With a new EP almost upon us and a huge national tour scheduled for this July, Ocean Grove’s Dale Tanner took time to talk about the new record, what fans can expect on the live front and the bloopers of life on the road.
What’s the band been up to in this past week?
The past week has been interesting. A lot of behind the scenes [work] getting ready for the release of the new EP and all that. It’s kind of the calm before the storm now. We’ve got most of the hard work out of the way, and now we can release a few tracks and get some feedback, which is exciting. It’s all very much geared towards that final release.
The tracks you have released sound great. Are you happy with the way your new single ‘Strange Talk’ was received?
It’s interesting because, in my opinion, I feel like the tracks that are yet to be released are just as good, if not better. Strange Talk has got attention because of Adrian being on the track and all that helped us to reach a new audience. But the feedback has been overall pretty positive, and a lot of people have being digging the new direction that we’ve been talking. It gives us confidence going into releasing the EP, knowing that a lot of this stuff is taking a new perspective on our own song writing, and it’s good to see people getting behind it. But yeah, the ones that are yet to be released are even more different and I like them a bit more too, so that the exciting part about it.
You guys have been playing for five years now. In terms of Black Label coming out, what are the new musical influences you guys have that can be heard on the new record in contrast to when you first started?
I think especially with this record it’s been a bit of a nostalgia trip. As we have matured and become men, we’ve learnt the importance on looking back and seeing where our true influences are from. How we got into music and how we got into heavy stuff, and a lot of the writing process has been going back and looking at some of the earlier things that we were brought up on. Like Offspring, System of a Down and all that. Especially myself, I grew up with two older sisters and an older brother who all had their own different tastes in music, but they were all really good. Like, my older brother was the one that got me into the heavier side of things. We sat in our rooms listening to things like Korn and all that. This is when I was ten, and I absolutely loved it. Then my other two sisters were very into things like Pearl Jam and Incubus and things like that, which was really mental to have at such a young age that concoction of influences. I think when we wrote ’Outsider’, we were still very much trying to find our feet, and then now, with ‘Black Label’, we’ve come along and consolidate on that sound that we established, having the confidence that we can now bring in the elements that were always there, that we always wanted to bring in, but we didn’t have the confidence to do with that first release. I think this release is very much nostalgic on our childhoods in ways, and what we’ve grown up on.
In terms of the album ‘signifying your own personal development as musicians’, how do you think you personally have developed since the first EP?
I’d say a hell of a lot. I was a pretty shit musician back then, so, personally, I can definitely recognise in myself how I’m progressing as a musician. I started in the band having never played bass. I still don’t have that much of an idea with the theory side. But in terms of just even the recording situation and things like that, I guess having done two releases now, I sort of take it for granted that I can find my way around a studio and know what’s going on. I can really now contribute. I always sort of know what sounds good. I would never be able to put it on a sheet to chords or anything, but I think I’ve developed a good ear to what sounds good, so that’s been able to translate into the writing process, and it’s been great to actually contribute quite a bit when it comes to vocal melodies and things like that. And I think the other thing has been just, from five years of performing, my vocals has been the main thing that’s really benefited from it all. It’s gotten a lot stronger, and I think that’s just with growing up. Also that combination where I’ve sort of started doing a few backup yells and screams along with Luke. Doing that in combination with my singing has just really strengthened my voice, and I’m getting a lot more confident up on stage, and keeping in tune and everything. So that’s probably the biggest thing.
Do you write your own parts?
Yeah, I usually do. There are a few little bits and pieces on the EP that Luke and I sort of collaborated on. On the lyrics I mean. We usually go back and forth off one another. It’s always good to get a second point of view. With cleans, it’s important to keep them from my perspective, because it will come across more naturally and you can kind of connect with it a bit more live. Pretty much all the cleans by Black Label, I’ve written it, along with the melodies. We did the pre-production ages back and you go through that process listening through and thinking ‘what can we do with this?’ I sat down and would start humming melodies, in the shower or wherever, and then I’d go back and just add lyrics to it. There were some which just clicked straight away. Others took a bit more work. The end result I’m really ecstatic about, and hopefully everyone enjoys it. It’s got some catchy hooks in there.
The band’s been touring frequently. What’s one of the worst things that happened on tour?
