Within the vast realms of music, few artists are able to formulate an exceptional sound. Even fewer can be credited with doing so more than once.
But ask fans of St. Petersburg-based Oceana to describe them and the diversity of responses will show how fruitful their history of continuous musical reinvention has been.
In 2010, Oceana changed genres from post-hardcore (a brand of chaotic music derivative of punk and metal) to indie rock with their third release, “Clean Head EP.” Their old sound gave way to crunchy guitars and soulful vocalizations. The change fulfilled them musically, but they were dropped from their record label and forced to abandon musicianship as a full-time career.
With a whole album’s worth of new material ready to record, Oceana feels like they are in their musical prime, but they are financially defunct. To help, they turned to Kickstarter, a popular crowd funding website. The Crow’s Nest sat down with guitarist Alex Schultz to talk about the band and what they have been up to.
The Crow’s Nest: Oceana has been a band of continuous reinvention. Are there any elements of your sound or techniques that have carried over from the older music, or do you feel that it is now a completely different creature? I have enjoyed all of your sounds so far, as well as the thread of continuity. Listening to the outro of the last track on Birth.Eater it sounds like you guys already knew then where you were headed musically with Cleanhead. The progression so far has been amazing. How has experimenting been, and do you think you have now found the true realization of Oceana’s sound, or is it just another step in the journey?
Alex Schultz: We have definitely carried elements of the Clean Head EP over into the new songs. Some of them still have the heavy percussive feel, and we’re still writing some songs with baritone guitars, although some of the new songs are extremely different from anything we’ve ever done. Instead of all getting together in a room and just going for the gold, we recorded all of our ideas, built on them and collaborated, then tried to recreate them live. This is why we are now playing with a seven-piece band instead of four. This record has a much more involved and intricate sound but still carries over the homegrown raw sound of Clean Head.
I’m glad you picked up on the end of Birth.Eater as a transition of sounds. Not many people got that message. We all knew at the end of recording that album that we were ready to move on, and to try writing the type of music that we do now. Even while recording The Tide and Birtheater some of our favorite bands were groups like Bright eyes, Wilco and Copeland.
This is really the first time we’ve ever experimented with different instruments and sounds. It has honestly been so fun and so liberating. While writing our other albums we never felt the freedom to pick up a xylophone or ukulele and write a song with it. It was as if we were trapped in a box with our one instrument and that’s it. This new album has an extreme amount of diversity and experimentation and we’re excited for everyone to hear it.
We’re definitely closer than we’ve ever been to the pure unchanging sound of Oceana. But we’re all still young and still growing. We are taking influences from so much these days and discovering new things about our own musical tastes. I think we will always be a band that changes sounds a bit with each release, but never a change as drastic as Birth.Eater to Clean Head again. We actually played around with the idea of releasing the new album as a self-titled because it really defines Oceana’s new beginning—pure, not rushed, without any transitions, dramatic changes or pressure.
CN: What kinds of music/artists have influenced you as musicians to a great degree?
Schultz: Like I said, we take influence from so much these days. Our musical tastes have expanded dramatically since Birth.Eater times. We all have personal favorites, of course, but there are a couple of definite band favorites. I would have to say Bright Eyes first for sure, “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn,” has been a huge influence on this new record and spawned the idea of using two drummers. Mutemath has influenced a lot over the past few years with their amazing live show, and the Roots are actually a huge influence to all of us. We all listen to a lot of hip-hop and neo-soul. You are sure to hear a lot of hip-hop type grooves in the new stuff.
CN: I know that The Fonder Reel videos have definitely helped keep the interest of your fans up throughout this time period, as well as attracting some new interest. How have you as a band kept yourselves inspired despite a somewhat frustrating situation?
Schultz: We lost money but never passion. We have still rehearsed and written together every week since our last album. We’re all the type of people who can’t stand to not create. If we’re not making music, we’re painting or writing a story. It’s a blessing and a curse because sometimes we stretch ourselves a bit thin.
CN: What is the time frame looking like for the new record, as far as how long you will spend on recording, production, etc.? How has having so much more time to formulate the music changed things? When the new album is released, do you hope to be picked up by a record label or are you going to keep it an independent thing?
Schultz: We are actually very excited to announce that if we reach our goal on Kickstarter we will begin recording mid-August with Aaron Marsh at The Vanguard Room in Lakeland, Fla. This means the album will be to our fans’ ears by fall.
Like I said before, the writing process during Clean Head was much different than for this album. We have never had time to perfect and build upon our material until now. It is really an amazing feeling to be able to create to your upmost potential with no real deadline. We are definitely going to initially release this album independently. Obviously we are in a bit of a financial hard time right now or we wouldn’t have to do the Kickstarter, so a label’s support definitely wouldn’t hurt. If we get the right offer from the right label we could re-release the album with proper advertisement and distribution. If this could help us reach more listeners with our music we’ll do it without a doubt.
CN: Promoting your situation and record through Kickstarter seems like a great idea, and one that will help fans to feel even more involved in the musical process. Any words for potential contributors?
Schultz: You won’t be let down. If you donate a minimum of $5 you get a free download of the new album when it’s released. When we actually release the album on iTunes it will be $10. So really you’re just pre-ordering the album for half the price. We’ve been working so hard on this music for so long we are just happy we have a real chance at having people hear it. So thank you to whoever has already donated, and those who haven’t, you won’t regret it. Every penny goes back to you.
Fans have donated $6,000 of Oceana’s $10,000 goal, and any extra will go towards pressing CD and vinyl for the new album. To contribute to or learn more about Oceana and their Kickstarter project, visit myspace.com/oceanafl.
Photo courtesy of James Lano