“It almost felt like this day would never come,” Dale Tanner said down the phone. We were speaking two days prior to the release of Ocean Grove‘s sophomore album, Flip Phone Fantasy, and the band’s frontman/vocalist Dale was reflecting upon the period of time since The Rhapsody Tapes had released.
Ocean Grove had only just come off their tour of Europe and the UK with Japan’s Crossfaith, and Dale was sounding surprisingly fresh. Literally embodying the band’s single “SUNNY”, he was outside and taking full advantage of the beautiful sunny day that Melbourne was delivering, and walking barefoot in the park while we spoke.
He shared that he’d landed in Melbourne at 5am the day prior, and put down his feeling good to the fact that he’d kept an unusual sleeping pattern while on tour (influenced by Ocean Grove’s bassist, Twiggy Hunter). He said “Twiggy and I weren’t getting to bed until 5am most mornings on tour anyway. We’d just be up, mucking around, on the guitar, watching a movie or something. [laughs] We bring out the worst in each other when it comes to bedtimes. So when we flew back, it’s probably synced up again.”
Album Release Day
Dale described himself as feeling equal parts of excitement and relief when it came to the release of Flip Phone Fantasy. “It almost felt like this day would never come when we were in the thick of it in the studio last year. There were times when we had to pull each other up and egg each other on and just know that this day would come. Through it all there was a lot to come back from and rebuild.
“I think once we put our heads down and truly realised what we were capable of and what we really wanted to get out of this album, all the pieces started to fall together. And before we knew it, we were sitting on something we were super proud of, and this day couldn’t come any sooner once it was finished.
“We, more than anyone, were just so aware of the time between our last release and getting new music out. Obviously we would have loved to have got more music out sooner, but I wouldn’t take back anything because I think it’s been all for a reason. I think it was all meant to be. Had we rushed this, I think we would have really regretted it, so I’m really glad that we took pretty much all of last year to write this record and reinvent ourselves. I think now we’re sitting in a really exciting position where the album’s weirdly enough anticipated and there’s a really great energy surrounding it. I’m feeling really excited and just can’t wait to start playing these new songs.”
The reinvention seemed inevitable for Ocean Grove, given that the band lost two of its founding members and also gained a new one. The lineup change also saw Dale move from bass to the role of frontman. It seemed like common sense for them to have prioritised their identity and strength as a unit with the new configuration before creating new music together.
Ocean Grove had jumped into the Hands Like Houses tour very quickly after the departure of frontman Luke Holmes and guitarist Jimmy Hall. Though it could have been seen as unfortunate timing, the band took the dive into the deep end in their stride. Dale says “We knew that being idle in a moment like that was never going to do us any good. We knew that just getting back up on our feet as soon as we could in that respect was a really healthy thing. But in the background yeah, there was definitely a reinvention; an evolution happening.”
It’s been three years since The Rhapsody Tapes released and it’d be remiss to expect that it’d be the same Ocean Grove creating their sophomore album. Dale feels that each of the four (himself, Twiggy, guitarist Matt Henley, and drummer Sam Bassal) have matured as artists as well as people since The Rhapsody Tapes. Talking specifically about his new role, Dale says that he took the time to embrace the newness of the opportunity to voice a lot more of his feelings and what he’s passionate about.
“It was something that I was able to do in part when Luke was frontman and I would chip in on the odd chorus here and there, sort of help write the overall idea of a particular song. But this is the first time that I was presented with that challenge of like ‘Okay, it’s up to me to determine what direction a lot of these songs go in terms of their concept and what emotions they hope to unravel’. So that was a cool aspect that I think I had to get my head around before really tackling it, and becoming comfortable with that.”
This adjustment took time, and as much as performing live together showed how much of a special chemistry the new dynamic had, there was continued evolution going into the studio. Dale recognised that there were new possibilties that perhaps wouldn’t have occurred if Ocean Grove’s trajectory had remained unchanged. Elaborating, he says “That’s not to say it’s better or worse. I think for me anyway, that potential for a drastic step in a new direction was really exciting. For me as frontman, getting to put down the bass and just focus on my vocals really felt like a moment of being let out of my cage. Even though I never really felt like I was in a cage when I was playing bass, it’s just that singing and performing in the way that I’m able to now is something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a little boy. Guitar was a gateway for me into the music community, but singing was always something I was first and foremost passionate about.”
With this opportunity, Dale sees it almost as “meant to be” and was also keen to go into the new album with a dual-vocal approach. He mentions Alice In Chains, Oasis, and blink-182 as examples of this, where vocals are shared with a good result. “We knew once we got the chemistry right that we had this potential for a new sound and a new direction. It was incredibly exciting.”
Though the Flip Phone Fantasy title came up late in the process, the idea that inspired it had been a longstanding one. Dale shared “Very early on, not long after The Rhapsody Tapes had come out, we were sitting there, thinking with Luke what we wanted this next album to be about. Time and time again, the concept of retrofuturism would come up.”
From Wikipedia, retrofuturism is explained as “a movement in the creative arts showing the influence of depictions of the future produced in an earlier era. If futurism is sometimes called a “science” bent on anticipating what will come, retrofuturism is the remembering of that anticipation.”
