Subterráneo Webzine: Last time I caught up with you, you were amidst touring with ENSLAVED and NE OBLIVISCARIS. What are you up now, guys?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: We just returned home from a short tour with EPICA and MYRKUR. So we’re up to the same old things. Supporting our new record and trying to figure out our next steps.
Subterráneo Webzine: And speaking about NE OBLIVISCARIS— they will soon be back to Spain. Didn’t they propose you to repeat the previous experience in their own tour? How was the experience of sharing stage with them?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: They were great. Awesome live band and cool guys. They offered us a US tour with them, but we declined because of us working on our lives and our new record.
Subterráneo Webzine: After listening to Winter I said that you were the 2015-2016 revelation band. Two years after The banished heart makes its appearance. This one is the album to confirm my words? Were you aware about the surprise your previous work caused?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Yeah, it was a surprise to us because we were just doing and using what we had to work with. So it was natural for us and a bit more of a surprise to everyone else.
Subterráneo Webzine: One of the difficulties of OCEANS OF SLUMBER is getting the exact words to define your style. Cammie’s soul fuelled voice is one of your trademarks, but also the duality and dynamism between delicacy and savageness. All of these topped with vertiginous Dobber’s rhythm changes. In your opinion, what role does each member play in the band to get this feeling of freshness and unique personality of the band?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: We all play our parts in making the sound of the band. But we do so in the combination of the elements, complimenting each other in whatever way is needed. So our individual elements shine through in the subtleties. Anthony’s delicate jazz guitar, Sean’s southern metal, Keegan’s DREAM THEATER love, Cammie’s sultry southern howl, and my classical through death and grindcore spread make OCEANS OF SLUMBER what it is. Something.
Subterráneo Webzine: The curious about this inability to classify you can be exemplified with the encyclopedia Metal Archives: OCEANS OF SLUMBER is nowhere to be seen. Do you know the website? Aren’t you metal enough to appear in a database about metal bands?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: We were just added recently after a handful of people petitioned them time and time again. Apparently we were considered a rock band because of the female vocals. You know, the old standard “it’s got a girl in it so it’s weak” outlook. Glad that changed.
Subterráneo Webzine: Winter was the surprise, but it wasn’t your first album even though it was the first LP with Cammie. Going from Blue to The banished heart I think Cammie and OCEANS OF SLUMBER have grown up in parallel ways. Do you think she was the push the band needed to develop?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: It was the combination of things. Growing into our own skin. Once we all clicked and realized a true direction it was very easy. She was definitely the key element I needed in my life and in my music.
Subterráneo Webzine: The banished heart is an album I’d define as more mature than Winter. That one suffered from a problem: some of the tracks seemed to be a little bit more of supporting songs while there were a few you used to play over and over again. With The banished heart everything seems to be drawn together, more mature. What do you think about this? Which is the main difference you spot between both albums?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: The album was written and conceived entirely around the title track, so it’s the first focused effort from the band. Winter was a collection of songs that were assembled to a story, so not a record that was written together but over the course of a year of just writing. I’d written the main theme of the title track “The banished heart” a year or two ago, summing up my dark places at the time and my reaching out to Cammie. It’s what makes up the first half of the song. The second half of the songs beginning was to my daughter and to the sadness I felt to watch my relationship with my ex-wife dissolve. It had been over the past five plus years, but knowing I had to do something about it for my own happiness. By the end it was about the love I sought and had found. So the record certainly has a more focused and serious directions. The band does. We will be reaching further into all of this in the future.
Subterráneo Webzine: I’m still thinking about the musical diversity that comes too because of the different academic origins of each member of OCEANS OF SLUMBER. A good academic training is something essential to bring creativity and risk a step further or feelings and improvisation are a must?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: The diversity comes from lots of listening and inspiration. From art to literature to cinema to music. Education is helpful of course, but the writing comes from a very sharp focus on what we’re trying to achieve. The greatest records I know came from people who don’t know music in the most educated sense, but know music in the most primal way. Kind of a barbaric music education I guess. They know the things, they just may not know the names of them. We have a mixture of it. Some more educated than others.
Subterráneo Webzine: As far as I know, this album comes up from two personal events that affect personally Dobber and Cammie. One is a turbulent divorce for Dobber and the other one is the memory of the loss of her father due to a cancer in Cammie’s case. Have you both reflected your personality in this work as it was your shelter?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Entirely true. She and I have had similar experiences and have gone through a few together now. So the turbulence is a shared one. This album is a place of refuge but also a place of not so quiet reflection. We find that out now because of touring this record live. Some of the songs really hit home and some of them are almost impossible to play live. If you watch some of the live videos of us playing “No color, no light”, you will see Cammie struggling to keep it together. Very heartbreaking to see.
