Here in America we have just about every opportunity, luxury, and commodity you can ask for, but there are certainly many exceptions. Possibly the biggest omission from our country is the wide spread adoration of one of the greatest bands of the past decade, Oceansize. With a massive cult following in Europe and the UK, the band has consistently delivered three of the greatest records to be released since their inception, as well as several EPs and a brand new monster of a boxset entitled Feed to Feed. The set features 4 CDs and 3 DVDs that are taken from the band's recent performance at the Manchester Roadhouse in which Oceansize performed each of their albums/EPs in their entirety over the span of three nights. Released nearly simultaneously with the band’s brand new “stripped down” EP Home and Minor, Oceansize are once again bringing their delicately constructed ambitious blend of progressive, alternative, and post-rock on tour throughout the UK/Europe. Lead singer/guitarist Mike Vennart was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for Exploding In Sound regarding the new releases, the band’s legacy, the overall lack of concern for America, and obsessive fans…
EIS: Home & Minor was released just a few weeks ago, are you going to be playing a lot of the material from it on the current tour? The horns add an incredible texture on “Getting Where Water Cannot,” any chance of bringing a horn section into the live mix?
MV: We're doing 2 songs from 'Home & Minor'. Sadly we're not playing "GWWC" on this tour... The horns are pretty necessary and we'd need a bigger bus. Not to mention the fact that it's by far the most easy song to fuck up. Maybe we'll pull it out when we're feeling a bit more brave. But yeah, that's the first time we've ever used horns in 11 years! I'm pretty happy with them - they sit in the mix as little drones, like a constant colour running through the chaos on top of it.
EIS: What inspired Home & Minor, the first release from your home studio to be a more restrained set of songs?
MV: Well we were pretty adamant that we weren't gonna rush the 4th album, but our record company wanted a product to keep the 'kidz' happy in the meantime. We had already written 'Legal Teens' and figured that that song/vibe wouldn't really sit well with any rocking numbers... We've always talked about making an ambient record... a more sprawling, intimate affair. These days I tend to listen to more textural music, so the heavy thing hasn't really been at the forefront of my mind recently. I dare say there'll be some seriously loud shit on the fourth album though.
In terms of actual lyrical meaning, 'Home And Minor' (the EP) is a look back at the wonder of late childhood/early teenhood. It's a funny old time in everyone's life, I'm sure, where everything is temporary, even though it feels like your gonna have this strange fear for the rest of your life. The words are kind of about those fears, the fears that you can only have as a child. I remember feeling like my senses were so intensified - i can still remember the smell of the fields surrounding the village i lived in, the wet leaves around my feet in the churchyard, and the overwhelming urge to change into another person every hour. Weird times. Glad it's over.
EIS: Now that the EP has been released, what can we expect in the last two artwork panels on your Myspace?
MV: I actually have just found out - it's a video of Gambler and myself talking about some stuff like this. [see below]
EIS: Feed to Feed came out every bit as epic as intended. The release commemorates 10 years as band. Do you feel it’s a fair representation of how you’ve gotten from where you were in the beginning to now?
MV: I dunno. I mean, the actual visual production isn't exactly the most dynamic. It was done at the last minute on a very tight budget with only five cameras. It's a kind of 'official bootleg' vibe. I'm very happy with the audio mix; Mark Williams did an amazing job with the 5.1 mix. It sounds very raunchy and real. Other than that, it's simply a document of probably the best shows of our lives so far. The vibe was electric. We had our friends and family supporting us - Amplifier, Biffy Clyro, Rose Kemp, Manatees. People traveled from all over the world to be there and it meant a lot to us.
EIS: When the show begins you ask “Are we actually here, and are we actually doing it?” in a joking disbelief. When did you get the idea to put this all together?
MV: In all honesty, I nicked the idea wholesale from Biffy Clyro. I attended 4 shows of theirs in Glasgow, each night they played a different album. It was a very unified, for-the-fans experience. We're very much an albums band so i thought it would be something worth doing, for us as much as the fans. Combined with the fact that it coincided with our tenth anniversary, it was cause for a bit of a party! We announced the shows about six months beforehand, and the anticipation built up so much, and we were pretty nervous by the time we hit the stage on the first night.
EIS: Joined by members of Kong and Amplifier on the opening night, did it help to ease into the show to have close friends playing with you?