I think of this concept as being like watching movies as a kid about how we’d be in flying cars by now, and how futuristic ‘the year 2020’ sounded in the 90s. This is something that influenced Dale too. He says “My mum worked in a video store when I was a kid growing up, so I had a constant access to a library of movies. Big ones like Back To The Future obviously, but I think back then, especially in the 90s, there was a growing fascination with what the future would bring.
“I think that energy was something that I really resonated with, and have done so for as long as I can remember. I love looking at the artwork and how movies did see what the future would be like. I think it’s something we as humans are all compelled by, yet none of us know. So it’s one of the great mysteries. I think capturing that essence into an album was something that I thought could be really cool.”
The fact that Ocean Grove had already touched on influences from previous decades in their music was further motivation to go for the idea. Dale spoke about how they take influence from music from the 1960s through to the present.
‘Doing A Blocky’
A flip phone was an object that seemed to neatly capture this essence of retrofuturism for the band, so it quickly became the title and artwork once they heard it. Dale introduced “doing a blocky” to me then, saying that it’s what they call a deliberate walk around the block if they feel like they’re spending one too many hours in the studio. It was while they were “doing a blocky” one night and needing some fresh air that Twiggy presented the title.
“We kind of just all locked at each other and went ‘Oh that’s sort of perfect’. It summed up who we are as people, in terms of just being quite a quirky cheeky title that kind of rolled off the tongue and also did represent that idea of retrofuturism; sort of looking at what kind of fantasy people of the flip phone era has of the current day that we are in today or even ten years from now, and taking an artistic approach. You know, there’s the irony in contrasting now to then, how music compares from now to then, and taking a fun spin on that.”
All that Dale was sharing was really interesting to me, and not just from the inspiration to Google “retrofuturism” after the interview. The album artwork with a flip phone covered in stickers as well as big smiley faces and rainbows could on the surface be seen as quite kitschy, so it’s a surprise that there’s so much behind it. I feel that the Ocean Grove ‘brand’ reflects some of this surprise depth also. The band run off a formed philosophy of how they want to be as a collective, while also bouncing around with no cares in the world on stage. It could be seen as a contradiction, but it’s all part of who Ocean Grove are and what they’re about. It also means that people can experience the band in any way that makes sense to them, whether a toe-dip or a full immersion in their sonic ocean.
Finding A Balance
Hearing me think out loud about this brought to mind for Dale the challenge that he and many artists have; of wanting to go as deep as you can in what you create and be innovative, esteemed, and professional. “It’s so hard to really determine what that is when you’re in the thick of it and just creating. I think for us, what creates that combination of it seeming fun and cheeky and light on the surface but having a deeper foundation is because we’re trying to find that balance of wanting to keep things light and not take ourselves too seriously. But at the same time knowing that the energy and the emotion that we’re putting in to what we’re creating warrants having that deeper meaning for people to latch onto. You want to be seen in that light of being innovative and all these things, but that could be dangerous because you also don’t want to come across as trying to be like a poet and all these things to sum things up perfectly.”
He felt like Ocean Grove had found a good balance for themselves, and summarised the approach he and the band have taken for Flip Phone Fantasy, saying “The thing that always anchored us was knowing that as long as we ourselves were being unapologetically authentic, and being ourselves, and if everything we were putting out felt natural and right to us, then that would oversee and be the umbrella for everything that we were doing. And even if something were to come across to someone as confusing, or on the nose, or whatever, at least to us it feels natural and isn’t contrived or trying to elicit something other than a natural response.
“We definitely wanted it to come across that way; as something that wasn’t fake, and wasn’t something that we were doing just to please a certain audience. This album was certainly just for us and if anyone joins us and really understands the message that we’re bringing with our music, then that’s a bonus. Just sticking to what we knew was true to us we knew was going to be the best way forward.”
Hearing Dale talk about all of these considerations and how hard they were striving to get it right had me think about the pressure that must exist in those circumstances, and how daunting it could potentially be going into a new album. He spoke about The Rhapsody Tapes and the critical acclaim that the songs earned, as well as the way the album was branded “an album that’s like no other”. He said “We found ourselves sitting there like ‘How do we do that again but better?’. [laughs] Through the lineup change and everything, everyone sort of looking at us like ‘Oh, what’s the next move going to be?’, all this pressure of ‘Where’s the sound going to go?’ and all these things. The pressure definitely was immense. It took a little time to work out exactly how we were going to go about it.
“Once the dynamic of the band was right and we were in the studio, and the songs started to come together, Twiggy brought a whole library of his ideas to the table, and that injected an energy that I think we really needed at that point. For Sam especially, he’s quite a wizard when it comes to hearing quite a simple hook or idea, and taking that and turning that into a full song. For instance he takes a song like “SUNNY”. That pretty much came from Twiggy having a recording of more of a trappy sounding song that he recorded with a mate back in LA that had that chorus, but obviously none of my backing vocals coming in, but just the [sings] ‘But outside it looks sunny’ kind of over this trap beat, which he’s still got somewhere. Sam heard that and went ‘Oh, there’s something in that!’ and Twiggy went ‘Alright, let’s use it’. The very next day, Sam had written this structure and put guitars under it and all of a sudden we had this song. A lot of the pieces fell together like that.