Subterráneo Webzine: The cover from The banished heart is striking. Where the idea did came up? Is there anything forbidden in OCEANS OF SLUMBER?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Thank you. I had seen this beautiful african model, who was very very dark, do a side profile shot that was very atmospheric. Mildly occult looking and like a modern Argento creepiness. Combine that with the overall idea of taking someone’s heart, holding it hostage or saving it being within the power of the individual, and you land at the idea of the album cover. All wonderfully composed and captured by North Western photographic artist, Kavan The Kid. It’s a combination of the glorious and the macabre.
Subterráneo Webzine: “Love. Loss. Struggle. Surrender. The Journey. The End.” With these words your label defines The banished heart. All of them can perfectly reflect the many feelings you recall with your music. Do you agree with them? Is, in this case, the music the mirror of a musician’s soul?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: They are very true words for The banished heart. It’s a journey through a particular time in an individual life. A window in time in a musician’s soul.
Subterráneo Webzine: There are two songs that I will call the perfect recap for The banished heart. One is “At dawn”—this track has slow parts, symphonic parts, more aggressive passages and even black-like riffs. Is the creative process to get a song like this one very complex? Is there anyone that plays such thing as the conductor role in OCEANS OF SLUMBER?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: That song is certainly a product of my death metal roots. I’ve been involved in the Texas death metal scene for twenty years and feel like I have some sort of pedigree in darkened death metal because of it (laughs). So that song is fully a TXDM composition with Cammie’s wonderful vocal and melodies over it. It’s meant to be very dark, somewhat melodic, and overwhelmingly intense. My favorite type of death metal and one of my favorite songs on the record. It opens with a riff from Sean’s arsenal of riffs and is further heightened by Anthony’s guitar atmospherics. One of my favorite songs on the record too.
Subterráneo Webzine: The other track is “The banished heart”, one of the darkest and more introspective songs of this album where you include even some electronic elements. Is this the reason to choose it as the album’s name?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: It was the central theme that the new record was conceived from. I wrote and played everything on it, but the reason was that it was so close to me and the guys were gracious enough to be alright with it. It was the kind of catharsis that I needed. When we were asked about writing and releasing another record I was fully immersed in it already. I was ready and Cammie was ready. We had just returned home from seven weeks with ENSLAVED and I had all I needed to spearhead the record. Kind of took the guys by surprise because of the rapid pace it was working at. It took us three months to compose the rest of the record and start tracking it. Very intense to say the least. The benefit of having such professional bandmates for sure. Despite all that life threw at all of us, we emerged somewhat unscathed and with a new album.
Subterráneo Webzine: Another song that stands out is “No color, no light”, where Cammie shares the mic with Tom S. Englund, singer to EVERGREY. How this collab did came up and how do you think it contributes to the album in the end?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Tom has been a friend of mine and of the band for a few years now. He’s been on my list of collaborators for many many years. Huge fan of EVERGREY and his. “No color” was the last track we wrote in the rehearsal room and the second to last track written for the album. And we wanted to close it out as dire and brutally devastating as possible. He was the perfect choice for that type of song and to compliment Cammie’s voice. The two best soulful voices (in my opinion of course) in metal today. I absolutely love that song.
Subterráneo Webzine: When playing in Madrid with ENSLAVED you had a very special guest: Lindsay Schoolcraft from CRADLE OF FILTH who sang a duet with Cammie. How did it came up? Have you ever thought about collaborating later for a studio song?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: She and Cammie are good friends and it was the first time they would be able to really hangout since she tours so much and they live so far away from eachother. We were talking about it while on tour and she agreed to it. She’s an awesome person and an incredibly diverse musician. In the future we will just have to wait and see…
Subterráneo Webzine: This work has been produced by Dobber, who also plays with INSECT WARFARE, recently brought back to life. How can you balance two bands with two different styles and still get time to work on the guts of The banished heart?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Focus and time management. It’s rather easy if you’re head over heels into it. I live and breathe this shit, so I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my spare time.
Subterráneo Webzine: Even thought this may seem a curiosity, one of the most liked songs from Winter was a cover of “Nights in white satin” from THE MOODY BLUES that you totally claimed as yours. Blue had also a few covers. In The banished heart the choosen one is “Wayfaring stranger”, covered among others by Johnny Cash or Eemmylou Harris, with a very trip hop style and also very dark. How did you came up with this song?
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Eric Bibb did a version of that song that resonated very strongly with me. Me not being a religious person at all, I took a different kind of “romanticism” from it. One from the viewpoint of the traveler. The exiled. Where swallowing your pride or death was the only way to return. Being heavily into cinematic, electronic, and ULVER you get the musical backgrounds, to a degree.
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: It’s possible to return. We do love playing it still and it is very much a part of our repertoire. For now we have to figure out how to play these new songs live (laughs). We aren’t very keen on backing tracks, so The banished heart will prove to be quite the undertaking live.
Subterráneo Webzine: Thank you so much for your time and kind words. This is the moment for you to address to our readers and tell them whatever you like. See you soon!
OCEANS OF SLUMBER: Thank you for the interview and we hope those of you who have the record are enjoying it. We’re doing our best to preserve what we love about this kind of music and push it into the future. Maybe at our own detriment. Support the bands you love and spread the word about them too.