Wearing pop like a badge of honour: a charming chat with Oh Pep!

It’s hard not to like Oh Pep!. The duo’s music is charming and whimsical, a poppy take on modern folk that will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step (not to mention getting stuck in your head for weeks).

In 2018 they’ve released What’s The Deal With David?, the first single from their upcoming sophomore album I Wasn’t Only Thinking Of You, and it seems like their tastes for a catchy melody haven’t gone anywhere. In fact, it’s more pertinent than ever.

On a sunny afternoon at Young Henrys in Sydney, we sat down with Liv and Pepi to chat about that forthcoming album, hip-hop, and why ABBA is definitively not daggy.

Oh Pep! Interview happy mag dani hansen
Photos: Dani Hansen

As they prepare themselves for an enormous international tour and a new album to boot, we caught up with Oh Pep! for the latest.

HAPPY: I saw you guys at BIGSOUND last week, so I wanted to start by asking: what goes into putting a showcase setlist together, rather than your own headline show?

LIV: All killer no filler, you know?

PEPI: Good answer.

LIV: But actually, that’s true, right? Whatever’s going to get the point across the most.

PEPI: Also having some kind of arc to the setlist.

HAPPY: Well it’s weird, it’s shorter, the audience is different.

LIV: The audience is super different.

HAPPY: They’re probably more receptive to unreleased songs…

LIV: You kind of want to get your spacious moments across, but you kind of can’t afford to do that too much. I hope we got the point across at BIGSOUND…

HAPPY: I was going to ask if you were happy with it.

LIV: Yeah, it was our first time playing those songs so it was one of those things where you step off stage and you’re like, that was the first time. And how does that feel? I don’t know the answer yet.

HAPPY: That was the next question, I didn’t know it was the first time playing those songs. Did you play more than once at BIGSOUND?

LIV: Just the one.

HAPPY: They were pop songs, like really, catchy and hooky pop songs. I noticed a few people in the crowd singing along to the second choruses, which is always a good sign.

LIV: Oh good! I didn’t see that at all.

PEPI: On first hearing, that’s good.

HAPPY: You’re moving to these bigger pop sounds, do you think that’s a case of getting more experience in songwriting under your belt, or was there a change in attitude somewhere as well?

LIV: Well I’ve definitely had more songwriting and written with a lot of different people between now and back to Stadium Cake, but I think it’s also a moment of growing up and growing into ourselves, just being less and less apologetic about what we want to do.

HAPPY: Right.

LIV: We’re just like ‘we want to write pop songs’. Yeah. Bit of a combo.

HAPPY: I don’t think anyone has the be apologetic about making pop music anymore.

LIV: I don’t think so either, you definitely don’t. I love pop music but it’s just really… going for it.

HAPPY: So Oh Pep! has kind of been a slow build-up…

LIV: Slow build, pop band.

PEPI: Full on pop band.

LIV: Next step, Lady Gaga.

HAPPY: Yep, there will be outfits next time… dancers…?

LIV: Or this time, you don’t know yet.

HAPPY: Do you think people’s anti-pop sentiments are fading away recently? Like, there are so many Australian artists wearing pop like a badge of honour.

LIV: This came up in an interview earlier actually and I don’t know, I love ABBA, and I love bands who have always been what others may consider to be daggy, but I just haven’t thought about it too much. We’re just kind of doing our thing. Who cares?

PEPI: You can’t deny that catchy music is going to stick with you, and that’s something to say about it.

HAPPY: While we’re on record, ABBA is definitely not daggy.

LIV: See? ABBA is cool again! On the record – ABBA is cool.

HAPPY: I Wasn’t Only Thinking Of You – that title kind of implies a collection of love songs. Is the new album a collection of love songs?

LIV: Weirdly enough you’re the first person to say that. Yes and no, in that I think the songs cover a whole bunch of relationships, it’s not just romantic relationships or romantic love. It’s about family and friendship as well, but it’s definitely relation-al.

PEPI: What?

LIV: Relation…al.

HAPPY: Relational?

LIV: I feel like I’m doing a Powerpoint presentation. Family. Friends. Relationships.

HAPPY: I spoke to someone recently who had been reviewed a bunch, and they said that people’s default way of interpreting a song was that it was about a romantic relationship.

PEPI: Yeah, I think people do that. More often than not.

