songwriting style which, even though it primarily focuses on tackling the dangerously mountainous terrain of Relationships, doesn't get lost in it's own thoughts and feelings, never alienating the listener with an overly personal, introspective attitude.

For You is a rare treat. Blissfully playful in it's uniqueness, yet welcoming, it's an album that'll appeal to you on multiple levels. The addictive pop hooks are for the first few laps, getting your toes tapping and your lady's booty shaking. Yet the album is still there later on, when your lady has moved on to a fella with a better IT management job and a huge penis. Then it will hug you tightly through the dark nights and talk you down from the edge. Undeniably one of most interesting, engaging and exciting local releases in memory. - Polaroids of Androids


An alt-pop pair show Anthony Carew you're never too young to set matters of the heart to music.
MUCH has been made of the youth of Oscar + Martin, the Melburnian wonky-pop duo who cut their killer debut LP this year, For You, when they were all of 20 years old. Before that, the pair - Oscar Slorach-Thorn and Martin King - started playing in experimental outfit Psuche, when they were 17. But Slorach-Thorn's history stretches way back before that; he's like some hipster local equivalent to a Mouseketeer.
''When I was five I performed in my uncle's band, Chabem, this kind of performance-art thing where I'd scream and throw flour at the audience,'' Slorach-Thorn, now a grizzled 21, says. ''I wrote a song called Midnight Movements, I think, when I was six. And I got up and sang it a cappella at the Empress. I remember really shaking before doing it.''
Slorach-Thorn's next musical mode was as budding adolescent guitarist. While he'd learn Led Zeppelin songs to fit in with the high-school milieu, ''a secret, ritualistic side'' was driven to write a string of more experimental songs on his own, practising a vocal warble influenced by Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone. ''My mother used to make out that I had some invisible slave-driver willing me, that I had to keep making songs,'' Slorach-Thorn says.
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This response to his adolescent existence was ''somewhere between escapism and catharsis'', he says.
''Not being able to feel calm, feel part of the world; that kind of alienation that a lot of teenagers feel, like it's an uncontrollable force. Making something validates being alive, if that doesn't sound too dramatic.''
Psuche came out of that hyper-productive time but the band - a five-piece intent on deconstruction and experimentation - were a collective effort, in which Slorach-Thorn and King were but two voices amid the cacophony.
When they started working together as a duo, they wanted to ''think about the listener more'' and apply their unorthodox approach to the orthodoxy of the pop song.
''Rather than just experimenting in every corner,'' Slorach-Thorn says, ''[we wanted to] acknowledge conventions and not be afraid to make something clear and loud and fun.''
Oscar + Martin thus charts a change from ''antisocial music'' to ''social music'', inspired by a coming-of-age in which the pair went from insular nerds - ''I used to be way more cloistered; I'd spend my days by myself making art,'' Slorach-Thorn says - to night owls who loved dancing. It also found them shedding traditional trappings of masculine ''cool'' for honesty and emotional disclosure, both personally and musically.
For You plays the part. Taking as much influence from R&B balladeering as Animal Collective, it's an LP of intense sincerity; a suite of strange, straggly takes on that most worn of all musical forms: the love song. The genesis of this can be traced to one afternoon, two years ago.
''There was this girl who I was seeing, who I was really in love with, and she had come over to hang out with me,'' Slorach-Thorn says. ''And I was ignoring her because I wanted to finish working on this beats piece I was making; like, 'Just give me a minute.' By the time I was finished and kind of 'came to', I realised she'd actually just gotten up and left at some point.
''I felt really bad, obviously; I was such a douchebag. It's really tempting to get caught up in your art and feel like other people should revolve around you and feed you and bathe you while you work but that's not cool at all and no one deserves that.
''Ever since that day, everything I've written has been to show someone else that I care about them. To take this self-indulgent energy and direct it to another person, to make it acceptable. Every song on For You is for someone.''


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/music/at-the-dawn-of-the-romantic-age-20110714-1heh4.html#ixzz1yrNJgNP3 - The Age newspaper


It’s really hard to come by a genuine love album with an organic feel these days. Most are filled with overstated cliches and contrived sentiments that provide no deeper meaning than what you find on the surface. But every now and then, one album comes along that describes the feeling in poet-like wonder to make you reexamine your perspective.

