Geoff Ong debuts “The Boston EP”

Feb. 19, 2014 – The Huntington News

Berklee College of Music student and New Zealand native Geoff Ong is releasing a new EP called “The Boston EP,” on March 3. “The Boston EP” is the indie-soul artist’s fourth, following “Streetlights EP” in 2014, “The Soralax Mixtape,” also in 2014and “Pictures EP” in 2011.

While the city inspired this latest collection, Ong had a musical career long before he moved to Boston. Ong has been playing music nearly his entire life. He started playing classical piano in elementary school but didn’t enjoy the rigidity of lessons.

“I didn’t enjoy [piano],but then I picked up the guitar when I was 13, and that made me realize that music wasn’t just playing classical and playing everything correctly, that you could actually have fun with it and actually express yourself with it,” Ong said.

Ong’s influences include a combination of classic soul, pop and R&B artists, such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, The Temptations and Michael Jackson, as well as more modern musicians, such as Frank Ocean, Beyoncé and Lauryn Hill.

While he has consistently been playing music in bands since he started high school, he began writing songs when he was 20. It was then that music became more than a hobby.

Prior to taking up music full-time, Ong studied to become a mechanical engineer and ended up working in the field for a few years in Auckland, New Zealand. However, he was always working on his music on the side and decided that he had to try pursuing music professionally.

“It felt like it was the right time for me to switch and really have a go of it,” Ong said. “I felt like if I didn’t give [music] a try, I always would have wondered what would have happened if I had tried it properly.”

“The Boston EP,” his first new release since moving to the city, is a seven-track meditation on getting over a breakup.

“When I moved from Auckland to Boston, I had to break up with my girlfriend at the time and it was a crappy experience,” Ong said. “There was no animosity between us or anything like that, which made it more difficult to really move on. There are a lot of conflicting emotions here, and that is what kind of brought it all out on this EP.”

“The Boston EP” opens with “Massachusetts Avenue,” an upbeat track that functions as an introduction to the compilation both thematically and geographically. It also showcases Ong’s musical prowess and songwriting skills.

It then launches into “The Last Song I’ll Ever Write About You,” the EP’s single, and, as the title would suggest, delves deeper into the breakup. However, it remains musically cheerful.

The next few songs begin to slow down and become more outwardly somber. “This Is Really It” eases the listener into this more mellow portion of the EP, while “How To Be Alone,” the other single, fully embraces a melancholy vibe that continues into “September.”

“How Long, Boston” brings the subject back around to the city and how to feel at home in a new place.

“For F**K’s Sake (I Used To Know You)” closes out the album with a track that embodies the many mixed emotions of the previous songs with the lyrics “I thought I used to love you, but now I know better, because I still do.”

The fact that this EP chronicles such a specific period in Ong’s life made the writing process much more cohesive compared to his previous EPs, he said.

“It was a much more condensed writing process with this EP,” Ong said. “With the previous EPs, they took me in the order of a year to write, produce and record, but this one was done in about three or four months, which was really fun.”

Ong moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music in the summer of 2014. Berklee attracted him because his aunt graduated from the school in the ‘70s and always spoke highly of it, urging him to attend, but he was also drawn by its approach to music education.

“I thought about music schools around the world and was thinking about what kind of curriculum they offered, and Berklee was kind of modern and forward,” Ong said. I thought that that would be beneficial for me to learn from that kind of curriculum.”

Despite the adjustment period hinted at it in the song “How Long, Boston” in the lyric “Boston how long ‘til you feel like home?” Ong is enjoying living in the city.

“I really like the music scene;that is really great,” Ong said. “The people here are really cool. There is a stereotype that people from Boston are angry and shout and swear a lot, but I haven’t really run into too many people like that. The city itself is really beautiful. I like the brownstones and the parks.”

For the next few months, Ong’s focus is going to be playing shows and promoting “The Boston EP,” including a release party on March 5 at Hennessy’s pub in Faneuil Hall with George Woods and Proper Company, Blue Light Bandits and Ben Knight.

In March, he is also playing at the CatvsOwl showcase at the music and film festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and several other shows in the Boston and Cambridge areas.