If you attended Northlane’s recent headline run, you would have seen one of Australia’s best up and comers, Ocean Grove. Having dropped their smashing EP, ‘Black Label’, earlier in 2015, things have just been getting bigger and better for the band ever since. Killyourstereo.com sat down recently with vocalist Luke Holmes to discuss what has been a significant year for the locals.
I’ll be honest Luke, I didn’t really like you guys prior to ‘Black Label’, but since then I’ve become way more interested in the band, and I think that’s because you went from being rather generic with ‘Outsider’ to rather unique now with ‘Black Label’. Would you agree with that?
Yeah I would, I think you’ve got it, man. That’s what we were going for. With the old record, we were doing something that had already been done, but we weren’t doing it the best. A lot of people can do that middle of the road sound really well. With this record, we wanted to push our boundaries, and it all came pretty naturally. It’s music that I think some people would be afraid to release.
During one of the old interviews you guys did for the site, one of you mentioned that ‘Black Label’ was more about how you guys had matured, and become men. Because when you started out, you were just teenagers…
Totally. There’s such a long time between writing and releasing music, as some of the songs on ‘Outsider’ had been written when I was sixteen, which isn’t a good time to be trying to put something sophisticated together. We had been touring for a long time, we had all of our production figured out, and how we wanted to sound, so I am really happy with how it all went down. I suppose we’ve matured well.
I would say so too. I find that creates a real identity for the band as well. I saw you open the first Melbourne show for Northlane recently, and you guys really stood out from the rest as the oddball band.
Yeah, we love being the odd one out. We really love it.
That’s good, as then people who have no idea who you are watch your set, and go, “I don’t know what the hell that was, but I liked it”.
Yeah, man. And on those bigger shows, where 90% of the people in the crowd have never heard of you or that music before, we want them to walk away being entertained.
For sure. I find that it’s the “we don’t give a fuck” attitude you guys have that really seems to work.
Oh, for sure. I don’t think you can be too serious when you’re playing music. You can’t just be the rock star, so you got to get up [on stage] and have a good time, and people will see that. We’re serious about our music, but a lot of us are just having fun as mates. Whatever goes, goes.
Good to hear, man. The almost bizarre nature of Ocean Grove’s music and look makes you guys different as well. A good example of that is the video for ‘I Told you To Smile’, or even how you guys dress, as you don’t look like your typical heavy band dudes.
[laughs] Yeah, we don’t really worry about that stuff as we don’t really listen to heavy music that much. It doesn’t seem weird to us, but someone said to us that we were “norm-core”. We’ll roll with it, of all the things we could be, I guess that’s fine. But at the same time, it’s very abnormal; it’s a very abstract idea as well.
[Laughs] Well, I guess it’s because you don’t look like you play in a hardcore band. Appearances can really play into how people perceive the band, though.
It’s sort of the antithesis, you know, so you’ve gotta be yourself and find your own thing. I think that’s what we’re really doing now. It’s good to have that image around you, as a lot of being in a band is not just playing music. It’s like any small business; your marketing has to be down to a fine art. But as for the way we dress, it’s because we dress like that normally.
Well said, man. I think you guys have really taken 2015 by the balls. With all of this touring going on, how much has it affected much of your personal lives, like your jobs and whatnot?
It’s been full on. But we got on the tours we wanted, saw all the places we wanted to, and made some good connections with other bands. But it has affected us. Dale is about to finish up his degree, I’m still at uni – it’s like walking on eggshells. [You] toe the line between being the best employee, or being the best with the time management. So, when it comes to tour, hopefully you won’t get fired, or that you can get an extension on an exam or an assessment. Uni’s are usually pretty cool about it, as it’s technically an employment opportunity for us. But it’s only going to be getting more hectic, which is scary. But it’s what we wanted. When you start out where you have that idea of where you like to be, and we are that point now.
It’s one of those tough situations where you have to sacrifice one thing for another. But I hope it works out for you guys, I really do. With the Northlane tour, you guys played some pretty big venues. Are you all starting to get used to those bigger shows, or are you still in the local show mindset?
We’ve played the dirty and disgusting shows that when we get a good one, we can really enjoy it. We’re used to playing 400-500 cap rooms, which is a good pub rock vibe, which we lend ourselves to pretty well. Playing to 2,000 people at the Roundhouse, and the 170 Russell show that you saw, we shined just as much. We’ve played enough shit gigs in clubs to know that when you get a good show, you should really enjoy it. Because next week you could be back at Phoenix Youth Centre [playing] to no one.
Exactly, don’t take it for granted.
You have Invasion Fest coming up and Unify later on. With all these shows, it seems like the shows are just filled with a bunch of friends?
Yeah, it is. With Unify, we just toured with In Hearts Wake, and a lot of those bands we’ve toured with or played with. That’s how it is here; you tour long enough you just become mates with everyone. So nearly everyone on that bill, we’ll have a good chance to hang out with.
A lot of bands, especially overseas bands, always comment on our scene, and how welcoming the community is. I think that makes it all rather special.
It definitely does. When you tour with American bands, whether it’s their first time over or not, they find it different. As you should when you meet someone for the first time, you go up and shake their hand and pick their brain a bit, and some of those bigger American bands don’t do that. It blows them away. When we toured with Volumes, they said every night that this wasn’t their tour, it was our tour. It’s such a great community with everyone working to a common goal. It shouldn’t be a competition.
It never should be. And it’s interesting that some overseas bands find it weird, there’s something to be said about the difference in cultures, but that’s for some more qualified than myself. Though I suppose when a band’s booking their European tour and they like that one Aussie band, suddenly they could take you on tour.
That could be a foreshadowing statement [laughs], but you never do it for that reason, you know. You may get to tour with them, or you may not see them again for a long while. If you can make an impression on someone, whether it’s the headliner’s vocalist or the bloke who’s moping up afterwards, you should just be happy to be touring.
Yeah, as we said before, never take any of it for granted.
Exactly, you could be conscripted in the army tomorrow, you never know.
Too right man. Well, thanks for your time this morning Luke, I know it’s a bit of an early start, but it’s been good to talk to you, dude.
Nah, all good man, thanks for getting me up [laughs].
Catch Ocean Grove performing at Invasion Fest, which takes place in Melbourne this December. You can purchase tickets via Oztix.
Join the official Facebook event here.
‘Black Label’ is out now.