“At the end of the day, we knew the one thing that was going to help us maintain our audience that we’d gained through The Rhapsody Tapes… but also expand it and achieve what maybe we set out to do with The Rhapsody Tapes but didn’t quite perfect… We wanted it to be The Rhapsody Tapes 2.0 but didn’t want it to be The Rhapsody Tapes 2.0. Does that make sense? We didn’t want to just repeat ourselves, we wanted to repeat the idea, but just done better. More refined.”
Dale feels that Sam’s production and the band’s songwriting have improved, and they were keen to use their skills that had been learned over the three years to create something more polished. Diversity was an important driver to The Rhapsody Tapes, and this inspired Flip Phone Fantasy too. They’d asked themselves the question: “How great would it be to release an album of songs that is just so diverse that people actually don’t know what to make of it?”. In having read reviews that have crossed his path, Dale had noticed some confusion around genre and questioning the tracklisting, asking if it’s intentional to be so diverse. “Like ‘Duh! What do you think?!” he said. But there’s fun in this for them, in seeing the reactions to something that’s deliberately aspring to break a mould of expectations.
Feeling “pumped” about the reactions so far, and reactions to come, Dale says the band learned an important lesson with the release of “Ask For The Anthem”, that prepared them for the moment of Flip Phone Fantasy being received. “When we put that song out, we knew that the feedback was going to be mixed and we knew that there was going to be people that were either devastated or confused or just didn’t know what to make of this new direction. But it was kind of just learning to be okay with it, to embrace that energy as just another form of energy, another form of people interpreting what we’re doing, and that’s a-okay. We’re at ease with that because we know we have tricks up our sleeve and it’s like ‘Don’t just judge us by one particular song or one particular album’, because guaranteed, the next song is going to surprise you again and will be your most favourite or your least favourite. We want that to be the anticipation of our followers; to never expect the expected.”
Though Dale has learned to be okay with the “Ask For The Anthem” backlash, hearing him talk gave me a mental image of two ‘sides’, which I shared out loud. One side is an artist or sculptor, working diligently in a museum space to create his art for himself, and the other side is that artist in the middle of a ring inside a circus tent and being yelled at to perform, and booed if he doesn’t. It is frustrating that someone just wanting to create is held to task by people who think they have a right to dictate how someone creates, just because they enjoyed other creations from that artist.
Dale bounced off this and talked about Pablo Picasso then, how he used to go into museums late at night and make slight additions to his paintings to see if anyone would recognise the next day, kind of toying with his audience. “I think there’s a really good sentiment in that and in owning your artistry and owning the fact that your music and your art is yours and that no one can dictate that and tell you otherwise. That’s always the power of the creators and as long as you harness that and believe in that, then any words of any sort of critic is just water off a duck’s back.”
Flip Phone Fantasy
At this point, I asked if Dale would be happy to go track-by-track with me through Flip Phone Fantasy, as I had a whole lot of questions and curiosities. This is the transcript of the majority of this chat.
Kel: “This came across to me like an infatuation kind of experience. Of being in love.”
Dale: “Yeah! It’s not as much of a love song as “SHIMMER” is. We wanted this song to capture this girl next door kind of infatuation, you know? There’s the line ‘She’s a “record over the back fence” type’. I like that line because people can interpret that in being similar to that line in Police “Every Breath You Take”; “I’ll be watching you”. Is it creepy or is it just charming? That infatuation of being a teenager or even being an adult and coming across that particular person that just sparks something in you.
“I think in that, it’s just so fun and has that swaggery attitude about it, it needed to be light in that respect. It couldn’t delve too deep in that love respect. It’s moreso an infatuation, like ‘Let’s have fun together. Let’s dance.’ kind of vibe. That’s basically the crux of it. I really love that line ‘She’s my stoned little pixie, love butterfly’. That’s inspired from experiences in early days with Jenna [McDougall, Dale’s partner] for me. It’s one of the ways that encapsulated this fascination you can have with someone in those early moments of knowing them and meeting them.
“That song is very important song as an album starter. We wanted this album to be a journey, and to represent a life in and of itself. Starting with a very youthful, energetic song like that, and ending with a very reflective, sombre song like “FREAKS” kind of conveys that idea.”
Kel: “Yeah, cool. That makes a lot of sense. I still don’t know what I’m supposed to have as a mental image of ‘She’s a “record over the back fence” type’. [laughs] Are you literally throwing records over the back fence?”
Dale: “Well this is like the other pretty private memory for me that inspired that lyric. For me, my dad used to throw records over the back fence. And I don’t know whether that was inspired by just being done with them or whatever, but yeah, he’d get drunk and fling them over the back fence. [laughs] And for me that was kind of like ‘Okay, that’s whatever’. But now that I’m older and starting my own record collection, I’m like ‘I really could have done with those records’.
“For some reason that line was just in my notes that collated together when I was writing this album. I kind of liked it because there was a duality to it. In ways it represented being disposable and how we as a society can look at people as being disposable in that sense, whether sexually or otherwise, and then at the same time, it can also mean literally filming someone over the back fence because you’re infatuated with them. So it’s this double pronged approach which I kind of like.”
