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Why Their Latest Record Was A Long Time In The Making

10 April 2015 | 9:53 pm | Tom Hersey

"But for as long as I’d had the idea, I didn’t know how to approach it."

More The Ocean More The Ocean

The Ocean are a band that have defined their career by bucking trends, subverting norms and doing things that are just downright weird. Even after a decade spent in their own wacky world of creative expression, the band’s 2013 album Pelagial represented a new level of weirdness. Composed as sort of like a prog metal Jerusalem, the 53-minute record flows like a single song that sonically and lyrically tells the story of a journey down to the bottom of the sea.

“I’ve had the idea to make this record for a long time,” guitarist Robin Staps says, “since I was nine, actually – and it’s a very simple idea when you play in a band called The Ocean, where it’s a sonic journey from the surface of the ocean to the bottom of the sea. But for as long as I’d had the idea, I didn’t know how to approach it. But then in 2012 I was really determined to dig in and try to work it out, because I thought the concept was cool. The album was conceptualised as one long piece of music that charted the journey from the surface to the depths of the sea. It was meant to be performed that way, so we’ve always performed it that way live. Whether we’re playing the instrumental version of the record or the version with vocals, we always play it in the sequence from start to finish… [So it] starts out with light surface music and then goes darker, down-tuning and going heavier as you’re getting into the deep sea area.”

Fast forward two years and Staps feels The Ocean have fully realised the ambitions he had that served as the impetus for Pelagial. In addition to what the band brought to the record, Staps says there’s plenty of bells and whistles for fans coming out to the see the band play. “There’s a lot more elements when we play live than what’s on the record. We use live projections, there was a movie we made basically supporting the journey to the bottom of the sea. These visuals really add something to the show. In the beginning, people are standing with big expectations and smiles on their faces and then everyone is just crushed and going mental by the end. You can definitely see the changes on people’s faces as we’re approaching those deep sea parts. It would be an interesting project to actually capture the audience experiencing the live performance so you could watch what it does to them, because it’s pretty cool.”

According to Staps, the Pelagial shows are getting exactly the type of reactions that he’s always wanted for his band. Even if that means putting audiences in a place where they experience the aural equivalent of the super-pressurised depths of the sea. “It’s immensely gratifying to crush people,” he laughs. “To destroy people and to drag them down into your maelstrom of negativity… Because although it’s negative it can be this cathartic experience that can become this empowering thing when you leave the show.”

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