Words: Caroline Morris
Oceansize are: - Mike (guitar / lead vocals), Steve (guitar / vocals), Mark (drums), John (bass) and Gambler (guitar).
Although Oceansize consists of members from around the UK they are currently based in Manchester and have provided some of the best live music on the Manchester Unsigned scene for a while now. Infamous for the ‘mutual appreciation’ and support from other local bands on the up, they strive to live up to the hype and are prepared to make sacrifices to do so!
We caught the band hours before the third date of nine support slots with The Cooper Temple Clause. Tonight at home in Manchester the regular crowd are behind them and most curious as to how they landed this advantageous opportunity? ‘We've been on speaking terms with them for a while now’ begins guitarist Steve ‘ we supported them about 6 months ago and basically they really like our stuff, so they've been trying to get us on there gigs’
You get alot of this don't you? ‘That's what music all about isn't it?’ states Mike, Mark adds ‘It’s better if a band likes you rather than some reviewer. If a band really likes you they can actually do something for you, they can say come along with us for a bit and if people like you its better than a reviewer saying were the best band in the fucking world’!
So, do you feel like you're a step up from where you were now then? ‘Oh absolutely, people are taking notice now’ says a somewhat enthusiastic Steve. ‘It just gives us the opportunity to play in front of people, who ordinarily wouldn't have heard of us and nick their audience. Your guaranteed loads of people every night, its really good. I'm shitting myself about tonight though!’ adds Oceansize’s similarly excited lead vocalist.
The band have released 2 EP’s ‘amputee’ and their latest effort ‘ A very still movement’, released in Summer 2001. Both of which were mainly available via the net and on sale at their gigs. Alot of unsigned bands are taking the risk of putting all their money and effort into releasing their own product and hoping for a good response, did it happen for them? ‘Yeah, its doing well’ short silence ‘ We've had alot of gig offers from it’ continues Mike ‘ were trying to spread ourselves about a bit at the moment. Its weird getting out anywhere because nobody knows who we are. You've just got to try and make a good first impression, with anyone who comes into contact with you’.
And their fellow musicians?... Mark ‘ well, I got a text from a guy in a band called Fi-Lo Radio yesterday saying “fucking great CD mate”, I thought he'd already heard it but he only just has, its still just trickling through. It's word of mouth more than anything, once people have heard it a couple of times they tend to get it, rather than straight away catchiness’ Steve with the figures...’It’s been selling quite well, we pressed 1000 and we are about three quarters of the way there in sales now’. ‘And its only been out 6 months!’, I hint a slightly sarcastic Mike!
With the recent flux of ‘handed to you on a plate’ record deals, via numerous talent shows such as Popstars, Pop Idol, Star for a night etc...the attitude of some musicians may be to sit back relax and hope for the best, but Oceansize seem to want to earn their crust, constantly rehearsing, recording and gigging, why do they feel they have to work alot harder than everybody else? ‘You don't get anywhere unless you put the effort in’ begins Steve, ‘ It's just the same as anything, if you put your mind to it and you put it above anything else, you just find yourself practising more.’ ...Mark ‘It doesn't seem like we've got to work and work and work, its just like that's what we want to do. So, you just end up in a room and the more you do the better you get at it’. ‘You do have to sacrifice things’...Mike ‘ Socializing, spending time with your girlfriend, you have to put the hours in. But its kind of an investment, one day we'll have more time and it will pay off. It's gonna really piss me off if we don't get somewhere but even if we do get signed its still gonna be alot of work’
This ‘DIY’ attitude towards the industry is not uncommon amongst MCR musicians, alot of which start out life at college studying music, courses at Spirit School of Sound or otherwise, most have the access to rehearsal rooms and the skills to record and produce their own material and in some cases the poise to release their own records. So, is this a necessity in order for the to get somewhere or is it simply a matter of creative control? Mike...’To a point! Alot of these commercial bands that don't have any real control are not really doing it for themselves’ Mark...’We like to control everything were doing but we must admit were not the best producers in the world. We've all done a hell of alot of recording and production and stuff outside and as part of the band, but we know that we've put all our efforts into playing and there's other people who will put as much focus and effort into being a good producer. So, were able to recognize these people, rather than say we want to do everything for ourselves, that would be cutting your nose off to spite your face. You should take onboard anything that's going to make you a better unit; its an open, flexible way of working. There's no boss, no spearhead or songwriter in a sense!’
