Oceanator on “Things I Never Said” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, May 24th, 2024  

Oceanator on “Things I Never Said”

Living on Sunshine

Feb 24, 2021 Issue #67 - Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney Photography by Ray Lego (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share

Oceanator’s Elise Okusami can’t predict the future.

But the songs on Oceanator’s debut LP Things I Never Said, which were written mostly in late 2017 and early 2018 but some date as far back as 2012, eerily mirror the chaotic present. In numerous tracks, Okusami sings about the end of the world including on the album’s pummelling lead single “A Crack in the World” where she paints a very familiar scene: “You know it keeps getting harder and harder every day when you see the news on the TV, on the radio.”

“I wrote [‘A Crack in the World’] two years ago,” Okusami says over the phone from her home in Brooklyn, “and it’s weird how much more accurate it is. I didn’t mean to have so many songs about the end of the world [on Things I Never Said]. It was something that I was just thinking about in general.”

Things I Never Said is a heady mix of grungy rock and poppy melodies that’s reminiscent of ’90s alt-rock and pop-punk. Okusami, leaning into her ’90s influences, is selling a bunch of retro Things I Never Said merch including custom Pogs and temporary tattoos.

“I look back on the 1990s and listen to mid-’90s playlists and it does make me feel comfortable and at home. I’m not trying to glorify the ’90s but there’s a lot of music that came out then that makes me feel, personally, very comfortable and happy,” she explains.

Growing up in the ’90s, music was a constant fixture in Okusami’s home. When she was about five years old, she starting taking piano lessons and at nine, inspired by hearing Green Day’s Dookie, Okusami began to play the guitar. Soon after, she started a band with her younger brother, and steadfast collaborator, Mike, which lasted throughout high school.

Since then, Okusami has been involved in various projects, she was the drummer in electro-pop-rock band Vagabon, and in 2017, she released her first EP as Oceanator (simply titled EP) which was a collection of alt-rock songs and quiet, primarily acoustic, ballads. On her 2018 follow-up EP Lows, Okusami honed in on her louder rock side.

“When I first started writing songs, I was thinking of Oceanator more as a folky, solo project but as I was writing, I realized that I missed full on rock stuff. It’s what I grew up playing a lot of and I missed doing that so the songs got bigger and rockier as I was working on them,” Okusami says about her sonic development.

Things I Never Said is full of thrashy and crunchy guitars that emphasize the weightiness of Okusami’s lyrics. But there’s an undercurrent of optimism on the album too. “A Crack in the World” ends with Okusami resigning, “but I’ll keep trying to keep the skies blue anyway” and on the final song “Sunshine,” Okusami looks up at a clear sky and sings, “I’m going outside today. I’m feeling like things might be okay.”

“I think of [Things I Never Said] as a hopeful record even though it deals with sad stuff,” Okusami concludes.

“It’s about trying to deal with all of the terrible things that have happened and how everything feels overwhelming and awful but in the end, all we can do is keep going. That’s why I put ‘Sunshine’ at the end. The way I was thinking about it is like here’s all of these terrible, stressful things that we just went through on this record but then [‘Sunshine’] is like, ‘Everything’s okay. I’m okay, we’re all okay, and we’ll be okay. We just have to keep trying to do our best and help each other out and be good to people.’” [Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]



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