Genres are dead. I’ve heard people say it.
I’ve heard them say every band sounds the same. These People say, “They’re alright, I guess, but they sound just like the New York Dolls.” The oversaturation leads these people to resentment. Music dies. Genres, set perfectly in a marketable equilibrium and manufactured for success, receive the death sentence.
But I’ve also seen people buy Ferraris. It’s a piece of plastic powered by a flammable liquid with a combustible engine attached to four axles. It’s made up of the same stuff. The blueprint’s the same. But it’s not just a car, right? And when you drive it, there’s a difference. A very hands-on difference. A difference you notice because you drive a car every day and that’s not what driving a car feels like. You go back to your car and what previously felt smooth is like walking barefoot on a cobblestone path.
Oceans Ate Alaska makes listening to heavy music fun again. It successfully revives dead genre techniques. Their musical flare illuminates inequities in music held up to it. They’re the new look of live, a group of British kids with a fresh set of eyes and ears on the theatre of metal, conscious of the technical nature of their work, but young enough to drive 110 mph.
As part of our Live Issue coverage, photographer Kelly Hamilton followed Oceans Ate Alaska around before, during and after their set on tour with The Word Alive this past winter in Newcastle, U.K.
To see more of Hamilton’s work, you can see more of her photography on her website.
I’m so sorry for the mix up yesterday.
It’s no worries dude. I heard you were ill. Is that right?
That’s correct. We are renovating our house, and so I’m staying with my sister-in-law and my niece. One of them got sick. It was like a ticking time bomb.
I slept in a different place and took a bunch of medications so I’m a little better now.
That’s good. Good to hear, man. I hope you get better soon anyway.
I appreciate that. Thank you for taking my call today on a quick restart.
That’s no worries.
You are probably going to get this a lot in your interviewing career, but it’s the difference between American fans and English fans. I once asked Ben Bruce from Asking Alexandria about touring the States, and he said that he couldn’t wait to get over to America. After awhile in England, you start playing in the same places too many times. You have to figure your best way to get over here so you can actually start making a living of touring.
That’s completely correct. I mean, U.K. is a very small collection of countries so it’s pretty easy to get from one end of the country to the other end, about six hours or so. Really, touring around the U.K., you can probably only do it once every three or four months. Within that tour, you will probably only get a select seven to ten dates without starting to oversaturate it. So I definitely agree with his point.
When you weren’t playing in those three to four months, would you go to other countries around there? Would you try to find ways to get to other places to play?
Yes, we would always be trying to get shows and things over there, like in mainland Europe. But it’s tough breaking out of the U.K. and being able to find the promoters and the contacts there to be able to travel and book the those shows.
Literally, if you are not touring in the U.K. every three or four months, the only possible option is to fly to the States and do a month or two-month long tour.
That could be difficult financially, or almost not feasible, right?
Over in the U.K., we’ve been over there for a couple of months and stuff, like, mulling recording the album and everything like that. We’ve had offers and stuff, but as you said, it is very financially tough. I mean, we’ve turned down multiple U.S. tours just for financial reasons. I had to drive for the band, getting the flights over there, visas, organizing much to be shipped over there. We’ll print it out in the U.S.A. rather than over here in the U.K. There’s a ton of other stuff you don’t even think of like, Where are you going to sleep? You are going to sleep in the van. Petrol costs. Obviously it’s a lot cheaper there in the U.S. than it is here. It all adds up. There are a ton of other little things. Food. Catering. What your ride is going to be. That all adds up to this cost. It ends up being more than you think it will be. That’s the reason why we’ve had to say no to certain tours we’ve been offered and things like that.
You are a fairly young band but you speak with quite a business sense. Does that come with looking to come to the U.S., where you’re forced into it earlier than most of the U.S. bands? Because they can just get in the van and go.
I guess it was. From the get-go, we somehow established a big American following. Maybe more so over there than over here in the U.K. We just got some information about sales. The U.S. is completely blowing away our sales in the UK at the moment for preorders of the album so we definitely know we’ve got a big fan base over there. So yeah, the band has been together roughly about three and a half or four years now.
As of about three years ago, we started looking about coming over there, doing shows and things like that. We realized that it wasn’t such an easy task. Because obviously, we grew up being a young band. We grew up listening to Asking Alexandria and things like that. We saw what they did, and we was like, “Man, it sounds so easy. We can just fly over there and live off nothing for a couple of months, get a show and stuff.” But it doesn’t work like that.
