Ocean Grove: The Concepts & Processes Behind ‘Up In The Air Forever’

Ocean Grove’s follow-up to 2020’s Flip Phone Fantasy arrived earlier this month in the form of Up in the Air Forever (our review here). This ten-track effort delivers Dale Tanner, Twiggy Hunter and Sam Bassall in their sleekest blend of 2000s inspired grungey rock yet. It’s an album that saw the trio experiment with their style alongside the likes of US rapper Lil Aaron, and fellow Aussies Dune Rats (a collab that sounds so fitting for both acts!)

Get behind the creative process that went down during the last two years with OG’s creative masterminds Twiggy and Sam, as they break down all the tidbits and elements that helped shape their newest LP…

SYNERGY & STARTING POINTS 

TWIGGY: I think the main point is: obviously a lot of stuff that we do, especially the music itself – Sam Bassal is the heart and the balls of Ocean Grove, he holds it down with production and mastering, mixing, most things musically. My best skill is being able to write catchy sh!t and just throwing the absolute mess to Sam and saying: “Please help, I really need you to f*cking do something with this. And I don’t know how to do it myself!” He just says: “Right, alright, f*cking calm down! We’ll work on it together, we’ll work this thing out” And whatever I bring to him, we’ve just got a f*cking good synergy. 

Actually, we’ve always had good synergy, I would write before I was in the band just for fun. And we’d practice together just for fun, and jam here and there. We have very similar tastes and stuff, and I think that synergy that we have even on stage, like the bass and the drums – it’s just this very natural feeling that’s there. And it’s weird how things have just fallen into place, like our humour and all of these different things, they’re so bloody similar. Even down to the way we write, obviously he’s a bit more clinical and cleaner with his ability to take a mess and clean it up. I’m better at just saying “F*ck the rules!!” But it’s a perfect combo from the ground up. 

Going into Up In The Air Forever, as well as Flip Phone Fantasy, one thing that we always try to do before coming up with a concept of a song or an idea of a song: a lot of the body of the music will come first. That body will make sense in the back of our heads and stay there, we’ll know what it’s gotta be about, who it’s gotta appeal to, this is the emotions one should feel when they’re listening to a particular song etc. Obviously, too, a lot of that is subjective, so we have to consider so many things, and we want to open up all of the possibilities.

Sometimes I’ll say to Sam “Oh, this song makes me feel like when I had my heart broken when I was 12 years old” and he’ll say “Oh, it makes me feel a bit moody”. And it’s good having our slight differences in how things affect us personally, or how our upbringings and differences collide within the band as well, and it helps guide the process of writing a song, and making sure it has layers. We want our music to be a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions and tap into every possible feeling that a human can feel, rather than just be purely linear. 

LOCKDOWN WRITING + BALANCING REALITY

TWIGGY: We wrote the album in lockdown, and that in itself was such a weird time, and a really testing time for all of us where we were all going through our own sh!t whilst trying to juggle the band and our personal lives and family. During that time we had friends pass away and family pass away, we went through a whole rollercoaster ourselves personally. It’s definitely a weird feeling tapping into those parts of yourself, largely because we try to produce music that makes people feel good. But it can feel good to tap into a bit of that sadness to help people get through some of that shit, even if it was a bit rough at the time across the board.

It was a funny feeling writing an album during lockdown, especially with me and Sam writing quite a bit of it over Zoom. Sam and I would be up at ridiculous hours of the night, like 3:00am and 4:00am losing our absolute minds. I think back to some of those moments in lockdown, and I don’t even know who I was, I was losing my f*cking marbles. But it kind of helped keep us on track, and I think with us: at our peak of losing the plot is some of the best versions of OG because that’s when there’s nothing really holding us back from trying new things and taking risks with sounds. We always want to push the boundaries from the ground up with our sound and production and lyrics. I think Up In The Air Forever is a good continuation of the last album while also capturing very different times and places. 

GROWTH & NOSTALGIA 

TWIGGY: The underlying concept behind the album is very in line with what the shoe, the Oddworld 3000 on the album cover, itself represents. We want the songs to empower listeners to be able to do whatever they want to do in this world, and to their highest degree; that’s all that matters. I believe that humans are not linear, we’ve got the ability to actually live in a state of gradual change where we are constantly growing, even if there’s f*ck ups along the way and making mistakes or getting addicted to drugs and then coming off drugs; whatever it may be, it’s always a constant, gradual path. And all that matters is that along the way, you give it your f*cking best. We want our songs to compliment people’s time of being alive, and actually help those who may need that push to actually give it their best shot. 

I always say: there’s always someone worse off and there’s always someone better. You’re always in between because things move so fast on this planet – and we want our music to be that complementary thing to every moment in life, even if it’s as simple as being an album that someone listens to and creates memories in a time when they’re obsessed with the whole album or a particular song on the album – if it becomes their “summer anthem” or “winter anthem”, whatever it may be! 

I just want people to feel that feeling that we all felt growing up listening to new music at the time that we still love to this day. I want Up In The Air Forever to tap into some of those memories. I personally tap into certain times in my life when I was at f*cking rock bottom, or when I was at certain peaks, or getting in trouble with the police as a kid, or climbing trees and rolling around in the dirt. Whatever it may be, you can tie memories, smells, feelings, everything to certain songs in certain periods of your life. To think that we’re potentially making music for people that might do the same thing is pretty incredible. 