Kel: “Oh right! Like filming for ‘record’. Ahhh!” [can you hear the 💡moment here?]
Dale: “Yeah, to record them. I say it ‘record’ [like the vinyl] but lyrically, my intention was for it to mean both.”
Kel: “See what I’m saying? There’s so much in these songs. [laughs] Okay I think I’ve asked enough about this one. Oh the line ‘Got the glasses on, got the hair tied back’. I took that as being someone that’s just being themselves and really relaxed and not made up and they still are attractive?”
Dale: “Totally. Yeah, the natural beauty.”
Kel: “Oh that’s lovely. What does Jenna think about these songs?”
Dale: “She loves them! Yeah, she backs them all. She was a vital aspect during the writing of this album. I’d constantly confide in her for guidance and ideas and whether she thought a certain lyric or certain melody stuck. I’m so grateful that she was there when I needed her, with her expertise and her knowledge it was invaluable.”
Kel: “So this is sung by Twiggy. Was this the only one that he sings on? My ears for voices aren’t necessarily the greatest.”
Dale: “It’s the only song where he’s primarily driving the whole thing, especially with that kind of industrial vocal he has. There’s moments like “THOUSAND GOLDEN PEOPLE”, there’s a couple moments where you hear the vocal in the background. “BABY COBRA” is actually sung entirely by him.”
Kel: “Oh wow. I didn’t realise that.”
Dale: “Yeah, you may not realise. I think maybe in your review you thought it was me, but that’s Twiggy’s song entirely. He wrote that, sung it..”
Kel: “Wow, I’m going to edit that. [laughs]”
Dale: “It’s okay, it’s kind of hard to pick. Sometimes our voices almost sound identical and sometimes our voices, especially in the studio, we were like ‘Wow, our voices are just so different.’ But that’s heavily him, and I only come in for the backing [sings] “Find a way out”. That’s sort of the only time when I’m present in that one.
Kel: “I love “SENSE AGAIN”! That chorus just says so much in a short amount of words.”
Dale: “Yeah. Oh great. That’s a favourite of mine, for sure.”
Kel: “So I took this as relating to being moulded by social media and outside influences and having that going internal and back to yourself and your senses to be the remedy for that. Is that what you were trying to say?”
Dale: “Yeah, that’s pretty bang on. I think this was a combination of Twiggy coming forth with the chorus lyric and melody, and then I put together the rest of the pieces. For Twiggy, the chorus line relates to him finding his clarity from being sober. He’s been sober for 6 years now.
“For him, though it’s his story to tell, this song very much represents that moving away from what you know deep down is harmful and damaging for you and realigning yourself and kind of finding that inner sanctuary, and that inner clarify of mind, and that PMA [Positive Mental Attitude], and defeating that enemy mind, and knowing deep down you’re the only one that can truly do that.
“Also yeah, being aware of, as you said, those outside influences such as social media, mass media, or even our parents. There’s a line there, “Step away from the last gen'”. That was in a way a bit of a callout of our parents generation and letting them know that you do get to an age and you realise that we are all just born onto this planet, raised by our parents, and then we one day have kids. The only thing that changes between us as an adult and a parent is we have a kid. We don’t necessarily gain every tool in the book and have an encyclopedia of knowledge of exactly the right thing to say and teach our kids.”
Kel: “So true.”
Dale: “So it’s not necessarily a stab, but it’s kind of like an acceptance of the fact that the older generation have taught us a lot, whether that is positive and negative, and also knowing that there is hope in taking a step forward in your own path and kind of discerning those challenges and working out this crazy existence for yourself. It’s kind of for me the most anarchic song, that and probably “NEO” on the album. It’s very much about the rage against the machine path, like ‘Step up and find your senses and realise that so much getting peddled to us in the mass media is just bullshit propaganda and you’ve got to start thinking for yourself again. For me, I was able to intertwine that with Twiggy’s more simplified idea of becoming sober and having that clarity of mind, and stepping in a new direction. Intertwining those two together is what “SENSE AGAIN” is all about.
Kel: “Is “SUNNY” about individuality and spending your time as you want to spend your time and being who you are kind of thing?”
Dale: “Totally. Live, I like to communicate to the audience it’s about PMA and knowing that the best thing when you’re trapped inside your four walls and you’re kind of in your own head or you’re feeling down and what have you, even down to like for me, I have so much experience with procrastination. For years going through my studies in high school and uni, I was horrible with it. I would distract myself after school with things because I knew that the work I had to do was inevitable, but I just didn’t want to do it then, so I’d be off doing other things. It wasn’t a bad thing; I’d be off playing sport or whatever in the afternoons.
“With uni when you don’t have to be at all the classes, I’d find myself doing all-nighters because I’d procrastinated and I’d be stuck in these ruts where I had no sleep and I’m sitting at a computer and feeling depressed and down and all these things. And it’s just like ‘Oh get me out of here’. The one thing, which is what inspired the blocky and going out of the studio and taking a walk around the block and getting those creative juices flowing again and getting a bit of vitamin D, is just the simple notion of getting outside and getting some sun, speaking and hanging out with your friends, is always going to be one if not the best cure to all those problems that we sort of put ourselves in when we hide ourselves within these four walls.
