You’d probably be surprised to learn that a Birmingham progressive metalcore band has been getting more views on YouTube over recent months than any other artist. Forget Swim Deep, Peace, Editors, Laura Mvula and even UB40. Oceans Ate Alaska are beating them all. At the time of writing, their Clocks video had been viewed almost 2.5 million times.
We caught up with them to talk crap band names, touring, weird fan encounters and to find out about their eagerly-anticipated debut album.
BL — So tell me how the band originally came together.
OAA — It started way way back at school, going back a long time, and we went through multiple different band names and a lot of different members until we finally found the right guys and the name Oceans Ate Alaska.
BL — What’s the worst band name you had during that time?
OAA — Calling All Candidates was pretty shit! Or Roadworks, but that was when we were so young we could barely talk.
BL — So when did the band become Oceans Ate Alaska?
OAA — About two years ago now, when James joined the band. He came up with that name as well. It’s named after the biggest tsunami in human history and we took the name from a news headline.
BL — When you first got together what kind of sounds were you working on then?
OAA — It was a mixture of influences at a point where we hadn’t really found our own identity. As we’ve gone down the line we’ve now found our own thing and people who hear the album will hopefully see that there’s nothing really like it at the moment.
I think a lot of it has come through just maturing as musicians anyway. It’s a cringey thing that a lot of bands say but it has got a lot heavier and a lot more technical. It’s gnarly shit! (laughs)
BL — So what sets Oceans Ate Alaska apart from the generic metalcore that’s got somewhat of a bad reputation?
OAA — You need to hear it! I think a part of it comes from the fact that it’s really hard to find good drummers… in the metalcore scene anyway. A lot of Chris’ drumming helps to colour many of the sections a lot better. It feels like a British metalcore band, not just a standard metalcore band and James isn’t putting on an American accent. We’ve avoided the clichÃ©s and pretty much done everything differently. I don’t know any other metal band that’s done this one thing what we’ve done. The last band would maybe be Pink Floyd.
BL — You’ve toured with AttackAttack and Blessthefall. What one band do you think your sound would resonate with their fans most?
OAA — Issues would be cool. Thy Art Is Murder. I would say Structures too. And Miley Cyrus (laughs).
BL — How was the Blessthefall tour?
OAA — Epic. They’re the nicest guys to tour with. We were all saying they’re one of the best bands to tour with, just because of how humble and organized they are. It was our first major tour really and their tour manager gave us a lot of pointers on how to go about doing things. It was definitely a learning curve.
BL — So you recorded the album in Michigan. Why?
OAA — Josh Wickman. He’s the man. He’s not widely known but there’s no-one else we’d rather work with.
BL — So how did that collaboration come about?
OAA — Well it’s taken us about a year and a half to write this album. It’s a big deal. We put a lot into this and if the production’s not right it could potentially break our hearts. It’s hard to get five people to agree on anything and when we all heard Elite by Within The Ruins we were blown away.
BL – What’s your favourite place in Birmingham to play?
OAA – When we played Academy 2 with Senses Fail that was an epic show. The rest we tend to organise ourselves. The Asylum, our friends run that so that’s always good. I’d like to play The Institute. I grew up there going out every weekend so it’d be awesome to play there.
BL – Are there any other bands on the local scene that you think people should be paying attention to at the moment?
OAA – Rich from Odessa has formed a new band called Lock & Key. I think they’re one to keep an eye out for.
BL – Any weird fan encounters yet?
OAA – YES!!! In Nottingham we were about to play the Rescue Rooms with Blessthefall and we’d just pulled up at about 2pm and one guy was there who’d travelled a good couple of hours for the gig. We opened up the van and Chris was eating a banana and this guy says “Can I have the rest of your banana?”, so I gave him the banana and he says “What shall I do with the skin?” I said “There’s a bin over there” and the guy just says “Can you do it?”. Then he took our Lynx spray from us. Later his girlfriend couldn’t make the show so he got me to call her for a chat.
In Manchester I was on the barrier about to crowd surf and I grabbed a girl’s hand to keep myself balanced and she just put my hand straight down her pants, so that was a bit awkward! But I found out she’s 19 so that was ok.
BL – So what’s the endgame for Oceans Ate Alaska?
OAA – For us to earn a living writing the music we write, playing the music that we like… As long as I can keep writing new things that excite me and play it live, the fact that anyone responds at all is just awesome.
Interview & photos – Steve Gerrard