THE ODDWORLD 3000 SHOE + TANGIBLE MERCH

TWIGGY: A big part of linking Up In The Air Forever with my childhood memories is just my inability to let things go that I really f*cking love. An addictive personality kind of thing, if I see something that I love – I just want to master it and chuck it in a backpack for another day. A similar thing with my childhood memories, I used to own the old Michael Jordan VHS tapes – actually I think they were my sister’s and I flogged them from her. But watching them, you’d see Michael Jordan put on these shoes, and obviously he was tall as f*ck, so that helps. But he would put these shoes on, and combining his skills and the shoe, they were just so complementary to each other, you’d see him dunking these massive balls in the videos. It made me feel that if I bought this shoe, this Nike that Michael Jordan wears; I’m actually gonna be able to f*cking do that with ease! Same thing with Tony Hawk Pro Skater, the first game, I remember seeing things that I already wore in the real world featured in these games, and thinking: “F*ck! All these pro skaters are wearing similar shoes to me, and look at at this sh!t that they’re doing!”. They would really ham it up, those skate videos and basketball videos back in that day when it was really the age of going over the top. 

That kind of sh!t really grabbed me as a kid, I felt like I could really relate to the ADHA, high-energy videos and clips of skaters and basketballers doing crazy shit. I’d see it and be like: “Holy f*ck! I’m actually gonna be able to get these shoes and get a full-sized basketball and jump six metres off the ground and dunk it!” I obviously learned, I bought the shoes and couldn’t do that. But it still had that ability through their advertising and through the way they would portray these things to actually give you this feeling that if you got a pair of skate shoes or Air Jordan’s or something like that, you could totally transform. 

As a kid, I would cherish the f*ck out of it, especially because of the scarcity factor. I couldn’t get everything I wanted growing up, you know, growing up in a poor country town. But I got the odd thing here and there, and when I actually could get my hands on these magical items it was like: holy shit, it’s game time! I’m gonna put this shoe on and go and take over the f*cking world. And even to this day, I still get that feeling, that similar feeling that I felt when we received the samples of the real-life OG Oddworld 3000 shoe for this album. It’s that same kind of feeling that if you put it on, if you’re holding this shoe that we designed every step of the way and manufactured – anything is possible. 

NATURAL PROCESSES & FINISHING THE RECORD

SAM: I guess you could say the overall theme with the whole record is that there really wasn’t much second guessing. I think it’s pretty obvious and we’ve done it in the past because I’m a major control freak, but there’s a lot of back and forth: “Oh, should we do this? Shouldn’t we do this?” I think when we say the record feels natural to us, it was so much across the board of just: “Yep. we’re doing it. Feels right, I like this!”. No thought or pressure, it just feels natural.

TWIGGY: In the end, you’ve gotta be a bit ruthless with it all. A painting can never be finished, only abandoned, that’s the thing we run with. Even with the last album, you could literally just keep adding and adding and adding and adding and adding to a painting, but it’s like: when are you actually done? You could go on forever, so you’ve gotta actually just cut the f*cking cord at some point and say: this is it, this is what we’re going with, lock it in Eddie, we’re stepping away from it!

SAM: Trust us, if we didn’t make that decision, we’d still be working on it today. 

TWIGGY: That also helps the process, the natural writing process that we all have together. Also Sammy and I, it stays fun for the fact that we don’t get in our head, or in our heads too much and don’t get too attached to things. 

We kind of like, you know, cut it off before it gets too bad. I don’t drink now, but it’s like if you’re out drinking and you’re thinking: “F*ck, I’ll just have a couple more, a couple more, a couple more…” You get to a point where you’re in your head still, but your body just won’t move because you’re so f*cking paralytic. 

You’ve gotta kind of like set your boundaries and know where they are and say: “All right, this is how many drinks I’m gonna have. This is what I’m sticking with. I’ll stop now and I’ll go home”. It’s the same with the album. It’s like: all right, we’ve got these songs, we feel confident about ’em all. Let’s not get too in our heads here.

SAM: It’s time to go home. 

TWIGGY: I really have to kick Dale and Sammy up the ass a bit with that stuff. But that also, I guess, could be why the three of us work so well together because we’ve all got our own different traits and our own abilities and our own ways of thinking. Sometimes being the one who just loves the mess and first takes and just f*cking “going with it” – I’ve gotta come in and I’ll say to Sammy: “Bro, trust me, this sounds f*cking incredible. Don’t get in your f*cking head because I’m gonna come back here tomorrow and you are gonna change twenty things and I’m gonna hate it!”. Sometimes I’ll physically say: “Close your f*cking screen, turn off your computer. We’re going and doing something”, and we’ll get outta the house and get out of our heads a bit.

It doesn’t help that a lot of Up In The Air Forever was written in lockdown as is, but when you’re locked in a studio between four walls – humans aren’t made to be locked up, so you can get kind of neurotic if you’re stuck within four walls for too long, trying to constantly think and think and think, and we’re malnourished and we’re dehydrated. In this soundproof room where the sound is just so clear and you hear every little f*cking tiny thing: you go crazy. Eventually, you gotta just say: this is it, lock it in. Let’s move on to the next thing and go get some f*cking vitamin D because we’re looking like Casper.

Ocean Grove’s brand new album, Up in the Air Forever is out now through UNFD.
Listen here

Ocean Grove – Up In The Air Forever tracklisting

1. Flava
2. Sex Dope Gold
3. Cali Sun
4. Bustin
5. Silver Lining
6. HMU (featuring Lil Aaron)
7. Bored (featuring Dune Rats)
8. Noise
9. Silence
10. Up In The Air Forever

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