Yeah. It sounds so easy, right?
Yeah, yeah. It’s completely like not that.
Most bands over here can jump off the cliff. It’s a little easier, I guess.
I was saying about not oversaturating the market. You could be an up-and-coming band and play a certain city or a venue multiple times in the year and get paid so much, and that’s great. People are just going to start getting bored. You can only play an album so many times in a year to the same crowd before they’ll get bored and want new material. “I’ve seen this band so many times before. What’s the point in coming back?” Those things. From that perspective, we purposely didn’t book up multiple shows in certain cities and things like that just to keep it fresh for people.
Over here they have a lot more ground to cover, so they don’t have to.
You guys got nabbed up by Fearless. When did that happen? What was it about this contract that you were like, “Yeah. This is it.”?
When we recorded the debut album of our own back in the States. We flew over. We recorded it in not-the-December-just -one but the December prior. Over a year and three months ago now. We just saved up pay for flights and went to a producer called Joshua Whitman. We loved his sound. It was like, “We are going over there and doing that.”
Financially, it worked out good for us. It was actually cheaper to fly and record in the U.S. than it was to pick up a really good studio over here because of just currency convert. That was good for us.
We’ve always loved Fearless Records. It’s a very respectable record company. They’ve had some brilliant acts over the years. They approached us once we actually sent out a demo version of the album to them. They just got straight back to us, really. “Guys, we love this.” We went over talking for a good few months, and they sent over the contract.
To be honest, we’ve had other contracts in talks with a few other people. This one was just, by far, the pick of the bunch. There was no way we could really turn it down being over here in the U.K. and them being a U.S. label. It would make no sense to have said no to it. We were stoked. Man, it still hasn’t really sunk in.
You fit in very well with them.
The album itself, I love it. There’s a spastic quality to it that I hear in older noisecore bands. Then, there’s this melodic, sweeping theater vocal in some places. Some of it happens within two minutes. I don’t even know where to start with some of your songs, if you know what I mean.
I guess I’ll talk about the rest of the band first, and I’ll go on to my theory and stuff. Chris, from a young age — he’s the youngest member of the band, our drummer. Personally, in my opinion, the most talented.
Don’t tell him that.
Yeah, his head will blow up. He is a jazz-trained percussionist. He’s a big jazz fan, but he also listens to a lot of hardcore technical stuff like The Contortionist and Periphery. I guess he brings that element to our music. The other guitarists listen to heavy music as well. Especially our bassist. is a really big fan of bands such as Dance Gavin Dance. Me, personally, I don’t listen to metal music one bit. It sounds crazy.
You are the outcast.
But I enjoy it. I really enjoy the genre. I love listening to bands live. Generally, in music and aesthetically, I would rather listen to some acoustic folk music or pop-punk rather than a metal album. I guess that’s where that element comes into the band, like the singing and some of the melodic parts, as well. It’s a big mash up. We don’t go out to sound like anyone else. We came together, write a song. Somehow, we make it Oceans Ate Alaska
You succeeded in that aspect. It is not like anything I’ve heard in while. It’s very fun to listen to.
As you mentioned, it almost sounds like two or three or four songs jumbled into one.
Within two minutes.
And some of it, rather than connecting the musical notes up, it will be mathematically connected. We’ll be playing in Southern time fixture or frame even though the next piece of music is a different note or sounds a bit different. Mathematically, it also fits as well. That adds other weird element to it as well. If (someone) is a hardcore or metal geek, he will be like, “That’s really cool. I’ll see why they did that.”
What do you look forward to mostly when coming over here to tour? Do you want to go to Chicago and see a baseball game or something? Do you want to go the West Coast and dig San Diego weather? What are you looking forward to?
For sure. I mean, England is known for being cold and rainy all the time. We’d love to there and check out some of the hot spots doing Texas, Cali, Florida and whatnot, get a bit of sun.
As the band name relates to, we’re in to the elemental, natural fields, too. So personally, I’d love to go check out some of the natural wonders around U.S.
Like The Grand Canyon?
Yeah, things like that. We’re big fans of fast foods as well. That’s always a great place to start in America.
Oceans Ate Alaska was posted on February 19, 2015 for HM Magazine and authored by David Stagg.