Everything in Slow Motion is the new project from ex-Hands frontman Shane Ochsner. He started the thing last year after Hands broke up, back in the spring of 2012. He released a two song seven-inch vinyl last winter, and now, a year later, is coming out with his debut full-length, appropriately titled Phoenix. Like a few other bands we have seen this year, Ochsner recorded the album, just him and producer Josh Barber (Colossus, Norma Jean), in Kansas City, MO. Ochsner is known to wear his heart on his heart on his sleeve, and he has quickly become one of the most underrated songwriters of the last 10 years. Here, Phoenix shows that Ochsner is still trying to find his way – although, doubting God can help a man’s faith grow stronger.
When you recorded Hands’ last record, Give Me Rest, you recorded it with just you and Josh Barber. In the press release, you said it was very therapeutic. Was writing and recording Phoenix the same way?
It was, (but) in a different way. When I was writing and recording Give Me Rest, I was in a state where I was doubting my faith constantly, which was really heavy stuff for me at the time. I had a lot to write about. It helped me get that all out the best way I knew how, and that is through music. This time around, it was not about what I was going through. I wanted to think about the people listening to the record and what they might be going through.
Everything that I usually write is from my standpoint. The songs come from something personal in my life. I have a hard time speaking for other people. The first song, “Red,” that we put out last year for the seven-inch was the first time I wrote about someone else’s experiences.
With Phoenix, it was different. I am happy with my life, my job and my family. So when it came to writing, I did not want to write about how much I like my kids or how cool my job is. A lot of my personal life did get mixed into the songs, though I tried to write the songs from a different character or from different people and things that have happened in my lifetime.
There are some very worshipful songs on this record. Were there any times while writing or recording the record where you just had to stop what you were doing because it was so overwhelming emotionally?
No, that never happens to me, honestly. It is not just music, either. When I am working on something, I’ll tackle a project head on, and I’ll think about what it means later.
With the more worshipful songs, like “You Are” — at the time I said to myself, “This thing is really cool.” When it says, “Let my words be more than nothing. Beautiful you are.”
I want my words to Him to mean something, and not just say them just to same them. I really want to explore the words we use to describe Him. Expressing that this is freaking real, and I mean these words to the highest esteem and emotions they bring.
It did not get me emotional or anything, though I do appreciate (the record) more after the mixing and mastering process, when I was able to just set back and listen to the record and see how everything ties together.
You write a lot of songs about how falling short. They seem to be modern day Psalms. Is that how feel about some of these songs?
I have never looked at them that way. When I write lyrics for a song, I come up with a scenario in my head or think about something I’ve gone through. For example, the song “Most Days” is talking about addiction. It’s obvious when you listen to it.
For me, I was in a Christian hardcore band when I was 18, and being the frontman, I had a problem behind the scenes, getting in trouble with woman. That was huge struggle in my life at that time, and it was bad. That is what I thought of when I wrote that song, though I left the song open so it was not just about that situation. The need for that addiction. Having a secret identity behind everyone else could be relatable to anyone that has something they are addicted to.
So tying everything together, falling short: Yes, I am guilty of that. I feel like I am falling short every day. When it comes to writing about that stuff, I just write what’s on my mind. I don’t know how to explain it because what you asked is something I have never thought of.
I was listening to Phoenix and Give Me Rest to compare records. I found that to be a theme in a lot of songs you write.
You will find that in pretty much everything I write about because that is how I feel, that is how I have grown up. I always feel like I’m struggling with Christianity, the idea of God and who I am supposed to be. That is what pretty much comes out: falling short of what I believe we are supposed to be, and I am not alone in that. These songs are relatable to those people.
Was it stressful or more relaxing having the recording process spread out over the last year?
It is funny you say that, because Phoenix was recorded in about a week and half. I have been writing for the last year. I did a lot of the demo stuff myself, so I had stuff to play to and write to, but we tracked instruments for Phoenix in seven days in April with Josh Barber in Kansas City.
I didn’t start vocals because I didn’t have any lyrics. I was going to record the vocals in May because, at that time, we had a release date of July. Basically, I could not think of any lyrics. I couldn’t think of anything. Along with my wife, Holly, who was extremely pregnant, and we were getting ready for Sonshine Festival. There were so many things, and I could not focus on getting lyrics done.
So finally I got the lyrics done is September, though I only really had three quarters of the lyrics done, but I had locked down the dates in the studio. I had to get the record done. I was writing lyrics up to the bitter end on the spot kinda thing.
In front of the microphone and the headphones on. Pacing back and forth trying to come up with lines and … Man, recording sucks. Well. writing lyrics sucks. Recording is great.
The writing process was great. With my job and family, it is hard to get in a mood to write something you think is cool. So basically, I would write after everyone went to bed. I would write from 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., and I did this from November of 2012 to right before we recorded in April 2013. It was nuts man (laughs).
Was it more stressful or relaxing this time around recording this record than the last one?
Way more stressful, and I thought Give Me Rest was stressful. From me going through things, and Josh was going to come down to record drums. Then he couldn’t come down. So I had to start recording drums three days after my daughter got out of the NICU for a week.
Man, I thought that was stressful.
The instrumentation — that was a piece of cake. The lyrics were really hard to nail down for this. Outside of writing and recording the record, trying to get things together was the hardest part, (with Josh) Barber’s, and my schedules being totally different. We live in different cities.
I am talking to Jason about release dates, and we are not sure about this or that. When something was achieved, we were all, “It’s a miracle!” That was with everything down to the smallest thing. We were giving high fives left and right. Then we were on to the next miracle we had to make happen.
The reward was awesome. It is the best project I have ever had the pleasure of being apart of, from front to back it is so rad.
Did you ever having any fear that the the record would not hold up or be better than the songs you wrote in Hands?
I have been lucky to have the mentality: “Who cares what happens next.” That is something I’ve never given a crap about. I have never thought, “The next one has to be better than the last.”
I have never tried to invest time into being something I’m not. I have never taken the time to impress whatever scene or fans that follow Facedown and Solid State. I don’t care about impressing booking agents to try and get on big tours. When I was doing Hands, we worked our butts off, and had the same mentality. If people liked it, they liked it, and if they, didn’t who cares? We were just so stoked on playing the music we were playing.
With this project it is the same deal. With Give Me Rest, it turned out awesome. It was such a great experience. That record is just as important to other people as it is to me, and that means a lot to me. You couldn’t ask for anything more than that.
With this album I did not shoot for any specific sound or market or try and top Give Me Rest in trying to win over fans of Hands. I just wrote the record and didn’t overthink anything. At the end of the day, it is out of my hands, for one, and two, it’s gonna be great. I poured myself into it, giving everything I had. When I go back and listen to it, I know this was the best record I have done so far.
After I had the chance to listen to Phoenix in its entirety, I was really happy because I was hoping Dustin Kensrue’s new album was going to be the same kind of record and it was not.
I’ll tell a brief history of me and Thrice. It’s not a big deal, just funny. I used to listen to Thrice. Artist and the Ambulance was my jam; I loved that album. That was 2003, and at that time I was still trying to write Norma Jean rip-offs in my hardcore band. After that record, I fell off the boat. To this day, I still haven’t listed to Thrice beyond that album.
Jason Dunn had shown me some of the The Alchemy Index, which was really cool, but I did not go out and buy it. Whatever that sound is, it’s very similar to whatever it is I do. I have heard that a million times. “Oh, dude, you must listen to a ton of Thrice!” “Dude, you must love Thrice!” “You should go on tour with Thrice!” “Speaking of your album. have you heard the new Thrice album?”
I have heard that so many times, and my reply is, “No, I haven’t.” I know they are a awesome band. I know they are a game changer. I know I would love them if I bought their album. I have a fear that f I buy it and get attracted to it, my stuff will become even closer to their world.
When I was putting out the Red seven-inch, I was originally going to name it Red Sky. Then someone said, “Oh, like the Thrice song?” Then I had to change the name to what is now (Exosphere) because the original title was also a Thrice song.
Then I went to name the band Everything In Slow Motion, and Jason approved it. We were shooting the video for “Red,” and I told my friend Laura, who was working on the video, the name of the band, and she said, “Oh, like the Thrice song?” I almost ran and jumped out a window. … She said, “Yeah, I don’t remember what song it is, but in the lyrics, Dustin says something about everything moving in slow motion.”
I was so upset. Everything I do has a Thrice counter strike to it, so that is why that band drives me crazy.
Then the song on Phoenix, “Speak,” was supposed to be “It’s Not Enough,” being in the lyrics it says “sometimes it isn’t enough.” So I name the track that.
Then Indie Vision Music had that news post when his single came out. “Dustin Kensrue – It’s Not Enough.”
I’m all “Shut up!” So I change the name to “Speak” because what was I supposed to do (laughs).
They are a great band, there is no doubt about that. If Dustin and I could collaborate on something, amen to that. I bet we would have a blast if we hung out together.
That last time you recorded with Josh, you guys did some crazy techniques. You used 16 microphones at the same time to record guitars, five drum sets at the same time on the opening track, “I Will.” Did you guys do anything crazy on this recording?
No, we actually simplified things quite a bit. … On this record, we used two microphones on each guitar cab. We only used one guitar amp for the rhythm guitar tracks.
We experimented with a few different amps for the lead guitar tracks. We didn’t do anything crazy this time around. We really wanted for it to be stripped down. The drum circle worked well for “I Will,” though these days, it seems like every record that comes out has a picture of a drum circle of some sort of a million guys around a million drums. It has turned into a selling point for a record. It has become a natural thing to go into a studio say, “When is the drum circle?” or, “How many kick drums can you line up in front of each other?”
We did everything different on the song “Numbers.” It is in the middle of the record. It is just a different song, in general. We used a different drum set. A different micing process. We miced the guitar amps a little different. We miced everything to have a big roomy feel.
When everything kicks in, we used a bunch of fuzz pedals on the bass and guitars, then maxed them, so when the song kicks in, it’s a bunch of fuzzy guitars.
Beyond that we did not go hike under a bridge and track drums or put a microphone in a coffee pot, which makes everything easier to perform live. You don’t have to depend on little sounds to be there. This record was more of a rock record than anything. … Luckily, the guy who mixed the record, Jay Hall, is brilliant, and he was able to make everything move so well.
On Give Me Rest, you wrote a song, “Jovian,” about your daughter’s birth and becoming a father. Did you write any more songs on this record about your growing relationship with her?
No, I don’t think so. I had another daughter come into the world while writing lyrics to the record, and she is going to be upset years from now when she does not have a song written about her.
I really didn’t touch on that this time around. I just put pen to paper. That just did not come out this time around, and it just did not fit the theme of the record, of going through everyone’s struggles, whatever they may be.
Every character comes out of that. so a random song about hanging out with my kids does not really play apart in the grand scheme of things.
How has being a father grown you as a songwriter?
It makes it a lot harder to write because you can’t find the time to do it. I think my girls have softened my heart quite a bit. The things I used to hold on to and not let go, I have learned how to let them be. I kind of see the bigger picture in things. No focusing on little struggles or battles. If this does not come out until 2015, so be it. It has helped me grow into a better, patient man than I was. I am definitely a softer dude now.
You had the privilege of having some guest vocals on this record. You kept them secret until now. On the second track of the album, “Speak” you were able to snag Christian Lindskog of Blindside. Then on the closing track, “Proxima,” indie up-and-comer Holly Ann ends out this wonderful, dreamy song. How was it working with those two, and how did it all pan out?
I have always wanted to work with Christian. I just love Blindside. More than just the band, his vocals inspired me to get into doing vocals. He has always been a standout vocalist. You hear his voice, and you know who it is. It’s such a beautiful voice. Just everything about his voice is awesome.
I have always wanted to work with him. The first time we discussed working with him was when we were going to record Creator. We were sitting in the van saying, “Who can we get to do guest vocals on the album?” I threw it out there. “Why don’t we try and get Christian from Blindside?”
We all laughed. “Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.” So we moved to Josh Scogin. Then, ultimately, we forgot all about the whole thing and did not have any (guest vocals) at all. So when it came time for this record, I was demoing that song for the first time. just listening to that song, and I could hear his vocals fitting perfectly to the song, seeing there are parts to the song where it has that Blindside feel. … P.O.D.’s old manager got in touch with Christian, and it took a month to a month and a half to hear back from him, which we did not think was going to happen.
We were at Sonshine (this past summer) talking about if we had a shot. Then, the next day, Christian emailed Jason, and he called me up and said, “You’ll never guess who emailed me this morning. Christian said, ‘I really love this music video and this song. What can I do for you?’”
We were so stoked. So I Skyped with him a couple times. gave him my ideas, though the only idea I had was for the chorus. I told him what the song was about and I told him, “Here are my lyrics. Do whatever you want.” He contributed his time, not knowing who I am. Not knowing me, personally, which I thought was huge because when someone does a guest spot on an album, they (typically) know each other and have some sort of friendship.
Christian did this just based off the music and Skyping for a few minutes. He was seriously one of the most humble dudes ever. He answered Skype one time in a one-piece pajama suit. It was flesh colored, and had a purple pocket on the side. I almost died.
It was a pleasure and an honor to work with him. I even made a friend out of it. The first time I heard the song and his voice, I was sitting at the table, and I when I heard his voice I took my headphones off and threw them on the floor. It was so overwhelming. I am so grateful to have him on this record.
With Holly, I wanted a female vocal on the last track. Her husband, Nathan, sang on the song “Water” from Give Me Rest. I knew she was a singer and did her own thing. I checked out her stuff. I knew she was the one to sing on the song. I did the same thing with her. We talked, and I told her she had free range to whatever she wanted. When we got her vocal track back, I was with Barber. When I heard her vocals, my stomach dropped. It was so amazing. She is so good, and had a beautiful voice. She really made that song I think.
Seeing that you have a few guys in Hands play with you live and you did Give Me Rest by yourself, why did you change the name of the project?
Hands had run its course. That was something that Ian, Josh, Chris and myself started together, so I wanted us to finish it together. We were playing festivals. It was only twice a year after we stopped touring. Right after we stopped tour ing, we put out Give Me Rest, which was our best record, musically, and sold the best out of any record we put out.
Feels like we missed the boat on that one, because there were a lot of new fans that wanted to see us live, but we were not touring anymore. They could only see us at Facedown Fest, Sonshine Fest and Cornerstone.
Josh told me after Facedown Fest he was going to be done. He has a really busy job, and wanted to focus all of his efforts on Glower. It did not take too much to be in Hands at that point, though I think it was more of a “turning the page to the next chapter” in his life.
I knew I was not done writing music. I just did not want this to be something that dragged on with a million members. So we called it quits.
I knew I wanted to start a new project and release it myself. I was going to release it through iTunes and borrow money from my folks to pay for the recording with Baber. I called Jason one day to let him know I was going to do that, because I did not know how that all worked with Hands being under contract with him.
He asked to hear it, and said he wanted to put it out. He knew that I was not going to tour and I was going to promote it the best I could, D.I.Y.-style. He said that they were still a label that put out good music. So I let him.
Are we only going to get to see you at festivals next year? Any plans on playing overseas?
There is nothing in stone right now, but I would not rule it out. There is a good deal of fans over there. As long as I don’t have to pay for it out of my own pocket, I am all for it.
Everything in Slow Motion was posted on December 9, 2013 for HM Magazine and authored by Rob Houston.