Ocean Grove – The Rhapsody Tapes (Intereview)

We are unmistakably and unapologetically obsessed with Ocean Grove and their album The Rhapsody Tapes, so we were beside ourselves with fangirlishness when we reached out to talk with the band, and they said YES.

It was in Sam Bassal’s bedroom that The Rhapsody Tapes came to life, with Sam assuming the role of (genius) producer as well being behind drums for Ocean Grove. We are so thrilled to have Sam answer our questions and go deeper into The Rhapsody Tapes.

Ocean Grove have collectively written The Rhapsody Manifesto, relating to their philosophies on creating and making music. The focus on authenticity struck a chord with us, so that was where we began our interview:

What role does The Rhapsody Manifesto play for you as a band, ongoing? It feels like something that could be referred back to as a ‘code’ of sorts. Do you use it like that?

I think the Manifesto is an almost ‘mission statement’ which came about once it was out that we had signed to UNFD – mainly because of the fact that for a lot of people that would have been the first time ever hearing about Ocean Grove. We wanted to give people something that they could look at and look to, to define the band – what we’re about and what we want to achieve, also the boundaries we want to operate within etc. We are really strong about creative freedom & pushing boundaries within the music that we’re playing.

I watched the “Idiot’s Guide To Ocean Grove” video that was made with your signing to UNFD (Congrats!) and one really big thing I noticed was this quiet, settled… unity. Even when one person was speaking it was very clear that all of the band were completely in agreement. There was no yawning and ignored drummer sitting in the background, or sense of conflict between members. Does that unity (and respect I guess you could call it) come by just working together a lot? Or is it to do with being clear on your collective stance as a band? I saw it in other things too, such as a live stream on Facebook, and on stage at UNIFY. It’s something very cool. You must be doing something right.

I definitely think as a band we are all 100% on the same page. Whether it be with what we stand for as a band, or even just the way we work as a band. We’re all just best mates so its rather easy to be around each other (for the most part) haha. We’ve been playing shows together for quite a while now, so I’m glad you feel an onstage unity!

One quote (by Luke) from the UNFD video was referring to a mantra of “It’s 100% in with your passion or there’s no point doing it at all”. This is definitely inspiring by way of prioritising the creative project, even if it leads to making difficult choices, like line-up changes. I can see how that would reinforce the strength of the manifesto as well as your sense of connectedness. Do you feel like this is what allows you to take some more experimental approaches?

I think that’s just a super important fact – why do something if you’re not giving 100%? We’re fortunate enough to be playing music all over the country (soon to be the world) and I think it’d be wrong of us to not give our all while doing so! Our vibe as a band is to have fun, and as much of it as possible. The second it’s not fun anymore or becomes a dreaded task is probably the time to call it haha.

The album starts with “What I Love About A Natural Woman” which feels like a stage is being set for what is to come; questioning the norm in terms of music and saying “here we are”. Did you create the tracks in their order of appearance on the album?

‘What I Love..’ was always going to be the first track on the album – we knew that the second we heard it. Everything else kind of moved around quite a bit.

“Because of the album being so diverse,
we placed the tracks so that you kind of couldn’t
predict what was going to come next.

We ended the album with Hitachi as we always looked at the fade out being the perfect end to the previous 35minutes of music you just heard.

Was there a plan by way of how The Rhapsody Tapes would sound, as an album, or did it just build itself as it went?

We honestly went into the album with the intention of not limiting ourselves to anything. We wanted to write an album that we’d actually enjoy and listen to ourselves, sticking to what we’ve always done by just doing our own thing. I think the process came about incredibly naturally – many many overnight sleepless sessions here in my studio but there wasn’t ever really too much thought or stress with the situation, we were simply writing music and we’re all incredibly proud of it. Running off the creativity and excitement rather than sleep haha.

I watched a video review of The Rhapsody Tapes where over half of it was spent debating genre and defining other bands that you guys sound like. I turned the video off.  I’d love to know your perspective on genre, given the variety of sounds on your album. (Can’t we just take the idea of genre out to a paddock and put it out of its misery already?)

Haha, just quietly I think I did the same! – The way I look at it, there’s always going to be that topic of ‘genre’ with our music and I would like to think people can just listen to it and say, that’s Ocean Grove. 

“Whenever I get asked I simply just say ODD WORLD MUSIC.”

“Beers” as the second track feels like a targeted attack musically and lyrically. I’m wondering if this also relates to the music industry. Does it?

The album is creating a fiction while drawing parallels with our personal experience and the human condition. If anything the album is meant to be a feel good album and often that’s through acknowledging some of the innate traits we have as humans. None of the album was written with the intent of running a social commentary on the ‘music industry’ or anything of the sort, but rather a question of order at large. Something beyond any realm of where we find ourself and if anything portrays it’s insignificance.

Wow.

