Poison Oak dish out hook-fuelled, emotive Aussie rock on ‘1996’ EP

Heralding from Queensland, five-piece rockers Poison Oak have brought the best of their rock ‘n’ roll chops to their powerful debut EP, 1996.

When you think of modern Australian pub rock, you might think of Violent Soho or The Smith Street Band. Now, add to that list Poison Oak.

With their chugging electrics, catchy melodies, and emotionally vulnerable lyrics, the North Queenslanders have crafted a tone that sticks to listeners on the very first listen.

Poison Oak

Poison Oak is made up of James Balthes, Russell West, Ray Pearson, Lachlan Gleadhill, and Chris Reiterer. The last time we checked up on the group, they were on quite the pub circuit, nailing off their favourite North Queensland acts. However, this time, the band is serving up their own work. And what a breath of fresh air it is. Growling vocals, dynamic instrumentation, and emotive balladry make up their debut EP, 1996, and it’s bursting with inspired hooks. Let’s dive into the tracklist.

Waiting opens up the EP, introducing the listener to all the best elements of Poison Oak. The memorable single has the protagonist waiting and waiting for a girl that’s not going to show. The desperation and conviction that comes from Balthes’s vocals make the story incredibly compelling, and the band does an excellent job of raising the stakes with some classic rock n roll buildups and power strumming.


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Title track 1996 pulses along with nostalgia, palm-muted lead guitar, and air-tight rock drumming. “What’s your name, what’s your name? Have I forgotten my manners again?”, Balthes confesses as the band lets loose. Standout track Sarah revels in rich backing vocals, a memorable hook to shout along with, “Oh, it won’t stay!”, and the ideal amount of gain and distortion from the electrics. This dose of vintage rock and roll makes evident that Poison Oak adore the power of live music and want to create tracks that their boozed-up audience will connect with quickly.

The bluesy and minor Let You Down boasts a swagger reminiscent of The Doors while also showcasing the incredible range of Balthes. When you hear it, you’ll know. For a debut EP, Poison Oak have developed an endearing and cohesive body of pure rock, sure to soundtrack waterholes all around Queensland, then beyond.

Listen to the 1996 EP below: