Introducing Melbourne artist Oceans, with their explosive debut ‘Come So Far’. Congruous to the dreamy sonic tides he delivers, Oceans is the aptly chosen moniker of multi-instrumentalist and producer Thomas Lee, who after playing in shoegaze outfit Grazer and featuring on local artist Atalein’s latest single ‘Touch’, is thrilled to officially launch his exciting new solo project with the release of ‘Come So Far’ last week. We had a chat with Tom to discuss his new single and delve deep into the world of Oceans.
Hey Tom, congratulations on the launch of your new project Oceans! How does it feel to finally have your first single ‘Come So Far’ out in the world?
Thank you! Honestly it’s quite surreal as this has been a long time in the making. The song dates way back to when I first started creating music in my bedroom and holds strong sentimental value to me. I was lucky enough to work with Aden Senycia and Becki Whitton who helped turn my raw demos into something I’m really proud to share with the world.
When did you start to make your own music and what has led you to create the sounds we hear on ‘Come So Far’?
Music was always a massive part of my life when I was growing up, however it was always presented to me as a technical language. I always found that music was taught in a way where being able to play the most complex arrangements was prioritised over emotional connection and I never considered using it as a language for self expression. It was only after hearing lofi albums like as Niandre Lades, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Jinsang mixtapes that I thought I could use the tools I had available to make art that I could share with people.
I started out writing songs on my laptop late at night during my university days and quickly discovered that I was more interested in how something sounded rather than complex chord arrangements or something being played extremely fast. ‘Come So Far’ was an exploration of harnessing the different timbres of analogue and digital synthesisers with electronic drum beats that reminded me of the ‘80s along with layered vocal harmonies. I always like to try and create a vocal sound that’s very different from my own voice and we experimented with a lot of saturation plugins, reverbs as well as outboard guitar pedals in the recording process to try and glue together many different vocal layers whilst still maintaining a whispery intimacy.
Musically, how would you describe Oceans?
The musical arrangements of Oceans calls back to sounds of the past, particularly using vintage era instruments and tape saturation to emulate feelings of nostalgia and the bittersweet sentiments we have of our childhood. I try to explore the ideas of looking back on the triumphs and failures of life whilst embracing the challenges that lay ahead. I think writing about the difficulties we face in life can be a cathartic experience and hopefully others can listen and feel a sense of belonging through shared experience.
How was your 2020? What did you miss most whilst in lockdown?
2020 was obviously a very challenging time for so many people and I personally just tried to make the most out of it. Being isolated for such a long period of time alone allowed me to focus on writing new material and growing as much as I could as an artist. I purchased a Baritone guitar toward the end of 2019 so I spent the majority of lockdown exploring its sonic textures, eventually writing some songs that I’m hoping to release as an album in the coming future.
I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in contact with my friends and family over Zoom calls and I made some strong friendships through the experience that I may not have been able to if it weren’t for social media. However, I did miss going outside and enjoying some of the beautiful natural landscapes of Victoria. I think seeing the same inner city environments took its toll on me at times and I’ve made sure to reconnect with nature as much as possible over summer.
Do you have any plans for some upcoming live performances now that restrictions have eased and gigs are back up and running again?
We were preparing to play our first show supporting GRAZER at Bar Open on the 14th of Feb which unfortunately got cancelled due to the latest lockdown. We’re hoping to reschedule the show as soon as possible, but the uncertainty of lockdown laws has made that difficult for us. We’re currently writing and recording new music so we will also be focusing on preparing for upcoming studio sessions.
Tell us a bit about your band and live set up.
My EP started out mainly as a solo project, but playing the songs as a band has certainly changed the way I look at writing/arranging the songs (in a great way!)
Caity adds her lovely operatic vocals to the songs, usually singing in unison or an octave higher to myself. Dwayne brings his wealth of shoegaze experience (and extensive pedal board) to share the rhythm/lead guitar lines with me. It’s been great dissecting what kind of pedal/amplifier combinations compliment each other best and I think we do justice to the typical shoegaze “wall of sound”. Anthony accompanies us on his Yamaha keyboard, it’s a real workstation of a synthesiser. Get ready to see that and his MiniBrute on his multi rack which he has dubbed the “conTRAPtion”. Michael keeps us all in time on the drums, his dynamic playing can be soft and subtle when needed but roaring and powerful for the louder songs. Our newest member is Josh playing on the bass. Not much more can be said about a guy who recorded his bass tracks on the album all in one go, he was the last missing piece of the puzzle before our band was complete.
Who would be your dream artist to play a gig / tour / collaborate with?
Without a doubt it would be Life on Venus. They’re a modern shoegaze band out of Moscow and they’re doing amazing things pushing the boundaries of the shoegaze genre whilst still holding true to the classic shoegaze sounds of the past. The whole shoegaze scene in Russia is incredible at the moment with other groups such as Wooden Whales (Деревянные киты), Blankenberge and Peach Gardens creating amazing sounds.
If the world opened up again tomorrow, where would be the first place on your bucket list to travel to?
Besides my dream tour of Russia with the aforementioned bands I’d love to go back to Japan or visit my family again in Italy. I’ve recently begun exploring photography so would love to do some solo travel in those places documenting their unique cultures on film.
Finally, what’s next for Oceans? Any future releases on the horizon?
Come so Far is coming out to all major platforms on February 18, my next single will be released late April with the full EP set for release in May. The band is working away in the studio on a follow up album and are very excited with its early impressions.
There may also be a side project in the works as I got in touch with some fellow Shoegaze lovers in the UK via Reddit during lockdown last year and we have been collaborating on some more dark and moody tracks. However their release may be some time away as the current COVID situation in the UK has made things very difficult. We’re hoping to share lots of new tunes over the not too distant future!