“Beers” sounds like a great song for playing live. Did that come to mind when creating music for The Rhapsody Tapes?

I feel with this record personally, I wasn’t really thinking of the live aspect too much while creating the album – Sure, I’d listen to a part after writing it and say to myself ‘Yeah, this could be a really cool moment at a show’ but not anything in particular that was purely for the sake of playing live. In saying that, we definitely made sure we didn’t write anything that we COULDN’T perform live – especially with the vocals. We want you to come to an OG song and hear the record because we can actually play it haha.

Running Touch has an air of mystery around him, like a creative superhero. What’s he like to work with?

Haha, it sometimes feels like that! The guy is a genius and it’s always been awesome to collaborate with him.

We’ve been friends for a really long time now so it’s quite literally just writing music with your best mate – he’s just way more talented than I am! RT has always been a huge part of the band and a heavy hand in the writing process – almost all of the electronic sides to this album are just from him alone.

Do you collectively work on songs (like “Thunderdome”)? Or do you individually bring ideas to the table?

“Thunderdome” was a funny one actually – Whenever RT had songs to bring to us it would be super electronic almost EDM versions of these tracks or little 1 min ideas to give a rough outline. I then would take those songs and turn them into the more full band, full structured songs we have now.

With “Thunderdome”, pre signing to UNFD we were going to release it as a single instead of “Lights On Kind Of Lover” but we weren’t quite happy with it – so we said to RT for the album you can just have it to yourself as an all EDM track, no full band just like your earlier demos. We had 2 days until the final masters were due in for CD printing and we got an email saying the old rockier version was preferred (we all agreed) so I quickly wrote the rest of the song, mixed it and then sent it off for printing a couple hours later!

Totally impressive.

I will never get sick of “Intimate Alien”. What came first when creating that track?

That’s definitely one of my favourites! I believe the bass line came first with that song. That was very much a conversation between myself and Dale early on in the process and him mentioning he wouldn’t mind having a cool little riff to play at least once in the album – so I gave him something fun to play haha.

“Intimate Alien” sounds very 90s Korn, with a modern twist, and there’s a strong 90s vibe to other tracks, including “The Wrong Way”. Did music from the 90s have a strong presence in inspiring The Rhapsody Tapes? (I am a huge fan of that era and its music)

I guess it could have been without realising. Korn is one of my all-time favourite bands along with many others from that 90’s era – but I think the most important thing to stress is that there was never a moment where we were writing with the attitude of “Hey this sounds like …insert band here.”

“I was just creating music the way I create music,
and I guess thats how it turned out?
Music I’d very much listen to let alone love to play.”

I read an article which mentioned that as a band you guys had tried out different sounds (and clothes!) before feeling like you had found your sound. Is that ‘home’ feeling strong with The Rhapsody Tapes? Or is it still evolving?

For sure, I think we started to find our feet with Black Label – we sort of established how exactly we go about writing music, what works for us and I think that set us up for The Rhapsody Tapes quite nicely. I do look at this record with that sort of ‘home’ feeling – I think this is the best material that really sums up Ocean Grove and what we’re about but it is also constantly evolving – who knows how the next record will sound (I certainly don’t).

“Slow Soap Soak” surprised me when I first heard it, but now it’s one of my favourites. Sweet heavy distorted bass sound, trumpet, digital noise and lots of samples. 🙂 It feels like it was fun to make. How did this come about?

This one was an RT creation – I think our first reaction when we heard it was complete laughter and a state of shock (we simply HAD to put it on the record). Early on in The Rhapsody Tapes discussions, We stated we wanted to be able to write whatever we felt like – even if that meant having a song which was purely just a drum solo and some wack noises (which I guess ended up being “Slow Soap Soak”?).

For what it’s worth, the build up, guitars and “you must be done living up there on the shelf..” section of the song toward the end is beautiful. I’d vote Mr Centipede as a favourite. I even referred to it as ‘Perfect’ in my Rhapsody Tapes review. ;))

Haha thank you, I think Mr Centipede would have to be my favourite off the record. The bridge “you must be done” section always reminds me of a movie for some reason, some of my favourite music I’ve ever written!

I bet you’re all questioned out (I’m sorry, thank you, I love you), so I’ll leave it there. Thank you so much for taking the time to even read these, I really appreciate it so much. The Rhapsody Tapes is something special and I’m excited to see what happens next for Ocean Grove. Supplementary question is: will there be a Rhapsody Tapes tour? (Separate to the Architects tour, which I haven’t even asked any questions about. :\ )

Not a problem at all, thank you for interest in our band! There will definitely be a Rhapsody Tapes tour this year – the finer details of that I’m sure will all be revealed in time.

We loved getting to know Ocean Grove and The Rhapsody Tapes a little deeper! Get some Ocean Grove into your life by streaming The Rhapsody Tapes via Spotify, and connect with the band on Twitter or Facebook.

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