LIV: I tend to think the other ones are juicier. Like, we’ve been working together for 10 years, there’s a lot of depth in a friendship like that. Or knowing your parents for your whole life, there’s so much material.

HAPPY: So there’s songs on the album about your relationship, there’s songs on the album about, I don’t know, your parents… did they make it in as well?

LIV: Yeah they’re in there. Shoutout to mum and dad.

HAPPY: Nice. I heard that What’s The Deal With David was kind of a friendly conversation that you two had, that you’ve kind of exported out to people as a single. I kind of like that idea… pushing your friendship out to other people. Wait, that sounds bad.

LIV: That does sound bad.

PEPI: It’s ok.

HAPPY: Do you know what I mean?

LIV: We did talk about it, and it wasn’t really an intentional thing. It wasn’t like ‘oh we’re going to do this and tell the whole world about it’, it was something that happened.

HAPPY: Onto the writing of the songs, I’ve listened to the album and there was some pretty awesome wordplay in there.

LIV: Oh yeah?

HAPPY: Yeah, the verses of Your Nail and Your Hammer really stood out. You rhymed an ‘and’ sound a bunch of times in a couple of sentences.

LIV: “The grandstand and you were holding your lovers hand…”

HAPPY: It actually reminded me of how rappers rhyme.

LIV: I wish!

PEPI: Go Livvy.

HAPPY: Are either of you into hip-hop?

LIV: No. I should…

HAPPY: That rhyming within sentences thing, it’s like a hip-hop convention.

LIV: Right. I mean I’m familiar with hip-hop, I’ve heard about hip-hop before. But I definitely think that… no. But I get a kick out of hearing stuff like that, in a humorous kind of way. We really like old time music, it’s a genre of music that was before bluegrass, and they have these great couplets that happen, that are just shouted out randomly in the middle of songs. That’s probably where it comes from, these little ditties. They’re playing an instrumental tune and then they’ll yell out this couplet, it’s kind of weird!

HAPPY: That’s cool.

LIV: It’s probably an influence from that, rather than hip-hop.

HAPPY: I like it. It all goes back to the same thing I guess.

LIV: Yeah.

HAPPY: Do you have any writing rituals, like a pen you use obsessively?

LIV: I always write in the same notebook. But I also like the idea of not having to have anything that I’m hooked on to write a song, you know what I mean? We’re not going to do this, but if someone was like ‘write a song now’…

HAPPY: “I need my notebook!”

LIV: I wouldn’t be. I’d be like ‘ok’, then I’d think of a cool ‘and’ rhyme.

PEPI: You were also doing things like timing yourself, like doing 20 minutes where you had to come up with something.

LIV: If I haven’t come up with something in 20 minutes it’s like, I’ve moving on. I just don’t like wasting time.

HAPPY: How long was the period of writing the album?

LIV: Truthfully, from 2015 to 2018. Essentially, even before Stadium Cake was released, some stuff was written before then.

HAPPY: How about recording? Say when you’re in the studio, is there anything you do to get yourself in the headspace?

LIV: We’re very practical people.

PEPI: Yeah we’re kind of like, ‘we’re in the studio, let’s make the most of it’. We don’t really try and waste any time.

LIV: Finish on time, start on time… we’re not very good at starting on time.

PEPI: That’s true. I mean, the only ritual I can think of is that we’ll go out for lunch.

LIV: But you have to eat, so. That’s still my ritual!

HAPPY: It’s weird, when I’ve asked that before everyone seems to have a writing ‘thing’ but musically, almost no one’s got a thing. It’s like one’s more controlled than the other.

LIV: Writing is more controlled?

HAPPY: Yeah, from the people I’ve spoken to.

LIV: That’s interesting.

HAPPY: Well that’s it! Thanks for the chat.

LIV: Thank you!


I Wasn’t Only Thinking Of You is out now.

Tour dates

November 30 – Fairgrounds Festival, Berry NSW – TICKETS
December 1 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC – TICKETS
December 8 – The Old Museum, Brisbane QLD – TICKETS
December 14 – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide SA – TICKETS
December 15 – Mojo’s Bar, Fremantle WA – TICKETS
December 16 – Four5Nine Bar, Perth WA – TICKETS
January 11 – The Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney NSW – TICKETS