Ahead of their upcoming release Hikari, we chatted to Oceans Ate Alaska drummer Chris Turner about the influences behind the album and the way it developed – his responses are fascinating. Enjoy!
Having seen a couple of the drum cover videos you’ve done, you have this interesting style of playing – it’s sort of…the way you attack the kit. You have this static and rigid and edgy style – do you have any specific way that you describe your playing is different to other drummers.
Irrelevant of how I look when I’m playing, I’m definitely different to some other drummers because I of course don’t trigger or sample or anything like that. Our new album Hikari coming out later this month is 100 percent natural drums – there’s not even sample backing on the kick…and for a for a rock metal album of this day and age that’s incredibly unique.
I definitely set myself apart by just hitting drums really hard and doing it for real.
And then the playing style honestly that is just some weird weird zone that I go into, and I don’t even know that I’m in it. It was only until I started getting my videos back and watching myself play that I’m like ‘ah what am I doing that for?’, which is funny, because the most comfortable I ever am really when I’m playing drums. (laughs)
The first single, Escapist, was the first time that fans had heard music with your new vocalist – was there nerves around that release? Did you have to change your songwriting process at all?
Honestly Jake has been a very very good friend of mine for seven years now – when the band was starting out and we needed a merch guy, or like crew members for little jobs here and there, he was our guy. So really, welcoming in to the team felt so natural.
But the writing process – Oceans Ate Alaska is never a one day per song type deal…it takes a long time to write our music. The average we’ve noticed is about a month per song – we had about 15 songs and then chose our favourite. It took six months to record again an incredible amount of work over about six months, and Jake joined relatively late in that process. So in that way, our writing process wasn’t really affect. But might I add with James (our previous vocalist), we wrote everything without him there and then he just kind of put vocals over the top…and I honestly think that that shows, when I listen to our old material. But I love the way Jake now sounds, it’s a much more cohesive sound.
The album, Hikari, has heavy Japanese influences – from the track titles to the song styles themselves…where did that come from?
I myself do a lot of the production for the band…I’m a bit of a pro tools addict. One day I was doing some production work for a separate project – at the time I was listening a lot to a UK producer called Bonobo and he does, like, hip hop instrumental chill stuff. And I was just kind of messing around with some ideas. It was a Japanese instrument called a koto and I wrote this kind of hip-hop, chillout type piece using a koto…it was really cool. And I remember I showed Jibs, our guitarist, and I just said ‘What do you think of this man? I’m kind of proud of it…it’s a bit different and he was like ‘dude that’s awesome, let’s but a breakdown over it!’
And, like – we already have like these two completely opposite elements – traditional Japanese and hip hop…we can’t add like a third polar opposite, it’s just going to be a mess. But we tried it…and just looked each other, and our jaws just dropped. We just said ‘Holy shit that’s the most beautiful, unique, perfect combo we’ve ever heard’. So we bring out the rest of the band, and say ‘come out, listen to this shit now’. And all their jaws drop and they all just say ‘okay this is our thing…there is no one that does this. And it’s perfect.’ It’s the perfect blend. And we have to do it.
So it was the most natural organic way of discovering it. And that song actually stayed on the album…the song Veridical, the instrumental track.
Your instrumentation is complex and layered like not many others can touch – how do you describe the thoughts and process behind OAA’s unique style of music?
When I’m writing music, I try and write it to be like…a journey, almost like a rollercoaster. When I’m listening to a song, if it gets too stagnant, I kind of notice that I lose attention…like, if you’re in the car with mates, then we start chatting and turn the song down and it just becomes background – that’s the last thing I want. I want people to listen to our music and be listening the whole time with their jaw dropped, like ‘this is rad!’. So whenever I do write a part and you know I feel it’s get a bit too static, that’s when I like to punch people in the face and do something a bit rad…just to keep their attention. So yeah, that’s what I make a conscious effort to do.
Any chances of an Australian tour any time soon?
Unfortunately, we don’t have anything in the pipeline as of yet. We’re definitely working on it though! And obviously we’re good friends with a few Australian bands, like Northlane, and In Hearts Wake – so we are pushing, and we’re trying to get something together because we would love to tour Australia.
Thankyou for chatting to us!
Interview by Michael Parente
Oceans Ate Alaska’s album Hikari releases this Friday, Get it here and take a listen to their single ‘Escapist’