Back in April, Australia’s Oscar + Martin released their heartfelt and warm record For You. This is not any ordinary love album folks. It’s filled with complex metaphors that scream unbridled passion in its purest of forms. Furthermore, the duo experiments with toy instruments, which does wonders for their tunes as it mirrors the childlike whimsy and fickle nature of love. It’s a refreshing take on our most interesting and sometimes untenable emotion.

Hit the jump for LFTF’s exclusive interview with Oscar + Martin:




Oscar + Martin- My Blood

You guys seem to have a healthy fetish with toy instruments. Do you find that this forces you to attack your composition differently than a more traditional approach to song writing?

Martin: The toy instrument thing comes more out of poverty rather than fetishism. Oscar and I didn’t really luck out on the rich parents thing, and so we never had anyone to buy us some fuck-off expensive synths. As soon as we get ourselves some rich parents happenin’, Oscar + Martin will be so Vangelis.

…But yeah, the limitations of using crappy kids keyboards does influence the way our music develops. We have to be inventive to get the sounds interesting.

“My Blood” is just an amazing tune full of pure emotion. What’s the story behind it? Was it difficult to morph the message/emotion into song?

Oscar: Thank you! It came pretty easy actually. It’s the type of song that you can write while walking or riding, or just waiting at a train station or something, because it’s mainly vocal based. To me it has a kind of doo wop aesthetic. I think it’s pretty unrestrained in its emotion and message; I didn’t hold back giving it all away at the time love-wise. Interestingly though, once it was recorded I always felt quite sorry for myself. I think I sound pretty pathetic in a way. It took a while to not be embarrassed while showing it to people.


Oscar + Martin- Lion’s Heart

How do you know when you’ve finished a song?

Martin: Oscar and I are pretty savage perfectionists. I tend to write my verses 4 or 5 times before I’m happy with them. I know Oscar has about 5 or 6 entirely different arrangemants of the one song he is working on at the moment. So I guess the track is finished when you can’t bare to work on it anymore, or when when you run out of time to keep picking at one line or other.

Oscar: For sure. And it’s sort of when you can bear to listen to the song with out criticizing it, just being able to enjoy it.


Oscar + Martin- All I Think About

When and where did you guys write For You?

Martin: Most of For You was written as catharsis when Oscar’s girl dropped him…. But the chorus hook in “What I Know” was written when I was traveling with my girl in europe a couple years ago. I had just a mini tape player and one or two loops I was working on. I just ended up singing this line again and again. The rest of the song wasn’t written until I brought it to Oscar. In my verse, I’m trying to sympathise with the way Oscar was feeling at the time and reflecting on my own breakup experiences.

What’s in the future for O+M?

We are in the middle of a tour at the moment, playing Meretdith this weekend and we’ll finish up at Falls. We’re also laying with Matronomy in January. I think after all that we might take a little break to work on some new stuff… Oscar is working on a couple of projects at the moment: an album with Brothers Hand Mirror and some solo stuff. I’m working on an album with my other project the Harpoons. So we keep pretty busy.


Oscar + Martin – “Recognise” (Dir: Josh Aylett and Mahmood Faza - Live For The Funk


Discography

Recognise - EP
For You - LP

Photos

Bio

Oscar Vicente Slorach-Thorne and Martin John King are from Melbourne. They met when they were in high school. They’ve been dancing around making beats, loops and melodies in Melbourne since 2006. Born of a generation with the history of music making at their fingertips, they possess an explosive creativity that is instantly infectious creating dance floors wherever they go. They are not afraid of exploratory composition yet make music that has pop, hip-hop and future RnB as the outline.

Oscar and Martin produce their forward thinking pop music using real instruments and kids toys, drum machines, synthesizers, tape-loops and voice.
The songs are stories that are straight up and pictures that are beautiful because they’re brave. They’re about falling hard for someone and making a fool of yourself. They are made of Oscar and Martin’s own days and nights but also those found in Gabriel Garcia Marquez books, surprise friendships made on public transport and the lies kids tell. They are gestures of devotion, declarations of the heart, confessions of awkwardness and pleas for pardon that are for real without being soppy.

Since the release of their debut album For You the band has attracted critical acclaim from all over the real world and the interwebs. In the last year band have played alongside names like Four Tet, Caribou, Coco Rosie, Architecture in Helsinki, Gotye, Metronomy, St Vincent, Mt Kimbie, How To Dress Well and Knxwledge.

Oscar and Martin's live show is full of grit and joy and swagger (if you believe Australians can have swagger) and after playing a full summer of Australian festivals including Meredith Music Festival and Falls Festival.