Ocean Grove: Interview with Dale Tanner

Melbourne based Ocean Grove have spent the last year and a half flat out. They’ve been touring in celebration of their debut album The Rhapsody Tapes, and have been soaking it all in, as they travel the world doing what they love. They are now about to play a huge set at the Dead of Winter Festival in Brisbane, right before they take off to tour Japan with Crossfaith. With a whole lot of curiosity about the upcoming tours, the festival, and a keenness to discuss The Rhapsody Tapes as a whole, I got on the phone with Ocean Grove’s bass player and clean vocalist, Dale Tanner, who was happy to discuss such things and provide us with a good look at the goings-on in the Oddworld.

Any kind of festival excites us

Greetings out of the way, we got straight into chatting about the Dead of Winter Festival itself, as Dale expressed his excitement for the event. The last time they had played Brisbane was on their small tour with Limp Bizkit, which was understandably a huge achievement for them, and Dale expanded upon his excitement by discussing their recent shows, and how that has made them even more excited for this.

“Our first show outside of the Limp Bizkit shows was Ringwood a few weeks ago, and we set a bit of a low expectation for that one, just cause we didn’t know what to expect, being a local show and you know sort of a rainy night at a venue where we hadn’t played in years. It ended up being one of the funnest shows we’ve played. People turned out in the hundreds to come watch and be a part of it and it had a really good energy. That really excites us cause we haven’t had those opportunities to play Australia, as of late that much.”

“Our fanbase seems to have grown since the release of The Rhapsody Tapes and we haven’t played that many shows since. The Tivoli is a great venue and we have a great 18+ crowd in Brisbane which is very exciting, and it’s a festival so, any kind of festival excites us.”

(Ocean Grove @ The Manhattan, Ringwood – Albert Lamontagne)

I brought it back to Ringwood, where we discussed how great it was to see the amount of people that came to such a small show. With that show, Dale really appreciated how they were able to pay it forward in a way, by giving back to smaller venues in parts of Melbourne that are more local to them. Having themselves been a growing band in the Melbourne scene they loved, they were able to put on a show and give opportunities to some growing Melbourne bands like Thornhill, Mirrors, and Shepherd. It must also be unreal for them to see the growth in the scene itself, and to experience that after being away from smaller venues for a few years.

I have fond memories of when I first got into Ocean Grove. Seeing them live on the Equinox tour with In Hearts Wake and Northlane, I can remember them really catching my eye with their performance of recently released track “Lights On Kind Of Lover,” and their whacky stage antics. Someone was walking across the stage with song titles on pieces of paper like an old timey play or theatre, drawing us in to the whole Ocean Grove experience. Seeing the band going from this and having not many people know who they were, to seeing them now, where they dominate the stage and fill rooms with countless people all singing along with every song, has been a treat to witness.

 

Getting back to The Dead of Winter festival, we discuss a few bands that are appearing on the festival, like Polaris and Deadlights. Dale mentions Clowns as one he is particularly keen to share the stage with again. “Clowns is a band that we grew up in a similar area to, and have played the odd show here and there with for years. The first time we played with them was at a Skate Park in Chelsea, for like a youth fest. There was a heavy stage there with Clowns, ourselves, and one other band, and this would’ve been in what… um, 2011? Quite some time ago. Just recently we played Download together, and that was great. And despite our music crossing over a fair bit we haven’t got to play with them as much as we’d like. Really excited to share the stage with them and they’re good dudes and we really back their music.” Dale also mentions bands like Radio Moscow that are great to have as something a bit different, and is really happy with the mixed bill lineup they’ve put together.

I’ve always wondered about the attitude that comes with playing such an event, so I asked about what makes a big festival like this one different to playing a normal show. Dale feels the mixed bill nature of it, with multiple stages and a somewhat broader audience makes it very different. Everyone seems slightly more open minded at a festival, as they get drawn in by the festival mentality and are happy to watch and enjoy some bands they possibly haven’t seen before.

That’s certainly the case with a lot of festivals, I think specifically about Unify Gathering, where having just one stage allows people to easily discover new bands. Even with multiple stages, people will wander between stages and see what they can find. Being quite high up The Dead Of Winter bill, Ocean Grove will see a lot of attention at the festival from fans as well as new listeners.

“Our music has always sought out the people that are a little bit open minded and left of centre, and the people that are willing to let their tastes go behind just heavy music, and let other styles dip into that. The main objective of Dead of Winter is that hopefully we can appeal to your fans of Frenzal Rhomb, or Clowns, or Radio Moscow, or anyone that might not necessarily listen to heavy music, but they can find contingents of what they like in our music.”

