The Life, Death, and Rebirth of Oceana
Image by: James Lano
As much as it is a cliche, we are faced with a formidable truth in life: Change repeatedly seems to be the only constant. How we deal with that, though, comes to define who we are. It pieces together a true identity. I think it’s sufficient to say that at least at one point in all of our lives, we come to ask ourselves, “Will I take the risk? Am I up to the challenge?” The construction of our individuality stems from those decisions, whatever shape or form they come in.
Oceana is a band that has faced such daunting choices, repeatedly. With what result? Put it this way: To say that the St. Petersburg band flaunt originality or individuality would be an understatement of elephantine proportions. In a growing musical environment that has become content with rehashing utter monotony, Oceana have proven time and time again that they aren’t satisfied in fitting trends. Gearing for a release of their new full length, One Big Particular Loop, they are ready to prove that for themselves once again.
In case you’re not up to speed, Oceana are no longer a metalcore band. They haven’t been since their pivotal reunion and thank goodness, because the proceeding evolution of the band is nothing short of remarkable. So what changed? Simply put, the band has undergone, what I like to call, transitions and translations. Starting with their very first album, The Tide, there was a general consensus that a rare honesty was laced throughout, subtly weaved in aggressive instrumentation. Reviews praised the band for their potential and their uncommon attempt at adding something new, though not everyone agreed that it set them apart. Yet, this ‘spark,’ if you will, translated on with member changes coupled with interesting influences that were introduced to their sound. The potential ignited, manifesting maturity in the form of Birth.Eater, a true gem amidst a passionless musical climate. With its dark overtones, exceptionally vulnerable vocals and deeply personal delivery, a masterpiece was crafted, but it would truly have a short lifespan. Oceana disbanded on June 19, 2009 citing not personal conflict, as is typical nowadays, but that “[they] all decided that [their] hearts were in different places at [that] time in [their] lives.”
It was every bit as true then as it is now. However, Birth.Eater would not be their last album. Risks were taken but in the grand scheme of things, their time apart was a breather, the gestation period of something incredible waiting to be born. It was “absolutely” imperative, according to guitarist Alex Schultz. He explains, “At the time of the “break up” we were all listening to different types of music and experimenting with different styles of writing songs. If we had not split for a while, the music would have still taken a turn but definitely not as drastic, and probably not as indicative of our sound now.”
This is transition, and it’s that very sound that feels so refreshing and vibrant. With exploration into cleaner styles (see “Blue” and “Wool God”) and festive rhythms (see “Barracuda, Capital of the World”), Cleanhead entered the world, marking a re-imagining of Oceana into the sincerest form we’ve ever witnessed. How do we know this? Schultz provided insight on the mindset and purpose of Cleanhead and its significance to the band.
“Honestly, the only reason we got back together was to write an album like Cleanhead. Most of us were tired of playing the type of music we did and being pigeonholed into this tiny sub-genre of music. We were ready for something fresh and new – a rebirth of what Oceana was thought to be. Not to prove a point or to alienate our old fans, but to express ourselves the way we wanted and not the way we were expected to.” With its bright new overtones that swayed with joyful lyrics (see the appropriately titled “Joy”) and organic delivery, the band reaffirmed their revitalization and indeed expressed themselves more so than ever before. There were elements and highlights that had not been present in earlier work, and the entire structure felt completely engaging, broadly appealing, but eloquently retained a warm and intimate nature. Cleanhead was short, sweet, satisfying, and most importantly, just a sample of what’s to come.
This is translation. This honest facet, which has harmonized with fans since the beginning, has never left the band but continually merges into a style their hearts are in. “Although we were expressing ourselves the way we wanted to, I can safely speak for all of us when I say that Cleanhead was still thought of (consciously or subconsciously) as a bridge or a transitional album between “earlier Oceana” and what we plan to release in December. This time around we have honestly given no thought to a smooth transition or appeasing any old fans. We just wrote what felt right at the time, and I think that’s what music is at its purest form.” And if that isn’t honesty, I don’t know what is. The only factor that played into One Big Particular Loop was what Oceana, and Oceana alone, wanted to hear, create, and perform.