“It isn’t a very natural thing, so it probably makes a lot of sense that the body’s like ‘No, go outside.’ 100s and 1000s of years of however long that we’ve been foraging and outdoors and we sit under fluorescent lights in front of a fluorescent screen in a chair that’s so-called ergonomic but is probably the worst thing for us. So it doesn’t go much further than that, other than just being a simple concept of just go out in the sun and get some of that vitamin D and spread that positive energy.”
THOUSAND GOLDEN PEOPLE
Kel: “I didn’t know at all what “THOUSAND GOLDEN PEOPLE” was about, but your talking about the whole retrofuturism thing made me think that that’s what that’s about.”
Dale: “So “THOUSAND GOLDEN..” is basically, yeah, in a way it is our own look at the dystopian future and what we sort of predict will happen if things continue as the way they are, and it’s a commentary on what’s happening now. But also it cuts down to the core of what it means to be human as such. We had the title for the song before the lyrics came along, so that very much inspired the direction I wanted to take. The energy of the song was very brooding and very dark, but still had elements of hope in it. So for me, I wanted to present this dystopian image with an underlying note of hope.
“So yeah there’s lines in there like ‘Floating fever, forgetting the heart beat’. It’s kind of like this idea that we’re on this rock that’s floating. That fever is with global warming the planet’s heating up slowly, kind of that boiled frog concept; all these small changes are happening and we’re not really realising it until it’s going to hit breaking point. And the next line ‘Seeing torture beneath, we repeat’ for me is commentary on agriculture and the meat industry and the fact that we go to shopping centres and we look down at a piece of steak in gladwrap and we know deep down that there’s torture and all these things involved with that, and there was an animal and a heartbeat once, but we repeat that action of buying it, conforming, all these things, and supporting that industry.
“And then there’s other lines, like ‘See another death star blocking out the sun’. My friend calls these big apartment buildings ‘death stars’. He’s an old Star Wars fan. And the first time he said that, I just found it hilarious, but it was just so spot on. So that’s kind of a reference to that and our ride since the industrial revolution and what that created. I guess all in all, “THOUSAND GOLDEN PEOPLE” title kind of represents to me the walking into a futuristic moment where we’re greeted by C3PO types. Golden robots that are the leaders of the future. Or it was moreso commentary on the fact that it’s the minority that reigns supreme and that are the rich, that have all the power. That it’s becoming thinner and thinner as days go by. This idea of there being a thousand people amongst billions of others that are suffering some day in the future was a really wild concept for me to toy with. It’s sort of a combination of those two and it depends which way you take it, whether it’s that utopian or dystopian view.
“In the end there’s a bridge where I say ‘If all the stars were crumbling / The night’s not what it used to be / You love someone? Would you love someone?’. That was sort of my way of bringing it back full circle and sort of reminding people that at the end of the day, despite how much greed and power drives us as society and humans, at the end of the day we do have that other facet to us and that is that capacity for love which drives us more than probably any other emotion. And if the world was coming to a point of ending or that kind of doomsday idea, anyone that had been driven by, I like to believe, anyone that had been driven by greed, money, or power up to that point would look back and realise that at the end of the day, family and the people you love is what’s most important. And that’s kind of a message to kind of [laughs] turn the boat around.”
Kel: “That was actually really satisfying to hear at the end there. That after all this doom and gloom, what’s real and what’s underneath are these connections.”
Dale: “For sure.”
GUYS FROM THE GORD
Kel: “So this is where the album goes a bit more rap.”
Kel: “Is it deliberate to keep it kind of grouped like that, for a natural flow through the album?”
Dale: “Coming in track number six, “GUYS FROM THE GORD” felt like it was the right moment to inject some new energy. We knew that between songs like “THOUSAND GOLDEN..” and “SUPERSTAR” you’d already heard those kinds of electronic elements piercing through. So we knew it wasn’t going to be an entirely foreign concept for our listeners, and yeah, [laughs] had we put it any earlier, that’s where I’d be like ‘Yeah, fair enough’ for people to think that its tracklisting is all over the shop and didn’t make sense. It’s very much intentional. The first five songs were all based in rock and metal and had that overall type of consistency before we threw a spanner into the works. I think we wanted our listeners to at least be steady [laughs] before we rocked the boat.”
Kel: “I didn’t find it jarring at all to have “GUYS FROM THE GORD” after “THOUSAND GOLDEN PEOPLE”. So what is The Gord?”
Dale: “I have no idea. This is a song heavily influenced by Running Touch. So he produced and wrote the majority of this song. Lyrically, Luke and I actually… So Luke still had touch on this record which is probably a cool thing to note. So we had him involved in the writing of lyrics for “SUPERSTAR”, “GUYS FROM THE GORD”. He had his touch on “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM”. Luke still wanted to be involved in as many ways as he could and continued to want that, and we do too.
“Luke and I have been best friends since we were 12, before the band started, and we’ll continue to be best mates long after the band is done. So it’s the kind of sentiment that I was all for, and really wanted to embrace. He’s a busy boy, but we got the chance to get him in the studio when we could. It was really great because he brought something to the table that I know deep down that I… I’m obviously going to be still learning and striving to grow as a vocalist and frontman, but I always knew deep down there’s thing that Luke could do that I may never be able to do, and that’s why I was more than happy to embrace him coming in and having his touch on the album, because it would give us even more of a leg up and give us more diversity in terms of our writing.
