BELFAST, Maine — A few months ago, sharp-eyed tourists spotted something unusual flailing about in the cold water off Lincolnville Beach: two men wearing wetsuits, armed with guitars and a stepladder.
It was Oshima Brothers, an indie-folk-pop music group from Belfast, and they were shooting a music video for an atmospheric love song called “Lost at Sea.” And because Sean Oshima, 25, and Jamie Oshima, 22, are awash in creativity, but not cash, they took a low-budget approach. They used instruments they didn’t mind getting wet and salty, and for a camera they used an iPhone tucked in a Mason jar in order to get underwater shots.
It was frigid, and a bit of a gamble — but it paid off. After two days of shooting in the 54-degree ocean and countless more days spent editing by Jamie Oshima, they released the song and video at the end of November. The video already has garnered more than 4,000 views on YouTube and the song has been streamed more than 32,000 times on the music platform Spotify. Other numbers are promising, too — the band’s song “These Cold Nights” has been streamed on Spotify more than 1.3 million times.
Not bad for a couple of brothers from Belfast.
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“My favorite part of the day was waving at people who were like, ‘Why do they have a ladder?’” he said, adding that the shoot was two things to him: “Exhilarating and miserable. But I’m so proud of the end product.”
Freezing water and curious gawkers notwithstanding, the making of “Lost at Sea” is a good illustration of how the band, and the brothers, work. They grew up in rural North Whitefield, the sons of Toki Oshima and John Pranio, who are teachers and musicians, and throughout their lives, some things have been constants — music, Maine and each other.
“We’ve been playing music since Jamie was born,” Sean Oshima said. “We grew up with a lot of music around us, and just carried on.”
He took a gap year, traveling around and writing tunes, and when he came back loaded down with a huge batch of songs, the two “really became the Oshima Brothers,” Jamie Oshima said.
“That was kind of the start,” his brother added.
Over the years, they have developed their harmony-rich, melodic sound, with Jamie Oshima arranging, recording, mixing and producing the songs that his brother writes. Sean Oshima plays the guitar and sings, often in a soaring falsetto, while Jamie Oshima adds percussion, bass, fiddle and his own vocals to the mix. The songs lean toward the poetic, with wistful, relatable love songs and imagery firmly rooted in nature and often in Maine.
“Moonlight in the Cumberland skies, tall pines towering close,” they sing in their most recent song, “Hearts as Full as the Moon.” “In the firelight, reach for a hand and dance so close to desire. Stars are bright. Hearts as full as the moon tonight.”
In the past year and a half, the duo have been full-time musicians, complete with a management company and a booking agent. They completed their third multi-week tour of the East Coast in November, and are very excited about a sold-out upcoming show at Frontier in Brunswick. They’re also looking forward to headlining the Camden Opera House on April 11.
“That’s a big show,” Sean Oshima said. “We’ve been performing there for our whole lives, and playing our own show there will be great.”
Other milestones also feel thrilling to them. They’ve been featured on Maine Public Radio’s “In Tune with Sara Willis” radio show, and their songs have been featured on several Spotify playlists, including “Fresh Folk” and “Wild + Free.” They’re in good company there, being played alongside such artists as Brandi Carlile, The Lumineers and Maggie Rogers. But they’re also in good company when it’s just the two of them together, they said.
“I think the perception people have about brother bands is that it’s really challenging, and we find it really great,” Sean Oshima said. “We know each other so well. We try and use that to our advantage.”
Jamie Oshima said that working on songs together, and challenging each other’s artistic decisions, can be hard.
“We’re figuring that out,” he said. “We really do get along, most of the time.”
As well, they love that they are launching into the professional music world together.
“It’s pretty incredible to be jumping into this musical world, and touring, being away from home for weeks on end with someone that you love and who always has your back,” Sean Oshima said. “That’s pretty amazing. There’s no one I’d rather be in the band with.”