Previously the band have been reluctant to divulge their influences, but still a few have filtered through and others evident through there own material. Classic songwriters and bands such as Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and The Beach Boys have been mentioned, so, these are obviously musicians they respect but is this something they strive to produce themselves? Mike...’Sort of, I know when we first started out people would ask us who are influences were and I always said ‘Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, but when you look further into it...one reviewer said that we wouldn't exist without the last ten years of music and I agree! Bands like Mogwai, Cardiacs, Super Furry Animals, influence us all! ‘Virtually anything you listen to is gonna influence you in some way’ adds Mark ‘ It's just weather you consciously regurgitate that in a not very well disguised fashion or a clever way of really mixing it with loads of other influences.’ Steve...’We don't want to sound like anybody we try and get it as authentic to us as we can’
With this complicated mix of sounds and influences where do the band start with their song writing? ‘Hugely it comes from a jam’ Steve ‘we record ourselves jamming and they'll be segments, sometimes seconds long that we'll think oh that will work with another bit and we'll piece it together like that’. Mark explains further...’It’s just were all in a room a hell of alot; we record virtually everything we do. It's like you could get a whole side of a tape and we'll use 20 seconds of it and its just about listening to it all the time, continuously playing and it starts gestating into something. It's a case of getting right into it and picking out the best parts, we create them!’ So, how do they remember their songs live, does it often turn into a jamming session?, as ever the band don't like to loose control! ‘ We just rehearse that much that we make sure we've got them engraved’ confirms Mike. ‘We get into areas where it can be a bit more loose, there's definitely bits of songs where you could loose it a little bit but as long as you know where the corner are to come back in, because it does change direction alot mid-song. Mike...’ You have to know where you are and there's definite points where it tells you’. ‘Signposts’ adds Mark!
For a band that records ‘everything they do’, they must have an extensive catalogue of material but do they always showcase this? ‘It takes us a long time to write one song because it will generally be about 10 minutes long and there are loads of different bits in it, so were really meticulous with the writing’ begins Mike, ‘Songs we've been playing for three years, were still fiddling about with them and we usually get up to a point when there nearly ready and we get loads of gigs and have to sit on them for a while.’ Mark..’It’s quite a dilemma because its stuff that we can gig, were at that level where were happy to show people but because we've been playing around and working on them for so long its hard to put a new track into the realm where its good enough to be shown. People might think there really good but we might not be quite happy with them.
So, what are their plans now?...Steve, ‘We've had the opportunity to play South by Southwest in Texas, so were gonna do that and after that we've got negotiations with the men up the top!’ Mark ‘People are starting to stiff, like seriously now, so its a nice position to be in. So, if these gigs go well and everything goes well in America then we could have a bit more leverage on our hands. But, we just want to record something that's the main thing, get another EP out and see where that goes, maybe another tour off the back of that!’
Oceansize are devotees to their music, their straight talking, and straight-thinking realists! Forever challenging and analysing themselves as musicians, wanting to be the best they can be, not only to receive respect from fellow musicians and music lovers but for themselves. The live experience is a moving one with emotion and depth. I not going to turn around and say there the best band in the world because I know they wouldn't appreciate it but their definitely one of the hardest working bands I've come across and I recommend you catch this band live as soon as you can.
‘A Very Still Movement’ EP is out now on Soviet Union Records Cat.SOV004
For more information:- www.sizeofanocean.com
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