I feel like we are really lucky, because we come across so many bands that tell us their horror stories of breaking down within like the first few kilometres of tour. I couldn’t pinpoint a major bad thing. The only thing was leading up to the Volumes tour two years ago was chaotic. The car we took on our first tour got written off a week before, so we were scratching our heads, knowing we didn’t have the cash to hire a van. We were taking along the backline for the entire tour. We needed at least a car with a tow bar. A day before we hadn’t really sorted it out. Eventually Luke’s sister leant us her car. We ended up having to use it for the entirety of the tour. The biggest issue was we drove this 4WD all the way to Adelaide not knowing it was switched to 2 wheel drive. We got like half an hour in, and could really see the petrol gage going down. We were towing an unnecessarily huge trailer with a lot of gear, and we thought, “Yeah fair enough, but this petrol is going down a shitload!” We got to Adelaide and came back to Melbourne. We asked one of our mates who is pretty mechanic savvy to have a look at it, and he just said “man you’ve had it in 2 wheel drive!” We just looked at each other and thought, “You’re joking.” It was a learning curve.
So when you started, did you imagine that you would be doing tours with international bands like Attila?
There are definitely times where we look at each other and remind ourselves, “Just think back to when we started. These are some of the bands that we looked up to!” We would never have thought we would play with them. To go on full national tours with some of these bands is just crazy. I don’t think anyone when they start out can kind of expect it. Everyone has that aspiration, and we had that dream of “let’s see where we can take this”. But, that wasn’t the main driving point for the band. We started in high school as mates, just doing it because it was something that we were into. It just translated and progressed over time. We started to realise that people liked our music and we were getting these gigs that were more established. Our second gig was with Confession on the ‘Keeping it Bogan Tour’. Back then that was just like “this is such a big deal.” And that was like five years ago. So, I think that it kind of puts us in good stead to just appreciate where we are at each point in time.
Where do you hope to see the band in a year?
In my hopes, I guess it would be great to get over to the US that would be awesome. At least do a run of shows. If I came away from this band having travelled to America or Europe to play a bunch of shows, not having made money off it or anything, just some good experiences, that’s all I want to get out of this band. It depends how this new EP goes. So far it’s had a real good response, and we’ve been getting a lot of pre-orders and people getting around it already. Hopefully we can back that up with the tour coming up in July and see if we start getting interest from people around the globe, especially record labels. We want to get down to doing our first full-length album pretty soon after this EP. The best avenue that we can do that is the best result we can aim for.
How was working with Adrian on ‘Strange Talk’?
I didn’t personally have to do much. Our manager got in contact with him; it was sort of a last minute thing. This spot came up in the song, and we always knew we wanted someone to do vocals there. It was entirely different to anything, if not the heaviest part of the EP. We just thought it would suit for someone to come in. A few options that we thought of fell through, but one day it was mentioned ‘just go with Adrian’. Even though he’s not with Northlane anymore, he’s still an awesome vocalist, and we didn’t just want to do it to get any kind of street cred.
We were looking at a vocalist that would not only suit the song, but their attitude towards music and life was in tune with what we were talking about. With Adrian and the element and the theme of ‘Strange Talk’, we just thought, “that will click straight away”. And it did. When Ash [Hull, Manager] messaged him and showed him the song and the lyrics, he was really rapt on the idea. He was on board straight away. Luke provided the lyrics for him and said “feel free to go ahead and go wild on that.” We were really hoping for him to go for his sort of heavier vocals, which you see in ‘Dispossession’ and stuff. And he hadn’t really been doing that much in his more recent stuff. Those were the songs, which were huge influences on us at the time. Luke ran through it with him over the phone, and he just did it in the studio in Sydney where he is living. So I didn’t have much to do with him one on one. It was more Ash and Luke who were in contact with him and he smashed it out within a week or so of us getting in contact with him.
What can fans expect on this upcoming tour?
Fans can expect that we are going to play the entire EP which is really exciting. We are heading into the rehearsal studio to get that really tight, and we are interested to see how they will go live. We did test out one of the songs that’s yet to be released on our tour with Attila, and that really translated well as a live song which is what we were hoping. Lots of people getting into it, and it was written to be a live song. That’s the direction we are going, because we really thrive off and enjoy that crowd interaction. Also having a set that people can really engage with, and that’s the direction that a lot of our songs are taking. So fans can expect to hear it in its entirety, and along with Void of Vision and Devastator who are real killer live, it should be one hell of a tour!
Catch Ocean Grove on their Black Label tour, with guests Void Of Vision and Devastator, this July.
‘Black Label’ is out this Friday. Pre-order the EP here.