For a band that is currently awaiting the release of only their second album, Birmingham’s Oceans Ate Alaska already have amassed quite an impressive list of achievements: they were pegged as a “Band To Watch” by both Rock Sound and Revolver, they landed themselves a slot on Alternative Press’s “100 Bands You Need To Know” list and have also graced the cover of HM Magazine. Let’s not forget that they also landed a tour slot on the ENTIRE Warped Tour 2016 across the USA!
After forming back in 2010, Oceans Ate Alaska went through a couple of member changes prior to the release of their first EP “Taming Lions” in February 2012, as well as one change after it was released; the band line-up was cemented not long thereafter though, as Oceans Ate Alaska released a second EP “Into The Deep” in May of the same year. Consisting of founding members James “Jibs” Kennedy (Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals), Chris Turner (Drums) and James Harrison (Lead Vocals), as well as Adam Zytkiewicz (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals) and Mike Stanton (Bass) followed up with their long awaited debut album “Lost Isles” in 2015.
Unfortunately Oceans Ate Alaska parted ways with Harrison in 2016, however that opened up the door for good friend Jake Noakes to step up and fill the newly created void! Oceans Ate Alaska then went into the recording studio and went about recording their sophomore album “Hikari“, which is available for purchase July 28th 2017 via Fearless Records. Hikari provides the listener with a Samurai themed musical and lyrical experience, as Oceans Ate Alaska showcases their dynamic flair blended alongside traditional Japanese instruments; a way of Oceans Ate Alaska to express their utmost respect to the Japanese culture.
OVERDRIVE got the opportunity to talk to Noakes and a SURPRISE GUEST about the upcoming release of Hikari, what lessons they learnt during the recording of “Lost Isles“, the Japanese influence that inspired the album and how Oceans Ate Alaska went about incorporating those traditional Japanese instruments onto the album, plus more.
Chris Turner has come out on record previously and stated that “We have a huge amount of respect for Japanese culture, especially their music. These unique and beautiful instruments have inspired us to create something brand new, and we are beyond proud of the end result!” Noakes explained how incorporating those traditional instruments onto Hikari came to light:
“It was very much Chris’s idea; the album originally started from an instrumental piece. It’s actually on the album; “Veridical“. After that, we kind of started using Japanese instruments and putting a metal style over it; it shouldn’t of worked but it worked really really well! From that, we started experimenting with other Japanese instruments the whole album just came about very naturally.”
This is where our surprise guest made themselves known to OVERDRIVE, in a most polite and respectful way! As far as this interviewer was aware, the interview was just meant to be with Noakes so the additional input was most unexpected:
“Hey there mate; my name’s Chris, I’m the drummer. Jake’s actually at my house right now, so I thought I’d stick my nose in; if you don’t want me to, I won’t (laughs) I just don’t want to be that guy that sticks his nose in!” After OVERDRIVE welcomed Turner to the interview, he continued:
“The whole Japanese instruments thing, it all started from a different project; I do a lot of production for different bands. I love this producer called “Bonobo”; he’s a UK producer. It’s kind of like hip-hip, chill out instrumental stuff; I jam it all the time. If you haven’t heard of Bonobo, you should really go check it out; it’s remarkable! But anyway, I came across this instrument called a “Kokyu” and I actually made the first sample bank just off of sampling audios I found around the internet; it was a pretty ghetto way to get it (laughs) I ended up creating this traditional Japanese instrument, and mixing it with like modern techno/hip-hop kind of; you know, music from two worlds apart. I was quite proud of it and couldn’t believe it actually worked!”
“Our guitarist “Jibs” (Kennedy) comes over; I was like “Hey dude, have a listen to this; it’s pretty rad”. He hears it and goes “Oh let’s put something over it” and I go “Well no, it’s already two worlds apart; adding a third polar opposite just doesn’t work, it’s too weird.” But no idea is a bad idea; we demo’ed something and when we played it, our jaws just dropped! We couldn’t believe what we were hearing; it was the perfect blend of harsh versus beautiful underlying tones creating dynamic layering. After that moment, we just looked at each other and said “We have to do this! No one else has done this, it’s our thing.”; it was always just a natural journey. That actually made it onto the album, it’s called Veridical.” Turner then continued:
“All the Japanese instruments from Veridical, it was kind of like a big journey for me from then, I was all excited! I was googling everything, trying to find the most wacky things that I liked the sounds of to use. Don’t get me wrong; some of these instruments I hated so I didn’t use them (laughs). There were these weird reed instruments where they take these reeds and use as them as wind instruments; they were very, what’s the word…annoying we’ll go with (laughs). Within some of those annoying instruments, I found some great ones; I found these beautiful bamboo flutes, I found this bass drum that is really soft but it’s percussal, it’s tonal. The new song out now “Escapist“, it has a jazz section; you know, mixing the metal with the traditional Japanese instruments was like two worlds apart. Once we added the jazz section about two-thirds of the way song, it was three things that just shouldn’t work but it was just beautiful! Everything on this album has been recorded real.”
When asked which track on Hikari was this interviewer’s favourite, I responded with the title track because of the instrumental fusion that Oceans Ate Alaska created. Turner went to elaborate more about Hikari in detail and the thought process that went behind creating the instrumental masterpiece:
“I personally loved “Hikari; it’s very different to have that heavy of a jazz influence. I mean I grew up on jazz, so I’m very aware that if a jazz musician was to listen to it that they’d say “That’s not jazz!” But that’s kind of what’s right about it, emotionally it’s jazz but the fact that it’s been mixed with metal; it’s most definitely a cool track!”
