Interview: Hey Ocean!

Hey Ocean! @ Horseshoe Tavern, 26-06-11

Vancouver’s Hey Ocean! recently played a sold out show at the Horseshoe Tavern. Before all the sweaty fun began, I sat down with bassist David Vertesi.

Hey Ocean! has been under the radar while recording their follow-up to 2008’s It’s Easier To Be Somebody Else. Fortunately, the record is on the way. While the band isn’t sure of an exact release date at this point, they’re hoping for fall. The uncertainty around the release date doesn’t seem to bother the band. Vertesi makes it clear. “On a scale of 1 to extremely excited, I’m a 20.”

It was not always an easy path, though. Their previous record, a follow up to 2007’s Stop Looking Like Music, was recorded with indie rock producer Jose Miguel Contreras, who was able to produce an exciting, live-sounding album. Vertesi says, “This time around, we wanted to do something more accessible production-wise.” To achieve this, they decided to go with a mainstream producer. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, with the thought of “We don’t want to lose who we are” as part of what caused the split. Vertesi ended up taking over the role of producer and he’s happy with how the record turned out.

Vertesi describes the sound on this record as “a lot bigger.” He says, “When we went to do this record, what we wanted to do had kind of changed, but, more than anything, we wanted to give ourselves carte blanche to do what we wanted in the studio.” This didn’t mean laptops or adding anything that didn’t fit in with their existing sound.

He describes, “So the way we did it was by going, ‘Alright, let’s pretend that we have another guitar player and let’s pretend we have a keyboard player’ and that opened everything up and just became… it’s way bigger.”

Vertesi has been busy the last while. In addition to all the work he’s done with Hey Ocean!, he also put out his own full-length, Cardiology in 2010. Vertesi says there are two ways this has influenced his role in the band. “One, it kind of broke stuff down for me. Like, ‘what are you doing, what are you contributing’? When you’re doing a solo thing, there’s no BS. It’s just me and my band and a crowd, but I’m in control, so I can’t rely on anyone else. It’s just me. It’s a really great experience because once you go back into a group, it changes how you view yourself and what it is you’re doing.

And the other thing is that it’s just a great outlet. I think I am someone who, personally, I play in a bunch of bands and I need it as an outlet. When you’re only in one thing and only one kind of music all the time, I’m writing all this music and, to be honest, it doesn’t belong in Hey Ocean!, so to do that allows me to get that out and come back refreshed, more focused on what it is Hey Ocean! is really about, which isn’t about me; it’s about us.”

While Hey Ocean! has been around for a while now, they’ve been watching some of their Vancouver peers garner attention throughout Canada. Vertesti comments, “It’s funny, we had an interview a little while ago and they were saying, ‘You’ve played with some really big bands.’ People say that a lot. It’s a normal thing to say in an interview. But half the bands are our buddies from Vancouver, like Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, Said the Whale, Shad. They’re friends who we hang out with. Shad lived in my house with my parents. Said the Whale – I went to the same summer camp as Tyler. Mother Mother used to hang out in my living room and drink wine and play songs when they weren’t called Mother Mother yet. Our first show ever was a pirate party with Dan Mangan at a crappy bar.”

As the rest of Canada realizes what Vancouver’s music scene has to offer, Vertesi expresses his excitement. “It’s so exciting for Vancouver right now. I think our music scene is coming of age in the rest of the country and everyone’s getting excited about it. Everywhere I go everyone’s like, ‘Man, there’s so much good music in Vancouver.’

The good music in Vancouver is no longer a secret, with some of Vancouver’s best touring the country several times over, including Hey Ocean! themselves and, with the forthcoming album, they’ve got more touring ahead.

As Vertesi thinks of a good drunken story, he describes the awesome atmosphere that makes up SxSW and then goes on tell a story of when Hey Ocean! was at the festival a few years ago.

“I had a lot of showcases because we were playing and I was playing with Shad, so I didn’t get to party or anything all week. The last day we went to a thing with Dan Mangan – me and Ashleigh. Dave Beckingham was away. And Ashleigh somehow gets a Texas Mickey of vodka out of one of the servers at the party, so we’re walking around with this huge bottle of vodka and we’re drinking and mixing it with vitamin water. And we go to see this festival. We end up sitting on a hill, kind of overlooking this festival that’s happening outdoors. It’s like Erykah Badu, Explosions in the Sky, stuff like that. We were with a couple other guys. We drank that in like 2 hours between 4 of us. With vitamin water!”

The middle parts are a little hazy, going from bat colony to festival to bar, but he continues “My buddy Shad found me wrapped around the toilet, carried me home and the best part about it is I remember thinking, freaking out. We had just finished the Texas Mickey and I was freaking out ‘cause I was reading the side of the vitamin water and it says maximum recommended dosage on the vitamin water and going, ‘Guys, I’m going to be sick!’ And they’re like, ‘Why, from the alcohol?’ And I’m like, ‘No, because I drank so many vitamin waters!’ I was freaking out. That was a really insane night. And there’s this picture of me and it was the most fear in my eyes that I’ve ever seen. And I’m holding this bottle of vodka and I think I had just taken a shot… so I don’t drink vodka ever anymore. I don’t touch it. It’s insane.”

Vertesi’s shot of choice is obviously not vodka, but he does favour Jagerbombs to get hyped up before a show. While “Dave Beckingham doesn’t even really drink anymore,” he says, “We’ll all drink tequila. Ashleigh won’t drink Jager, actually, so we drink tequila with her all the time. And it definitely makes you get up to no good.”

Look out for Hey Ocean!’s forthcoming record. In the meantime, to get you excited for the new music coming your way, you can catch Hey Ocean! at the Regina Folk Festival and Live at Squamish in August.


Categories: Interviews


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