“So that song, he had a cool little touch in terms of the lyrics and the flow. That rapping style that he’s just so good at. That song was kind of just an ode to early 2000 rave culture. Whereby a lot of people see the 90s grunge and nu-metal influences that we have, I think they tend to overlook the techno and EDM influences that we take, from artists like The Prodigy and Fat Boy Slim and stuff like that.
“This track is a fun one that we really envisioned taking to a festival sized experience and really just seeing what comes from it. [laughs] Throwing people off a little bit who might be just expecting a rock or a metal set. All of a sudden it’s just this ravey type of song. The moment we heard it, we were like ‘That’s got to be in there’, because it really carries on that concept of being The Rhapsody Tapes 2.0, but reinventing it in a way that doesn’t seem mundane.”
Kel: “Mmm! Yeah I love this one. It’s weird but it’s great at the same time. And the line ‘That we’re caught between take that dopamine to DOME dome dome dome. The beat skips as my body falls I can’t breathe’ [sings, badly].”
Dale: “Yeah, that was a cool moment. That’s Twiggy’s vocal in there, that kind of industrial scream? A keen ear will hear him there in those backing vocals through the album. Yeah that song came together really really quick. Pretty much within a couple days, and it was like ‘Oh that’s it, don’t even think about changing it.'”
Kel: “As we talked before about “SHIMMER” and it being a love song. It’s just so lovely, this acceptance and encouraging someone else. It’s just beautiful.”
Dale: “Yeah. That chorus line, “You’re stronger than me / You’re stronger than you think you are”, that was the spark for the whole song. That sort of just came to me. The melody and the lyrics came at the same time just out of nowhere. Just one of those lightbulb moments. I though ‘Oh, I think there’s something in that’. I brought it to the guys and the exact same thing happened. They just straight away ‘Oh that’s cool. Let’s do something with that’. Before we knew it, Sam was already on the guitar writing some of those guitar leads and melodies that exist in the song now, and it was another example of his genius, to be able to see something… He sees the final product in seconds, and it’s like ‘How do you do that?’. It’s quite amazing.”
Dale: “So that song, we didn’t set out to write just a rock ballady song, but it worked out that way just because it felt right. For me, lyrically, that one’s a love song and it doesn’t necessarily have to apply to your partner so to speak. I wanted it to be a song that’s really that energy we bring to our live performances and embracing and really inspiring the last, the lost, and the least. The oddballs, the freaks, the weirdos. The outsiders. Whatever you want to call them, that’s a concept that I’ve been driven as a leader, as far back as high school through to now. I think something that this planet needs is more of that energy of letting people know that you are brilliant and you are phenomenal, and what makes you different is the very thing that makes you special and remarkable. And anything that’s happened in your life, whether that’s by your or someone else’s choices or outside of anyone’s control, that the moment you embrace that is the moment you’re free and the moment you’re empowered.
“I guess I took that concept and turned it into a love story, taking my experiences of the last few years with Jenna and getting to know her and hearing the stories from her childhood and her past and past relationships and just the things that you learn, and just that overwhelming feeling of wanting to help, but knowing that there’s some things that you can never take back. Having to just deal with that in your own way and be okay with that. But at the end of the day, one thing that you can do is be there for that person and to encourage them to know that they’re not only okay, that they’re doing great and can do better. It’s like putting them before yourself. I think that’s the core of the song. It’s very much about being selfless and not being like ‘Yeah, I’m the man’, it’s sort about being like ‘No, you’re the legend. Let’s focus on you for a second, instead of putting me in the spotlight’, which I think is just something that every human is driven to do. That doesn’t make us bad people, it’s just the way we’re wired. It’s about rewiring and learning to listen instead of talk, and to really put the power into the person you love and empower them is a skill that anyone can use.”
Kel: “That’s lovely.”
Kel: “I took “BABY COBRA” as well as being a bit of a love song. It’s kind of like an intoxicating experience. Is that where that one came from?”
Dale: “Yeah, for sure. As I said, that’s purely Twiggy’s song. So he came to us with that and we didn’t really change it, other than the little bridge that’s in there, where it kind of takes a Tame Impala direction with the bass and whatnot. Other than that, it came as an acoustic song and we decided that we didn’t want to mess with that formula too much, so we decided to leave it as that. And this is a moment where we knew we were taking a risk putting a song like that on an album that would be perceived as a heavy album, but we also didn’t want it to be perceived just as a throwaway acoustic rendition of a track or whatever. It still is a standalone important element of the album as a whole.
“We wanted the album to represent that rainbow of human emotion and experience and really reflect every element on that spectrum, whether it be from that dark side of anger and hostility and anarchy and all these things through to love and joy, and everything in between. So “BABY COBRA”, we coupled that in with “SHIMMER” because it felt like a right moment in the album to have that sort of reflection and show that tender side to us. I wouldn’t want to delve too much more into that lyrically, but to Twiggy that’s definitely a love song sung about someone he loved that was going through a lot of hard stuff, and it was a song that he wrote for her during that arduous time, as a way for his own catharsis and for hers. I think that’s why we didn’t want to change it too much, because it was beautiful in the fact that it was something written in that moment in time and represented that moment in time, therefore you couldn’t justify changing that because it wouldn’t represent that anymore.”
