Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
If you like your knobs twiddled just right, Ocean Grove’s Sam Bassal should be your first pick. For your album. To sound good. Why, what were you thinking?
The “Produced by Sam Bassal” seal of quality will likely appear on a new album cover near you. And why not? The Rhapsody Tapes was an ARIA chart-busting, Fred Durst touring, Download Fest conquering mosh machine. That’s in part thanks to Sam’s production, and his unequivocal musical creativity as a writer. With an American tour behind them and their whole career ahead, we caught up with drummer Sam in preparation for this Saturday’s Dead of Winter Festival. Say there’s new music, pretty please?
You guys have achieved so much in such a short time, do you ever sort of look back and say, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s only been a couple years.”
I think the main thing really is, it’s pretty big “wow” moment. I think that for us it kind of all started really as soon as we put out the Rhapsody Tapes last of last year. I think it was one of the those things, once you finally have an album out it relieves the pressure a little bit. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some amazing things come out of that album. We’ve been around, touring around the world most of last year and this year, and its just exciting because its one of those things that we’d loved to do, and to actually get to do it, it’s just unreal.
You’re all quite young guys and Rhapsody is your first album. Is there a weight of expectation on your shoulders for the follow-up, considering you’re producer too?
I think that’s definitely something we think about no matter what. We can’t quite take that out of the back of our heads. At the end of the day we put out a really good first album that was well received by everyone worldwide. That thought is definitely not going to go away. Its kind of like going into the studio and thinking, “Is this song we’re writing going to be anywhere near as good as what we did in the last one?” It’s also important to not think about the last one. If I was to keep comparing it to the last one than I think I’d just end up writing the last one. So its definitely in the back of our heads, and there’s obviously a lot of pressure and a lot of people watching now to see what the follow up is like.
Yeah, and I can imagine for yourself you’re quite in demand now. Do a lot of bands call you up and say “Give us the Ocean Grove treatment?”
Yeah, I’ve been producing bands probably since 2013, maybe the last five years, but its definite a thing where obviously the bigger Ocean Grove gets the more requests that I have for my services. I do writing and producing, so when I’m [producing something] quite popular, there’s going to be some talk about who did it and whatnot. I think it definitely has the advantage. I think people, my clients, usually come and work with me are definitely after my writing and producing helps even more so than my mixing and mastering. I take it as a compliment when people say, “we love what you did on this, what’s your thoughts on this?” It’s someone else trusting what I do and they’re putting their music in my hands. So I think it’s a big compliment in the end whether or not they say can you give me some of this “Ocean Grove spark” or whatever.
Dead of Winter on Saturday. What was the feeling when you were approached to play that festival?
I’d never heard of it before! We got the offer and its one of those things where you get offered something and you haven’t quite heard about it before, so you don’t really know that to expect. I think I’m still not too sure what to expect! It’s a great line-up and we haven’t really played too many shows up in Queensland this year. I think we’ve only played once and spent and the rest of this year in America, coming back for the Limp Bizkit tour and Download Festival. We haven’t played many [club shows], which I think is why we are quite excited for this show and a couple of others that we have coming up. Australia is our home fanbase and we haven’t had a chance to play. Its been awhile so I think its definitely exciting. I think ticket sales are going really well, so I’m hoping that should be a pretty packed out day, I’m pretty excited.
I’m not too sure when I can say people will hear new music, but I just hope that the wait no matter what it is, will be worth it for a better Ocean Grove.
I think it’s four-fifths sold, so I won’t be surprised if it does sell out! Do you have any new tracks ready for debut?
Kind of. We’re at a point where we’re looking at having deadlines and looking at having music ready now and available. We just felt like…we just toured for four or five months in a row. If we were to sit in the music that we have it just wasn’t what…I don’t think it was there yet. We’d felt like we were kind of just rushing things, so right now we’re just taking the time to really make sure that we make this second album the best that we possibly can and make it better than the last one. Right now we’re taking a little bit of time and with the writing but we’re definitely going back to the studio and me doing most of the production. I’m not too sure when I can say people will hear new music, but I just hope that the wait no matter what it is, will be worth it for a better Ocean Grove.
Is there a limit to how much time you can take? Some work better with deadlines, others not so much. Where do you fall on that count?
When you’ve got no one over your shoulder saying, “Hi, I need this by this date,” then I’m definitely a procrastinating watching a couple extra YouTube videos type of guy. I think the thing that you have to realise is when there’s no deadline that eventually there will be one. I think the band and I try and be as proactive as possible. If a deadline comes along, we might actually be more prepared than if you weren’t staying super on top of it all. The creative process for us is a pretty unique one. It kind of comes from, I’d say, two worlds and sort of blending together. I guess the main songwriting in the band is done by myself and our studio member Running Touch and he’s in the electronic, EDM world, and I’m in this rock world.
So when it comes to the writing process, its very different to how most people would write. I think the last album we actually wrote the most parts, then Running Touch, he’d write 30 seconds of an electronic sound, and he’d come back to me and I’d turn that into whatever else. It’s definitely a different way of writing but I think we’ve set ourselves up in a way where people don’t really know what to expect. If you’d only heard one of our songs and put on the full album I don’t think you’d actually know what to expect, what song is coming next.
Is that a freeing thing? When it comes to Ocean Grove’s sound, every option is on the table?
That’s right, every option is on the table. I think the way I sort of look at it, if you put yourself in a position where people know that you’re a band that doesn’t just play guitars and the usual breakdowns for a full ten song album. I think anything is in the cards when you set that out. I think we’re trying to push ourselves and make our songs better than the last, especially with this album. It’ll be our most experimental album in the case of everything that we have put forward has been drastically different from the last. That’s just because we never want to create the same music twice. I think our fans, and we have great fans and we have some awesome fans that, they’re into it in that way. A lot of people have different favourite songs for example. We were the first band in quite a while to blend different genres together and have different styles per song. I think it might have just been a refreshing touch for some people who wanted their music to be that little bit different.
Ocean Grove will be appearing at the Dead of Winter Festival this Saturday at the Jubilee and Tivoli Hotels in Brisbane. Tickets are selling fast! Click here to grab yours.