Oceanator mastermind Elise Okusami arrives at Great American Music Hall
There is a general thematic arc throughout Oceanator’s touching debut album, “Things I Never Said,” a power-pop masterpiece that arrived last year.
The disc begins with various doomsday scenarios, calamities that include a crack in the world, the sun never rising, and the sky falling. But the album is strangely full of hope. When Oceanator mastermind Elise Okusami details these cataclysmic events, it is always in context that she will survive and survive – a mantra of determination that culminates with the final track, “Sunshine,” a heavy rock riff that ends with the reassuring coo of “” I’m fine on my own.
It’s a provocative and reassuring document of the time, but when Okusami was wrapping up the album in 2018, she had no idea how much she would need to lean on that perspective to navigate a society riddled with a pandemic.
“Even when I was writing the album, there was this feeling in the air that things were going wrong,” said Okusami, whose band will open for two Jeff Rosenstock concerts at the Great American Music Hall on Sunday and Monday. “I approached it from the point of view that things are terrible, but there is also a lot of good in the world. I didn’t really understand how terrible things can get, but I still feel like you have to hold on to this basic idea of hope.
A talented multi-instrumentalist, Okusami has been performing in bands for years, at one point playing the drummer role for half a dozen New York-based groups including Water, Dead Tooth, and Kid Midnight. (“Everyone always needs a drummer,” she said.) While she started writing songs in 2012, it wasn’t until 2016 that she started releasing. music under the nickname Oceanator.
She released two EPs before creating “Things I Never Said”, which was originally due to be released by North Carolina-based label Tiny Engines. However, that footprint collapsed almost overnight, amid allegations of withheld artist royalties and other financial embezzlement. Okusami eventually self-released the album under her own label, Plastic Miracles, although she has now signed with Polyvinyl, a venerable independent record group.
“Things I Never Said” has songs that date back to Okusami’s early days of writing, but it feels cohesive and intentional, as if the tracks were all produced out of a maniacal and industrious outpouring of creativity. Each song resembles the next chapter of an adventure book to choose from, with the heroes and heroines of each tale going through various obstacles of environmental disasters, broken relationships and societal disruptions, before finally finding solace in one. others against thick and thin.
While maintaining a clear lyrical narrative, Okusami weaves in an array of different genres, exploring synth pop (“I Will Find You”), neo-blues (“The Sky is Falling”), surf rock (“Heartbeat”) ) and doo-wop (“Walk With You.”) Each track flows into the next, and while the sonorous terrain is eclectic, the hike through these variations is fluid and seamless.
Willful perseverance and gritty perseverance are the general tenors of Oceanator songs, but Okusami is not afraid to tackle more thorny topics that don’t have clear resolutions. One of those tracks is “Inhuman,” a heart-wrenching personal tale of sexual assault that Okusami recently added to his live. She said the live performance of the song was baffling, but ultimately powerful.
“It’s pretty scary to share this song with people and make them hear those words,” Okusami said. “But I got so much support and encouragement from my fans. People will come to me after the shows and tell me how it really helped them, and it means so much to hear that kind of commentary.
Even through a song that was still dark and brutal about it, Okusami managed to find a way to project hope and recovery. By preying on his demons, Okusami helps absorb and eat away the pain of others, shining a light forward.
“I think it’s about supporting each other in these difficult times,” Okusami said. “If someone hears my music and feels a little better afterwards, it’s a great feeling, especially right now.”
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
Oceanator with Jeff Rosenstock and Slaughter Beach, Dog
Or: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., SF
When: 8 p.m., Sunday December 19 and 7:30 p.m., Monday December 20
Tickets: $ 20
Contact: (831) 704-7113, www.gamh.com