And that fact was perfectly fine to many. Cleanhead was just the tip of the iceberg and in a few years’ time, the band was ready to finalize their greatest vision yet. At the end of this past spring, Oceana created and successfully funded a $10,000 Kickstarter goal (actually generating nearly another thousand on top of their established goal), to cover expenses related to the creation and promotion of One Big Particular Loop, as a result of their departure from Rise Records. It was “truly a blessing” and an “indescribable” feeling, says Schultz. “I remember getting the call from Kolby [Crider, bassist] the moment we broke our goal, and trying to decide whether to fall over or run down the street screaming.”
Thus work on their new full length began, with the process being even more controlled and precise than that of Cleanhead. “We couldn’t have been more prepared. We had about 20 songs to choose from and spent the past two years in a constant state of pre-production: create, discard, revise, and repeat. When we got to Atlanta, we had more than enough time to experiment with different tones, instruments, and hardware. Matt [Goldman, of Glow In The Dark Studios] once again brought that organic, honest sound to an album that may not have been present otherwise.” And the beauty of such dedicated effort is that we can naturally expect a leap forward from the already magnificent material we heard on the EP. Schultz previews, “Expect to hear layers and textures of instruments and tones that we have never incorporated into our music before. Expect to hear influences from music like jazz and blues, to funk, folk, electro and hip-hop. Not one song on the album sounds like the next, but the overall vibe is somehow cohesive. It was difficult to blend three years of writing and growing as musicians and people, but I’ve honestly never been so proud of something.”
And for something of this stature, Oceana wouldn’t go at it alone. If you’ve payed attention to the activity of the band post-recording, one of the first things to enter your mind would undoubtedly be a grand live performance, now marked by interchanging musical duties, all in the company of good friends. For the fans, it’s a real treat and spectacle. The band itself has come to appreciate the shows for various reasons. According to Schultz, it’s where they should be in life. “I’m sure that we all have that feeling almost every time we play or every time talk to an appreciative fan. We’re all still very young, but I’m positive that we’ll all make music for the rest of our lives.”
Undeniably, these experiences are nothing short of rewarding. As far as the music is concerned, it fits the same mold, especially since a plethora of influences and ideas are pushed to the fore and intertwine, providing a fully immersive time for friends and members of the band. “[It’s] such a blessing. They always seem to bring something fresh and exciting to the table,” says Schultz. With such a creative atmosphere, One Big Particular Loop was written, but Oceana are already demonstrating that these works of art will not be confined to a single rendition. “Our goal right now is to re-create and to also reinvent this album live, as creatively as we can. We could put all the extra instrumentation on back tracks and play just the four of us, but that just doesn’t seem like it would fit the vibe of One Big Particular Loop, and wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding or entertaining as playing with some of our closest friends.” Hence, it seems to make the most sense that these performances are shared and furthered by close friends. And with that, Oceana definitely see the need to keep this dynamic.
“On this note, we would actually like to announce that we’ve added an additional member to the group. Alec Prorock has added such a great element to this album that I’m sure you’ll recognize when you hear it. He’ll be playing the trumpet, as well as some guitar and keyboards, live.”
With a new member and an even fresher approach, you can rest assured that the dynamics Oceana have claimed as their own will remain and advance. This is development. It’s not every day that such workings bring about success. Yet, Oceana is not a band you find every day. They have developed themselves, and continue to do so, into something that is genuine and heartening, as a group of close companions who aspire to do what they truly love and who have had a full realization of their aspirations by the backing of friends, family and fans alike.
This is just the start of their journey. Or at very least, the embarking of a new one.
“Because of the change in sound, emotion, and band members since the dawning of Oceana, we’ve decided to change our name and start fresh as a new band. We hope that Oceana, and especially Cleanhead fans will remain by our side in this endeavor, and new fans will find something special in our first album as Polyensō.”
This is change. The name Oceana has become synonymous with change, but one that is honest and loyal, and unlike any I, personally, have witnessed. Thus, Polyensō is born into the same conceptions, but with endless horizons. When people think of that name, Schultz hopes that the same inspirational motif Oceana has held will carry on, in a newer and deeper form. “I would like people to discover or remember that beauty lies in imperfection, transience, and creativity. Not just referring to our music, but with every aspect of life. Music helps us get through the hardest [moments] and celebrate the happiest moments. If our music aids anyone in that discovery, then we are content dudes.” Be very happy then, Polyensō. Beauty has been found since the beginning and will certainly be found from this new, exciting life. It must be a dream come true.
Polyensō are set to independently release One Big Particular Loop sometime in December.