In my mind’s eye, I can see the country kitchen in which Maddy and Jess, the twins who are Oceanique, wrote the songs for their debut EP, Flowers From Home. It’s winter, and there’s a wood stove burning. The hundred-year-old kitchen table is strewn with papers, notes, bits of lyrics, music notation. Outside, it’s raining and the stand of karri trees across the back paddock rises tall, proud and eternal. Maddy and Jess sit at the table with guitars in hand, their voices combining with the susurration of the rain, as much a part of their country town as the nature that surrounds them.
…the sense of place is palpable in the music and, in particular, the voices.
That’s probably complete rubbish, clichéd beyond belief, but the point is, Oceanique’s music is as much a part of their hometown of Walpole as Walpole is a part of the sisters who create it. Their music evokes visions, as strong and clear as the thoughts and emotions that accompany them — longing, sadness, home, timelessness, family, solitude, peace, calm. The music on Flowers From Home seeps into your soul and gently bestows on the listener the gift of being part of the sisters’ world for a moment. It’s a surreal and intimate thing and it’s also simply beautiful.
Speaking about Flowers From Home with Maddy and Jess was its own surreal journey. I dialled in to Maddy’s phone just after they’d finished rehearsing with their band, getting ready to perform at Nannup Festival and a string of other dates. Maddy answered and immediately advised that she had Jess on speakerphone, and so began a conversation with two people who may just as well have been one.
“Yes, we’ve always finished each other’s sentences,” Maddy said.
Knowing that, please forgive me if I bungle some of my attributions.
The picture in my mind may be off beam, but my notion that Flowers From Home is a narrative about a particular slice of country Western Australia was bang on.
“A lot of these songs were written back in COVID last year,” Maddy said. “I think that’s why they all fit together. ‘Drift’, for example, we released as a single off the EP, that was written back during COVID. We were trying to be creative and that one for us was about loving being in a safe and warm environment. We went back down south, back to our hometown, so it was a nice setup.
“We’d been thinking about the name for so long,” Maddy continued, “and then, all of a sudden, it just kind of came to us. Flowers From Home just makes sense because every song in there holds a little part of growing up in a small town. We find ourselves writing, even subconsciously, about growing up regionally.”
Though every listener may interpret it differently, the sense of place is palpable in the music and, in particular, the voices. Maddy and Jess harmonise as only sisters can, their voices tightly, inextricably entwined, but they also sing with accents that could only have come from their part of the world. In Australia, Oceanique sound like home. To the rest of the world, they’ll sound like Australia and, as artists like Courtney Barnett have demonstrated so well, there’s a big appetite for Australia in overseas markets.
The harmonies that are Oceanique’s trademark stem from a song writing process that is enhanced by the siblings’ closeness. Speaking about working together, Maddy said, “It all comes pretty easily. I feel like we’re the best of friends too, so it’s just we work so well together. When I have an idea for a song or have a lyric or something, I’m not scared to bring it to Jess; it’s easy for us to write together.”
“We write all of our songs together,” Jess continued. “One of us will have an idea or a guitar riff or piano or something like that and then we’ll bring it to each other to work on it. It’s good having someone else there to write with. We build each other up.”
While Oceanique’s song writing may be steeped in the sisters’ regional home, their music is far from homespun. Flowers From Home showcases Oceanique’s folk sensibilities. These are gentle but persistent songs where the vocals are accentuated with lap steel guitar and piano — just enough, not too much. Oceanique know how to do the minor fall and the major lift like the best of them and their songs have depth and texture that belie the simplicity of their instrumentation and arrangements.
Lyrically, the themes cover pretty much the whole of life, from the ennui of ‘Motionless’ — I feel heavy / Like a body treading water — to the existential observations of ‘Drift’ — The measurement of time is somewhat unreliable — and the sharply observational eye of ‘Nasturtium Bloom’ — Her kitchen smells of eucalyptus oil. These are lyrics to get lost in and return to time and again, and each time they say something slightly different as they become part of the listener’s own consciousness.
Flowers From Home is a major step in what, hopefully, will be a long and successful career for Oceanique and it’s an achievement that the sisters are happy to modestly recognise.
“Yeah we’re really happy have to have an EP coming out,” Jess said. “It’s a big achievement. Even having the CDs, it just feels so strange that we’ve got like you know five songs on a CD. It just feels really nice.”
To which Maddy added, “I love recording, it’s so different to writing. For me, it’s such a fun experience to see your song come together into this neatly packaged thing. It’s really rewarding.”
In the immediate future, Oceanique will be playing a string of dates in WA to bring Flowers From Home to their audience, including sets at this weekend’s Nannup Festival.
“I’m so excited,” Maddy said. “We’ve grown up hearing of Nannup and it’s been a goal about for the last few years to like play there. We’re so excited!”
Up next for Oceanique is more recording that, by the end of the year, should bring us their first album.
“We’re hoping to record an album, said Jess, “and then, hopefully, at the end of this year we’ll release a single off the album. We really want to get into touring. We’ve done a few regional tours now and I’d love to go up north too, to Broome, and we’ll aim to go to different states of Australia and play some festivals.”
With that, Maddy and Jess were gone, back to work on prep for their upcoming tour.
Catch them at one of the following venues between February and April, you won’t be sorry that you did.
26 – 28 of February – Nannup Music Festival, Nannup (Band)
6 March – Caves House Hotel, Yallingup (Trio)
13 March – Hopetoun (Duo)
14 March – Lucky Bay Brewery, Esperance (Duo)
20 March – The Firestation, Busselton (Band)
21 March – The River, Margaret River (Band)
27March – WAMFest, Perth (Trio)
5 April – Walpole Community Gardens, Walpole (Duo)
17 April – Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle (Full Band)
You can listen to Flowers From Home on Spotify.