MV: We wanted all of our friends there with us - We've spent some of the greatest times of our lives with JonLee and Sel, not to mention the Biffy boys.
EIS: With each album having its own distinct sound, did you enjoy playing any particular album the most?
MV: I think the second record [Everyone Into Position] went down the best. It's the most singable, the most melodic and anthemic. It was sort of conceived as a festival set album so the audience was on fire that night.
EIS: Your albums come across as such complete compositions and sound tremendous played in their entirety. Is this something you enjoy doing? Had you done it before the Manchester Roadhouse residency?
MV: It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work. We had to relearn a lot of material. The fact that Steven hadn't played many of the songs didn't present much of an obstacle - he learnt everything really quick and ended up knowing the stuff better than the rest of us! It's not something we've done before or since. One day, maybe...
EIS: Did the same audience come out for each night of the performance? Or was the crowd varied between each album?
MV: I'd say around half the crowd was there for the whole weekend. Meeting everyone at the pub after the last night was a really rewarding time - definitely underlined why we should keep doing this.
EIS: You mention a special thank you to people who have traveled from all over the world (USA, Israel, Scotland) to be in Manchester for those performances, so when can we expect to see Oceansize touring in the US?
MV: The 64 million dollar question. We'd love to come over, but we're not gonna blow 30 grand in the process. I'm sure we could pull a decent crowd, but at what cost? We'll certainly lose money, money that wont come back in from record sales. Money that could be spent better making more records.
EIS: The US hasn’t gotten a chance to see much live Oceansize, and the albums, other than Frames have all gone discontinued. Are there any plans to conquer the states? The country may need lots of things, and is certainly in need of more Oceansize in its life!
MV: [See above] It means a lot to us that we've acquired some interest over there, really it does. We toured there in 2004, supporting Mclusky. We'd only just released our first album. It was a lot of fun, but ultimately it was a gigantic waste of cash.
EIS: As a band that has developed a true cult following for your incredibly artistic and gorgeously heavy music, what are your experiences like with fans? Any crazed over excited fellas?
MV: We certainly do have some rabid fans. Maybe it's something that just comes with being a band with a bit of a history - a body of work. There's quite a lot to investigate now and we've had heaps of people with Oceansize tattoos, or lyrics inked on them. All that kind of stuff is just so OUT THERE, so unreal, that i can't quite get my head round it. I'm passionate about the bands i love (indeed i have a Cardiacs tattoo) but I'm pretty blown away that someone puts us in that kind of bracket. An honour, for sure. But if i allow myself to chew on it for too long, my ego will run away with itself.
EIS: Oceansize come across as a very unique band with such attention to detail, texture, time, and space. Who would the band site as their main influences? What bands you do you feel musically in tune with these days?
MV: Bands we love (new and old) - Cardiacs, Mr Bungle, Deerhoof, Pavement, Nine Inch Nails, Mogwai, Mclusky, Shellac, Zu, Heavy Vegetable / Thingy, Battles, Alva Noto, Talk Talk, Biffy Clyro, Faith No More, Devo, Ramones.... literally hundreds more.
EIS: It was great to see Mark get his due respects from MusicRadar.com, has he let the praise go to his head? [laughs] Has the balancing between Oceansize and Kong been smooth?
MV: Kong never really gets in the way. When they're on tour it gives me chance to work on stuff at home... Sort out the lyrics etc. And no, Mark hasn't turned into a prima dona, but he, and we, are thrilled he's finally getting the recognition he deserves. He's the fucking best, and I'm allowed to say that cos I'm not him.
EIS: Releasing DVDs from now on is going to be pretty difficult to follow up Feed to Feed. Have you considered doing a collection of your music videos?
MV: It'd be pretty brief! Besides which, I'd happily bury one of our videos forever - I'm looking at you, Heaven Alive.
EIS: In your Myspace bio you need to include a footnote to the universal praise for the first two albums because you say your dad doesn’t enjoy them [laughs]. Any change in his opinion? What kinda stuff does he go for?
MV: That particular male that's biologically linked to me can't really be called a music fan of any description, so it was pretty much a given that he'd hate the band. He'll buy a 'greatest hits' album and only ever listen to the first song. His lack of belief in me isn't something that keeps me awake at night though.
EIS: Thanks so much for the interview, and enjoy the rest of your tour. Hope you can make it over here once again!