Words by Katie Rowley
The Ocean Party, Melbourne’s finest six-piece have just landed off a flight from Brunswick, USA, but if there’s any tiredness or jetlag the boys hide it well. Showcasing songs from their fourth and most recent album, Soft Focus, the band receive a warm welcome from a slightly undersized crowd at the Lansdowne. It’s safe to say that the band is a talented bunch; all six write and sing, and, apart from the recent addition of bassist Mark Rogers, grew up together in Wagga Wagga. It’s a far cry from the ocean, but it’s this shared experience and collective nostalgia that really comes through in their sound.
Liam Halliwell sets the tone with the thoughtful instrumentation and playful, yet precocious lyrics of Deluded; “you haven’t seen me in a while, I haven’t changed much but I’ll never be the same.” With just the right touch of reverb, it’s like a warm coastal breeze passing over and engulfing you in a cosy cocoon of comfort.
Drummer Zach Denton, brother of guitarist Lachlan, takes the vocals for the second track. It’s an upbeat shuffle that sees the band weave between one another on the compact stage – for a bunch of unassuming music nerds, they command the audience’s interest.
Every Decision offers a bassline that sounds ever so like The Clash’s I fought the law, but it’s short and punchy enough in its own right. The band’s sound is simultaneously catchy, uplifting and soothing. Their variety shows through on slower, more expansive numbers like Charters Towers, which has keyboardist Jordan Thompson singing honestly and dreamily about small town Australia.
Despite cramming six musicians onto a small stage, their cohesive and wholesome sound shines through the PA with clarity and energy. The upbeat opening guitar riff on Head Down throws the crowd into a jiggle, with a catchy hook of “don’t prove me wrong, I like to think I’m right.” The band can distill lyrics down to their witty simplest, but don’t be fooled: a lot of thought and skill is required to pull this trick off.
There’s a touch of funk and sass to the gig that justifies their ‘party’ tag, as well as clear onstage chemistry and a strong unified sound that shows the boys’ commitment and practise over the last couple of years. With live tracks as intelligently heartening as this, The Ocean Party can confidently look forward to bigger things.