Noakes chimed in, adding that “Something we tried to do instrumentally, we tried to make masterpieces on the road. After that, we tried to add in vocals and lyrics that complimented it.” before Turner added “With you Jake, you’re another instrument; that’s how we wanted it to be. Obviously everything has to have it’s time and it’s all got to be a balance. You know, it’s all about language for me and music is a universal language; I like to think about that every time I’m writing something. It’s got to be expressive for everyone in every way possible.”
When it was time to expand on any lessons that Oceans Ate Alaska picked up during the creation of “Lost Isles” that they made sure to bring across into creating “Hikari“, Turner stated how “That’s a good question actually! There’s a lot of answers to it but I’ll give you the short answer as we haven’t got all day (laughs); I think that Lost Isles was a very different experience altogether, for obvious reasons. This time around it was incredibly creative, it was incredibly open to experimental ideas and to change. Because of that, it was energetic, creative and it bought us a step closer to delivering a product that all of us are happy with; let’s just say that we didn’t necessarily have that experience with Lost Isles. Vocally, the one thing we learnt between albums was to make sure that everyone is on the same page.” before Noakes added his two cents: “Most definitely make sure that everyone has input on EVERY aspect; instead of it being “this is my role and this is what I do”, if everyone has input, then you make a record that everyone is happy with!”
Turner then continued how “it’s just be willing and open to get an idea out; if you close down an idea before it fails, than you never know what might happen! The one thing that interested me was when someone had an idea, the rest of the band weren’t particularly liking it but exploring it anyway; even though no one ended up liking that additional idea, it opened the way for discussion. It’s absolutely vital to have members there willing to do that; that was the big difference between the record for sure!”
Turner also gave OVERDRIVE a bit of knowledge that any upcoming songwriters should pay attention to!
“We play hundreds of shows a year; man if you’re not enjoying the songs and you have to hear them and play them every days for years on end, you’re going to hate your life (laughs). People say to us “Do you write for this person or for this person”; man I’m not selfish, but I write for me. You know, this is my art and out life; why would we be doing it if we didn’t love it? We love every step of the way; from creating it to recording it to playing it live! It’s more than a job; it’s a lifestyle and a passion. Music is probably the only thing that makes me feel alive.”
Noakes also shared this bit of wisdom: “The last thing we wanted to do was create an album that we didn’t enjoy playing live; we feel that this album is just as good, if not better than any other album released this year!” before clarifying that “you know, that’s not arrogance; it’s more or less because we’re so proud of it after hearing all the finished products.”
Touching further on how much creating music is more than a job, Noakes gave this comparison:
“I’m going to call it “Baby Syndrome”; you know, when you’re a parent, you look at your baby and you think “We made this!”. You watch it grow for a few weeks or a month or so, until you still listen to it again and claim again “We made this!” (laughs) before Turner then chimed in how “When it’s out and about, no one can change this! Our names are on it forever long after we die; it’s a legacy, we did that!”
Even though Oceans Ate Alaska are awaiting the release of Hikari; their passion, hunger and drive hasn’t diminished! Noakes let OVERDRIVE know “That’s one of the other things; we are all so eager and keen to see what the next step is and see where we go next. We’re all keen to get back into writing again; it’s what we live for as we all live and breathe music! There’s going to come a time, hopefully a long time; where we’re all going to be sat back in our lounge chair, covered in tattoos that we probably regret (laughs) Where we can look back, be proud and say that we lived and enjoyed life!”
Since Lost Isles, Oceans Ate Alaska‘s image has just exploded to limits further than anyone in the band expected! From being touted a “Band To Watch” by both Rock Sound and Revolver, landing on Alternative Press’s “100 Bands You Need To Know” list and gracing the cover of HM Magazine.
Turner opens up about a lot of the smaller things that mean just as much to him from a personal level:
“Performing on the MONSTER stage for the entire summer at Warped Tour is a highlight for me. I’m also an award winning drummer; I won “Best Upcoming Drummer 2016” in Modern Drummer, I was nominated for “Best Drummer 2015″ by Rhythm Magazine. I’m up there with the names of drummers that I grew up watching the DVDs and learning from, I’m touring with bands that I grew up listening to; not just that but I’m friends with them! It’s just surreal, and to have all this after just one album.”
Noake and Turner both let OVERDRIVE know about something that happened on Ocean Ate Alaska‘s recent tour of Europe, as well as what drives them to make music:
Turner: “We just toured Europe the other week and we were on a freeway stuck in horrific traffic. Next to us there’s this car, we’re in the van; in this car we can see that they’re metal heads and they’re jamming along to metal pretty loud. Their windows are down because it’s very very hot, and because we’re in standstill traffic we can hear their music. So we’ve opened the side door of the van to get some air; the guys turn over, look in the van and go “Chris, we love Covert!” (laughs) It was just the most casual of interactions.”
Noake: “It was the most random situation considering we were just heading to a show. They handed us a couple of band CDs and they were really good! Another situation we had was when we pulled into a random service station and ran into more fans who recognized our faces and knew our names. It just blows our mind because we’re just normal people; it’s crazy you know, when we get home off tour we go home and just live our everyday life! I wouldn’t say we’re normal but we do our taxes, we send some faxes (laughs) Because it’s still new for me, it’s different when people come up to meet us and they’re all nervous and shaking; I don’t entirely understand it because we’re just regular ol’ guys.”
Hikari is available July 28th via Fearless Records!