Kel: “That’s so true, and I think about that when I read things suggesting that songs should be heavier or similar. How can they know the origin of it?”
Dale: “For sure, yeah.”
ASK FOR THE ANTHEM
Kel: “I like that when “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” shows up, that it’s a rush of energy again.”
Dale: “This is probably the trickiest part of the album for me, because I knew ‘Whoa, where do you go from a song like that that’s taken you so far down a rabbit hole of different emotion?’, and you can hear that we’ve gone from a very chaotic electronic song, to a rock ballad thing, to an even softer love song. It was like ‘Okay, the best thing to do is probably to bring it back to something familar, something with energy’, and “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” was that song.”
Kel: “Yeah, cool. I took “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” as being about the music industry and that kind of thing. Is that where you guys were coming from with that?”
Dale: “In ways I definitely think it is a commentary on the mundane and the ‘gimme gimme now now’ like one-hour photo culture that does exist to an extent. The music community nowadays unfortunately with things like streaming, which is so great because it’s brought widespread opportunity for artists, but at the same time, it’s really dumbed down the process for people to find and experience music. I think yeah, this song really does explore the dark side of that.
“I guess we wanted it to be synonymous with that feeling of a night out, like a one-night stand kind of thing. It really has that sexual feeling to it, that kind of on the dance floor mood to it. We wanted it to represent the way that people do that with music; kind of listen to a song for 30 seconds and go ‘Next’, and it’s a disposable thing. It’s a very ironic thing. A lot of lyrics are ironic in the sense that it’s almost this martyrdom of ‘Yeah, ask me for The Anthem, I’ll give it to you, but once you have it, you’re just going to throw it in the bin anyway.'”
Kel: “Oh right. You know what’s funny with this one? I feel like what is being said in the song is what actually happened. People really really love this song.”
Dale: “Yeah! That was the other thing that we were kind of backing ourselves in on. [laughs] It’ll come around full circle and it’ll likely be the anthem that everyone asks for without realising it.”
Kel: “It has over one million streams on Spotify at the moment.”
Dale: “I know! Honestly, the fact that it got into the Hottest 200 [#192] and stuff like this, it’s actually wild. It has accomplished things that no other song we’ve put out yet has done. It’s just a testament to the whole idea. Like ‘We’re going to put this song out, it’s going to rock the boat, but it’s all going to work out in the end anyway’.”
Kel: “I’ve never heard a song talk about carbide lamps before I heard “SWAY”. [laughs] I had to Google it.”
Dale: “[laughs] Yep.”
Kel: “What was this inspired by?”
Dale: “Again this is a Running Touch injection. Sometimes I don’t even question. Like ‘Oh, that’s the lyric? Yeah, sick. I’m not going to change that.’ I don’t even know what that means. As you said, what is a carbide lamp?! But so much in what Running Touch does is.. The feel of the sound and the way that he can create that feeling, if you were to get a slightly different word, like ‘carbon’ or something, it wouldn’t have the same feeling. So he’s picked that one particular word so that it fits into the mood of the sound and everything perfectly. I think that’s the one thing that I’m at ease with and I know once we get something from him, there’s no point really toying with it because even if you tried to, it’s not going to sound the same, and it’s not going to have that same ‘ahh’ moment, the moment that you hear.
“That’s the most exciting aspect of Ocean Grove, and it happened with The Rhapsody Tapes as well. We’ll be there in the studio working away on these songs and all of a sudden we’ll kind of get a couple of ideas shot through from Running Touch. And it’s just like ‘Holy shit! This is awesome!’. He’ll send us something great and with that you don’t really want to mess with the formula too much. So with this song it was again it was like the song you hear is pretty much how he delivered it to us. Definitely vocally and production-wise Sam ironed out any creases and made it sound of the same quality as the rest of the album, but other than that, it was essentially how it was given to us. And similar to “GUYS FROM THE GORD” it was just like.. this is an aspect of Ocean Grove that we don’t want to discard, because as much as people might say ‘Oh, it’s a throwaway track’ or whatever, it only goes for a minute or so, it goes back to that thing I was saying about representing not only that spectrum of human emotion, but that spectrum and diversity of Ocean Grove that we really wanted to portray. Because yes we might have songs like “SHIMMER” in there so people go ‘Oh yeah, that’s a good song blah blah blah’, but that’s also new for us as well. You can’t have one without the other. So having a song like “SWAY”, even though lyrically it’s so simple and it’s short and all these things, it still plays a really important part in the whole album.”
Kel: “So “SWAY” going into “JUNKIE$” is sort of all on this same thread of individuality in what you’re creating and stuff like that.”
Kel: “I wanted to know where ‘The Familiar Junkies’ comes from.”
Dale: “So ‘Familiar Junkies’ for me was just a great way to encapsulate our fans. The way like I see our fanbase is like, you know they’re familiar because I see them at every show obviously, but the junkies aspect, I really like because it’s sort of like we’re drip-feeding these things, and even though the songs might be a little bit different, they get a taste for something new and then kind of want more. It’s a weird way to think of it, but just that relationship between a drug abuser and a drug dealer [laughs].
