Despite the city’s isolation from other parts of civilisation, Perth’s music scene is fast becoming something for us west coast sandgropers to be proud of. There is no denying our small city has produced a variety of talent – from hip hop (Drapht, MC Layla, Downsyde) to rock (The Panics, Deja Vu, The Sleepy Jackson, Love Junkies), pop (Cassie Davis, San Cisco, Boys) to punk (The Kryptonites, Mach Pelican, Miles Away, The Chevelles) to country (Little Birdy, The Waifs) without even mentioning big name acts such as Pendulum, Selwyn, John Butler, End of Fashion, Eskimo Joe, Gyroscope, Jebediah, Tame Impala and of course AC/DC.
So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that there are dozens of hopeful youths around the state trying to make a name for themselves in the music scene. Norfolk Lanes Youth Festival in Fremantle last November showcased some of the talent that exists in the under 25 circuit such as Fellow or Foe, Oakland, Three Hands One Hoof and Mind Mischief, who all played amongst bigger acts such as Custom Royal, Love Junkies and Sunpsilo Circus.
San Cisco actually performed at Norfolk Lanes every year since it began in 2009. If their success is anything to go by, hopefully we will see at least a couple of these bands take things further more seriously and maybe see their name in shining lights in the Hottest 100 or the ARIA Awards.
Being front and centre for Oakland‘s debut set is something that I am hoping will become a big claim in the near future. Citing influences such as Angus and Julia Stone and The Paper Kites, the local roots/alternative pop band, with three of the four members just finishing school a few months ago, made their first festival appearance at Norfolk Lanes, but you probably wouldn’t have guessed it.Every band just starting out should perform a balanced mix of covers – to get the audience singing along to favourites – and originals – to prove that they can collectively make music, write lyrics and then put them together with individuality and a good performance. And Oakland certainly delivered on both accounts, with a great debut performance attributed in part to the youthful energy on stage.
Their most recent gig at Mojo’s Bar, also in Fremantle, proved how much the band has developed in just a short time period. Playing for both the kind of crowd that frequents a small alternative bar as well as a few dozen underage Oakland supporters could have been hard to pull off, but the band managed to pull it off, leaving everyone sufficiently impressed. Jack Williamson’s strong dynamic vocals transitioned easily from the demands of City and Colour‘s dreamy ‘Weightless’, to folky originals such as ‘Way It Should Be’, to more poppy tracks like ‘Mind Games’. Ed Sawle delivered on the guitar and backing vocals, whilst James Shehan added to the depth of the music on the drums. Matt Shehan’s impressive solo pieces helped the band’s instrumental well-roundedness – every good song needs a decent memorable riff. If you catch them again, expect to hear songs such as ‘Rosie’, ‘The Thief’, ‘Since I Lost My Way’ and ‘Kingdom and a Key’.
Finishing up with a brilliant cover of ‘Baby I’ve Got You On My Mind’ by fellow Australians Powderfinger, pretty much the entire room was singing, head banging and getting into it. I think the random guy behind me summed up the atmosphere best, in between gulps of VB, shouting to his mate “These guys are fuckin’ good!”. The band’s approachable aura gave the performance much of its charm, as well as the fact that they look like they are really enjoying themselves, with occasional casual banter between themselves and the audience. They have received positive responses, evident from the fan posts on the band’s Facebook page, as well as reviews on Triple J Unearthed, including one by OaklandFan69 – obviously a hard-core groupie.
However, the younger crowd were devastated not to be able to hear constant favourite ‘Regrets’ (available free off the Triple J Unearthed website) so I asked why the band never included that in their sets. “I hate that song,” Jack says, laughing. “And it’s not really a pub song anyway.” But it seems like a rite of passage for every band to have that one popular song that they don’t even like. Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand are said to “detest” their single ‘Come On Home’ – saying “the keyboard sound makes us cringe”. Kings of Leon publicly announced their dislike of ‘Use Somebody’. Even San Cisco admitted that ‘Awkward’ was by far their least favourite track from their first two EPs.
Lyrics are often the hardest part of creating music, but not for these guys. Their originals have meaningful lyrics behind them involving themes that the audience can relate to – such as break ups, personal family stories, friends, making mistakes and of course, girls. There are also more carefree and fun tracks such as ‘Mind Games’ with light-hearted lyrics and a catchy tune. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp_MFwZCLB8
It started out with just three members playing acoustic folky music – “mucking around playing covers and stuff in about Year Eleven, and then our originals came later on,” Jack explains. “‘Regrets’ was sort of an early one-0ff.”
“It wasn’t til later on we realised we needed a drummer in most of the songs,” Matt says. So they got James, Matt’s older brother, to play drums. “By the time we recorded ‘Way It Should Be’, we were pretty much a four-piece band.”
Upcoming projects? “We are looking to record a proper EP in the studio later on this year. At the moment we record all our songs ourselves at home with a small recording set up, so yeah, it will be good to do it all properly.” On top of this, the band will be continuing to play live at local venues such as the Indi Bar in Scarborough in March, so it looks like a busy year ahead for the band, also juggling study and work.
Tomorrow night at the Fly By Musicians Night Club at 9.30pm Oakland will be performing for the over 18s so if you’re in the area make sure you check them out. You won’t be disappointed – just don’t call out asking for ‘Regrets’.