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Interview: Soaked Oats Talk About Their 'Sludge Pop' EP + Release Tour

Interview: Soaked Oats Talk About Their 'Sludge Pop' EP + Release Tour

Chris Cudby / Photo Credit: Jesse Schrader / Thursday 13th June, 2019 10:19AM

Aotearoa guitar-pop heavyweights Soaked Oats have been charging hard, they've just wrapped up a sojourn to the UK for Brighton's massive Great Escape festival and are already gearing up for a tour of Australasia in July, celebrating this Friday's release of their keenly anticipated Sludge Pop EP [update: it's out now]. We caught up on a grey Auckland wintery day with the band's slightly jet-lagged lead singer / songwriter Oscar Mein, who was resting up after a long plane ride at his temporary HQ on Waiheke Island. Mein generously lent his time to entertain Chris Cudby's probing questions about Soaked Oats' new collection, the band's hard-gigging lifestyle and more...

Soaked Oats - Sludge Pop Release Tour (NZ Dates)

Friday 5th July - Totara St, Mount Maunganui* 
Saturday 6th July - Galatos, Auckland
Thursday 11th July - San Fran, Wellington*
Saturday 13th July - Blue Smoke, Christchurch*
Thursday 18th July - The Cook, Dunedin (all ages)*
Friday 19th July - The Cook, Dunedin*

Tickets available HERE via UTR*

You’ve got Sludge Pop coming out real soon and you guys have been describing your music as 'Sludge Pop' for a little while now, so I guess that provokes the question... do you see this as a defining release for Soaked Oats?

I think this is as comfortable as I’ve ever felt, not in a sound but in that search for the sound. It's also a bit of a joke. That genre title came about because one of those... questions you get asked is “how do you describe your sound?”.

For me it’s just a contrasts of mud and pop. Sort of like a sparkly surface with heaps of leftovers on it and that’s definitely something that we strive for and often in my lyricism. The things that I write about won't necessarily be pop or commercially friendly, but we still write guitar pop... simple pop structures, so it's kinda just a contrast. I think this is the most grounded we’ve felt in that search for something.

It’s funny how with silly genre names, they can quite often start as a joke and then stick. There’s the popular genre from earlier this decade, Chillwave, which just came out of a jokey essay where some guy was like “what are we going to call this type of sound?

[laughs] I know sludge metal is an actual proper genre and I only really got put onto that once we’d committed to this as a name. I was speaking with Ezra from Earth Tongue when we met for the first time and he was just schooling me on sludge metal. I was like “fuuuuck, what have we done?”

You’re going to have to stick with it now, forever. Sludge Pop collects together some recently released singles and some new, unreleased material right?

Yeah, it’s a five song EP and there’s two more to come.

Where are you guys actually based at the moment?

I don't think I could give you an answer. Henry [Francis] is the one solid one living in Dunedin and I guess the rest of us are floating between family. We’re all just back with our parents at the moment.

So you’re truly a travelling band?

It feels that way, it's felt that way since we started.

You guys are famous as a crowd-pleasing live band and a hard-gigging touring band. Soaked Oats formed in Dunedin at a certain time, how do you feel coming together in Dunedin impacted on your approach to playing live? Was there a lot of live show opportunities for you to hone your sound?

I guess there must have been because we played so much. A big ethos when we started, and it's only recently changed, was just say yes to everything, without thought really. At least for us, the only way we’ve really learnt anything is through doing and realising actually no, that’s not what we want to be doing or that wasn’t the best idea.

We weren’t just stuck in Dunedin, the first show we played was in Auckland and very quickly, because of that show, we had that kind of student following thing. From our very early shows in Christchurch and Dunedin, we were bringing in enough people to be profiting... That meant we could play shows in Auckland and Wellington and then bands who would come through from Auckland and Wellington would ask us to support them and we’d just say yes. In the first year we put out three EPs in quick succession, so that was a good excuse to tour a lot.

I was also wondering a little bit about the social context of how you guys came together. Were you guys all involved in different bands as well?

Henry and Connor [Feehly] were. This is my first ever band and those melodies were like the first ever songs that I’d ever written. There’s a lot of naivety to be overcome. That’s the good thing about being that age, is that you don’t really have anything else to compare it to, you’re just doing. As far as the social side of things, as soon as Max [Holmes] and I moved to Dunedin, it was solely for the purpose of like “were doing this, this is something that I want to pursue”.

We’re very lucky as a band that we all share this as an amazing chance and an amazing privilege and we all share it as a unified passion… that’s something that we definitely don't take for granted. Speaking with bands who, maybe some of the bands have side projects and don't always wanna practice, we’re very lucky with it, y'know? There was no intention behind that, it was maybe just timing.

I really like that instrumental that you put out recently, 'Driftworld', its whole vibe and your mind going on a journey as the van keeps rolling on. I was wondering what Soaked Oats’ van dynamic was? Are you guys all quiet and keep to yourselves? You spend so much time with each other, so how do you balance that? What’s the interaction going on there when you’re travelling?

The American tour was a bit of a different story because at its peak there was about 11 people, it was kind of an open door policy. We had a big RV but it definitely didn't sleep 11 people comfortably. We just ended up with that many people for two or three weeks, so that definitely got tense but we’re pretty good with each other. Henry kind of made the observation, I think there was a show recently and we had to drive back from Dunedin to Christchurch to catch a flight to Australia or something. Someone I won't name got a bit too drunk because it was their birthday and they had the keys to the car and he went over and he lost them but in the most theatrical way. He made us all realise that we get over a lot of band tensions through blatant theatre and comedy. We’re good at laughing at each other and ourselves.

Do you find any opportunities to write music on the road and try out songs when you’re travelling?

Mostly when we’re sound checking aye... Henry did write some demos around dates but I’d love to tour with an acoustic guitar and have that alongside and just be writing. It would definitely be very fruitful. I write a lot when we’re on the road, lyrically. A lot of our songs come from jamming, man. A lot of sound checks, we end up playing around with and pulling out songs that we have during that.

How was the Great Escape festival?

Incredible! I didn’t really know what to expect, I just saw that there was 500 or so bands playing and I was just like “fuuuck, no one’s going to be at our show”.

You got a good turn out?

Yeah, full house for both of them. The first one was like a New Zealand music showcase, so it was like us and The Beths, Leisure, Finn Andrews. I think the fact that it was a showcase helped bring a lot of people and we must have done okay, because then people came to our show. It was a full house as well so we were stoked.

Sludge Pop is going to be your first release on Dot Dash. Are there any exciting opportunities that you’re looking forward to with Soaked Oats coming up real soon?

Man, writing our first album to be honest. Take some time out to start working on the debut, that’s the thing that I’m most excited about for sure.

Are you drawing inspiration from any specific sources right now? Is anything making you excited?

There’s always like a foundational level that we always go back to. Like late teens, early twenties. For me the evolution was from like 90s hip hop to Motown, soul music, to blues music to folk and within those worlds there are a few core artists that I'm harkening back to. I got the chance to interview Kevin Morby while I was in Berlin and he’s the one that we often get compared to. We got to talk a lot about this circular nature of influences. He’s like The Beatles being an inspiration, and when I hear them I hear The Velvet Underground and I hear Bob Dylan and just this ecosystem of influences. Its a beautiful thing, its just this circular nature of all these things that are tied together.

Yeah, and artists can be inspired by things that you would in no way think were obvious inspirations as well, so that's a funny one. Thank you so much for taking time out on this terrible Auckland day.

The sun’s shining over here now.

'Sludge Pop' is out digitally and on 10" vinyl on Friday 14th June via Dot Dash.


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