I know several people myself where Ocean Grove is the only heavy band they listen to, and its awesome to see them bridge the gap between genres like that. Their appearance at last year’s Splendour in the Grass evidences this, and it was a goal of theirs according to Dale: They want to be able to have their own unique sound and cover a range of genres in their music, and to be able to play stuff like Splendour and Groovin’ the Moo and have it feel not so far fetched.

We get onto discussing their upcoming tour with Crossfaith and I ask what kind of things they are expecting from that. Dale is quite excited to get into the culture, as he has travelled to Japan before and loves it over there, and is pumped with the opportunity to do that again through playing music. Heavy music is really on the rise in Japan, and the heavy culture over there is growing.

The trip will see the guys of Ocean Grove face some curious cultural differences, even when it comes to a crowd interacting with a band. Dale says: “We’ve heard about this sort of golf clap phenomenon, that happens where they’ll be loud and crazy while you’re playing and when you finish they’ll be really quiet and only clap really softly because you’re the one with the microphone and they wanna hear what you have to say and give you that extra level of respect. That’s just one example of what will be many eye opening differences.”

 

Having had this question burning a hole in the back of my head this whole time, I finally had to ask: “Will this nearly be the end of The Rhapsody Tapes cycle?”

I think by the time this year is out we will have hopefully done everything that we wanted to do with this cycle. I would really like to do one more Australian tour, whether that would be inclusive of the regional dates as well, I think that would be really important since we haven’t done that since the release. We’re kind of working on new material, so I think there’s new music on the horizon, and with that a new cycle and a new plan.”

Feeling silently thrilled at the idea of new music, I jumped at this chance to talk about my favourite album of 2017. The Rhapsody Tapes is such a diverse album and I was curious about the writing process. I asked about whether or not they knowingly did this or if it just kind of happened by coincidence. Dale confirmed this by talking about the attitudes of the band as a whole: They wanted to push the boundaries of heavy music in general, as well as push themselves. Most of all they wanted to be experimental, which is what pushed them to create such a unique album.

With this album coming up we’re looking to maintain that element of experimentation, and that spectrum of noise, but to bring it in and compress it a little bit. Harness what we nailed on The Rhapsody Tapes and discard those bells and whistles on either end that were kind of just there to accentuate. Like, hey we can do all these different things on one album, and we’ve done that, but now we’ll be looking to be still experimental, but more compressed and more focused.”

 

That all kind of brings it back to the vibes of Ocean Grove as a whole. They’re clearly a very unique group, and are all very expressive on stage and in their music. I mention Dale in particular with his stage outfits, and ask about the inspiration behind those and what goes into being so creative and different. Dale opens up about a desire to express themselves and be themselves as much as possible.

In his words: “When we were in America we got to our first show and my luggage had been left in Toronto and we were playing the first show in Montreal, and so I didn’t have my stage outfit. I had to go up on stage with what I had, like jeans and a t-shirt, and I just felt so exposed. And I didn’t feel authentic at all, and that really speaks volumes as to why we do what we do. Its because it is the true raw expression of who we are, and our music, and our personalities, and our desire to be different and to push the boundaries. With how we look as well as our sound.”

“We express our true selves and that inspires them to be their true selves”

“You become accustomed to seeing bands getting up wearing all black and that’s just the done thing, and that’s a bit boring, like ‘Why aren’t you giving me a bit more? I don’t wanna come and get the CD replica of what you’ve released rather than an actual performance.’ I think we really value that side of things, and it’s really helped our live performance side of things become really exciting, and our fans resonate with that and that creates an infinite loop of energy as we express our true selves and that inspires them to be their true selves. Its a pure and beautiful way of expressing ourselves.”

This makes perfect sense as to why Ocean Grove’s live performances feel like a big ball of creative energy that they throw at their fans at every show, while also seeming to step it up even more at every show. The individuality takes their shows to another level, showcasing an authenticity that can be rare to find, and a huge part of what draws people to Ocean Grove, and to their Oddworld creations.

Catch Ocean Grove at the Dead of Winter Festival on July 7, with tickets here: https://tickets.oztix.com.au/?Event=84948
Ocean Grove will also be giving some regional love to Geelong, with a show on July 14 at The Workers Club. Tickets here: https://spinninghalf.oztix.com.au/Default.aspx

[Image of Dale Tanner and Ocean Grove courtesy of Albert Lamontagne @ The Manhattan, Ringwood]

Josh Hockey

Melbourne based music journalist who is ridiculously passionate about music, and spends every possible moment listening to it, seeing shows, and of course wearing the merch.

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