Harmony starts at home

Oshima Brothers hope new work, show grows fans in their own backyard
By Christine Dunkle | Jun 05, 2019
Photo by: Blue Horse Photography Sean, left, and Jamie Oshima.

BELFAST — The Oshima Brothers just want you to dance. And the duo’s harmonizing is evident as they share their favorite festival performance, where they finish each other’s sentences.

“It was kind of a family crowd and this little girl was dancing to every song we played,” Sean said. “Every single one. Even the quiet songs, she was all-out rocking,” said Jamie, pumping his arm in the air.

“She was amazingly adorable,” Sean said. The crowd found it fun, but also funny. “Attempting to still sing without laughing was a terrifying and wonderful experience,” said Jamie.

They celebrate the release of their new EP, “Under The Same Stars,” with an evening of music Sunday, June 9, at the Crosby Center, 96 Church St., in their hometown of Belfast.

Singing and playing music seems to be a case of both nature and nurture. Or simply immersion. “We live in a musical family,” Jamie said. “We were inundated with musicians.”

“Our parents are folk musicians. It was a hobby for them that became a passion. And then it became that for us.” Sean said. “To call it an obsession is more fair.”

With 30 instruments in the house to choose from, they were bound to pick up a few things. Sean said that in grade school and high school they began to create music through their own projects.

“I remember driving with Mom to Rockport [to school at Camden Hills] and singing rounds in the car,” Sean said. “Instead of listening to the radio,” Jamie clarified. But they did also listen, enjoying the Beatles, oldies and jazz standards.

Growing up in rural Maine, music gave them something to do, and now recording and making videos helps keep them sane, especially in the winter. “This is a pretty cool life and we’re grateful to do it together,” Sean said.

Several years ago, Sean recalls coming home after traveling with 11 new songs in his writing repertoire. That’s when they realized they wanted to record. “I had the new songs and Jamie had the recording smarts,” he said. “The music we made together became our songs.”

Those recordings became the brothers’ self-titled debut album back in 2016. Which also led to them wanting to play them live, Jamie said.

When describing their style of music, they emphasize the harmony aspect of their harmony-rich blend of contemporary folk and acoustic pop.

“We’re inspired by the love of making music together and the rock and roll and folk music that we grew up listening to,” Sean said. “And the experience of living in Maine and traveling.”

They primarily play guitar, with Sean on acoustic and Jamie on electric. “I play a bunch of things,” Jamie said. “Really well,” Sean chimed in. And the list of those things is extensive — bass, drums, keyboard, mandolin, banjo and, more recently, fiddle.

While it’s obviously easier to play multiple instruments and sing multiple parts in the studio, some of that does bleed over into performances. They can sing with themselves with live looping, where they record the chorus, push a button, and then sing another part over it. “It can be a challenge to perform on stage with just the two of us and create a full sound,” Sean said.

But that difficulty just causes them to get more creative. Besides their vocals, guitars and looping, they add an octave bass pedal and Jamie even stomps on a plywood board for percussion.

Putting together their new EP took quite a bit of time. Sean said the songs took about a year to write, and they started recording in the fall. “Once we started recording, it took about six months to finish and then a couple more months for distribution,” Jamie said.

Sean said that while he is the main songwriter, they’ve written countless songs together, too. “We have so many incomplete songs,” he said. “Not all of them make it.”

This duo seems literally made to work as a team, as their talents and distinct roles complement each other. Jamie is the tech guru who does the recording work and videos that accompany every song. Sean handles the publicity and social media, and is also the chef.

“I can be 46 hours into editing and he shows up with these gourmet bowls of food,” Jamie said. “He’s like, ‘Have you eaten recently?’ He keeps me fit.” Jamie is the one constantly in the studio, while Sean has one foot out the door, reminding him of when and where they are supposed to be playing.

“Jamie is on stage because he loves to play music, I’m on the stage because I like to perform,” Sean said.

The brothers have released a few of the new songs as singles and have garnered hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify. “We’re really growing our listening base,” Sean said.

They have also been doing a great deal of touring. During this past year, they toured from Maine to Tennessee, across the country to California, and will be heading from Maine to Virginia this month. “It’s a lot of time in the car together, but we’re pretty used to it,” Sean said.

And while they enjoy performing in their home state in front of friends and family the most, traveling can be affirming as well. “We were flying to L.A. in April and the flight attendants announced our show to the entire plane,” Sean recalled. “Everyone clapped for us, it was a nice welcome. The flight attendants actually came to the show.”

As anyone with siblings can attest, working together isn’t always smooth sailing.

“We don’t get along all the time,” Sean said, but in order for the group to work, they are quick to resolve conflict. “This is great fun and he’s a great friend; there’s no one I’d rather do this with.” Jamie then joked that he had a backup list of collaborators, but it’s that good-natured ribbing that shows they are the perfect pair.

Their June 9 EP release show begins at 4 p.m., doors open at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, and free for ages 14 and younger. Advance tickets are available at eventbrite.com. For more information on the show, contact the Crosby Center at 370-6622.

For more information about the Oshima Brothers and upcoming shows, visit oshimabrothers.com. You can hear all their music, including their most recent single, on YouTube.

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