“That song all in all is not only about embracing individuality and being unapologetically authentic. Having been the follow up to “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM”, it was a response to all that commentary that had come for that song and the lineup change and all these things. It was us just kind of being like ‘You know what? Fuck that. We’re here and we’re creating what we’re creating and we’re doing that in the best way that we know and we’re being ourselves.’ Here’s a track and a sound that’s like you are familar with that is a response to how you might have felt after “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” and it was kind of funny. We knew that there’d probably be people that… And there was! There were people that had made.. not that we try and pay attention to it.. There were people, even fans that had merch and tattoos and things that when “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” came out, they kind of disowned us. It was sort of like ‘For real? One song! You can’t be serious’. And we dropped “JUNKIE$” as the follow-up track and all of a sudden we’ve sort of seen these kind of people spark up again and show interest again. It’s like ‘Oh man, it’s such a shame. Why couldn’t you have more of a clarity of vision? If you truly understood us as a band, you’d know that “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” wasn’t going to be the only sound we were going to come forward with.”
Kel: “Yeah, it’s like the actual lyrics; ‘Loud mouthing, bitter, lost faith in us. Give ’em one song now they never want to play with us.'”
Dale: “Yeah, exactly. That’s what I was talking about. I can’t believe we put up one song and diehard fans have just turned away. And that goes back to what “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM” talks about. This kind of unwillingness to actually pay attention and how can this be so arbitrary and just dispensed like that? No “JUNKIE$” is a fun one. I guess all in all whilst it was trying to get that idea across, it was ultimately about embracing the fans that were there with us. So we sort of affectionately now refer to them as our Familiar Junkies and the ones that have stuck by our sides and see this story out is kind of what that song’s about.”
Kel: “Yeah cool. It’s a really great song. There’s so many great choruses that you guys do. It’s like you’ve become the chorus factory [laughs] in a good way!”
Dale: “[laughs] Absolutely! Yeah that’s a good little.. I might use that!”
Kel: “”FREAKS” on the end of the album was such a lovely surprise for me. I started crying with that one. So Running Touch is really obvious here by way of voice. How did this song come about?”
Dale: “Yes, so Running Touch came with the initial Pink Floyd sounding guitar and melody, and then Sam took that first minute before it hits the verse when the band comes in with the drums. Running Touch had provided that first minute and then Sam tacked on everything that happens after that. He actually wrote that when we were in America. “FREAKS” has been written in part for the longest, compared to any song. It was written before “ASK FOR THE ANTHEM”.
“So when we were in America, touring with August Burns Red, we were in a town called Weed, funnily enough, in California, and he wrote that first band section there. And then the other sections came by later on. Verse two, I took the melody and I wrote what I interpreted the song by way of lyrics. I wrote verse two and then Sam built out into this epic moment to sort of conclude everything and kind of ride off into the sunset of this album. So it got pieced together in a very funny way. A similar thing actually happened to “Mr Centipede”. That opening minute of “Mr Centipede” was one of the first ideas we had for The Rhapsody Tapes, and it was the very last song to be finished. In a sense it’s almost like we’ve done that with “FREAKS” as well. It was one of the starting ideas for the album and it didn’t really get finished until we were kind of in the last moments of album writing.”
Kel: “Yeah, cool. It’s the perfect ending to the adventure, you know?”
Dale: “I always knew. The moment we finished it especially and the way Sam in his production was able to create something so epic then still finish it on a note that’s soft and reminiscent. It was like there’s no doubt that that’s going to be the closing track of the album. It HAS to be. It just sums up all those emotions in one big huge ball.
“That’s a song that I’m incredibly proud of and can’t wait to perform. It’s something that really touches on… Something about it is what I always envisioned would be a song… like when I was a kid and dreamed of getting up on a stage and singing a song, like if there was a song, then that is it, you know? It’s kind of for me the feeling I get from performing “The Wrong Way”, I feel like it’s going to be that on steroids and I can really feel the energy of how that’s going to go down already and it does touch on that idea again of embracing individuality and being okay with the fact that there are things that make you weird and different.
“I was asked the question of ‘Is it a reference to Silverchair and what’s being said in that song?’ [Silverchair – Freak] and I said ‘Yes, it ways it is, but it’s the polar opposite of what Daniel Johns was trying to say. In this song, I was trying to change that dialogue on its head and have our listeners be embracing that individuality and things that make you a freak, but the wording around it… shifting that and being in their minds. That no, even though you embrace the things about you that make you different, it doesn’t make you a freak as such. We’re all human and we’re all equal. Just because there’s those nuances and those little weird things. It doesn’t then segregate you from the rest of the population. Don’t even raise that to a point where it actually isolates you and puts you in a box. Rather, embrace those elements and know that at the end of the day, you aren’t a freak, you’re a phenomenal human being that deserves respect and that’s kind of it.”
After a big long chat, I farewelled Dale to continue his barefoot wandering in the sunshine. Listen to Flip Phone Fantasy now![Ocean Grove photo credit: Sam Wong]