Houston, Texas based progressive metal quartet Oceans of Slumber quintet took recently Prog Sphere Showcase feature, and after we previously covered their 2013 album Aetherial in a review and made the album available for streaming on Progify, here comes an interview with the band’s drummer Dobber Beverly where we talk all things Oceans of Slumber.
Prog Sphere: What is your mission with Oceans of Slumber?
Dobber Beverly: Our mission is to create music that is engaging, challenging, and that involves the listener in our journey as much as possible. Also to be heard around the world and connect with others like us. We’re just a bunch of music lovers that happen to be capable musicians.
Prior forming Oceans of Slumber, you guys were already involved in other bands and projects. How did you go about forming the band?
The string section were part of a band called Lao Tzu, who were a very good band that unfortunately didn’t record much. I had just finished up with Insect Warfare and we all shared a rehearsal spot. We’ve all been good friends for over a decade, just never played together in a professional capacity. They had drummer and singer problems and I was looking to do something new. Our vocalist had never sang in a band before Aetherial was recorded and actually taught himself in about 6 months time. At first we set out to do something fun and simple, kind of like old Katatonia and Charon, that we could just rock out with. Then we drank a few beers over a few records one evening and said “fuck it” and just went for it. We were a bit concerned with just doing whatever we wanted to do and hear, but decided that since the music industry was so jaded and screwed up it didn’t matter anyway. The possibility of us getting popular was so low on our list that we threw caution to the wind and only create music we love and feel.
You released your debut full-length Aetherial in February 2013. Tell me about the creative process that informed the album’s inception. How did it go?
The first few songs were a split between the two guitarist. Sean had written God In Skin and Only A Corpse and Anthony with Remedy and Great Divide. They were a testing ground to see what we could do and where we should go. With a heavy background in extreme metal, classical, jazz, and progressive music we decided to fill in the gaps with everything else we wrote. Which means that anything from quartal harmonies and poly rhythmic syncopations to brutal death metal and blazing black metal to delta blues and latin jazz is employed if it creates the desired results.
We wrote the whole record in a matter of months, often times finishing a song in two or three rehearsals. A very natural and flowing writing style among the 5 of us. We have an incubation period though. We write the songs and then constantly change melodic structures, accented, and dynamic areas until we record it. Finding the right textures and atmosphere is what takes the longest for us. So the songs were easy at their base value and take a bit to evolve into their recorded state. And they are still in a state of evolution now.
What are the topics you explore on Aetherial? Do the lyrics apply as metaphors to modern life as well?
Lyrically they are all very much a state of mind and being. Metaphors in every way. Each of us has a story and every one of us has pitfalls. We also have a time of enlightenment where we learn from our mistakes and become stronger and smarter. For example; Blackest Cloud is the story of a man at the top of the World Trade Center. On the brink of jumping to escape burning to death he looks back at his life and wonders what he could have done differently and why he did the things he’s done. He accepts his current situation and in his mind he’s telling his loved ones to let go and basically forgive any of his shortcomings so he can be free. He is at peace with his life and only hopes that they can be too. Memoriam is the opposite. The inability to accept situations and things for what they are.
It is quite obvious that you take elements from black, death and prog metal and combine them through your music. Where do you draw the inspiration from and how do you go about channeling it into writing?
Drawing from all of these influences just gives us a larger vocabulary to tell our stories. It’s all about the vibe and it’s just a dynamic marking to us. No boundaries and no particular direction. Haha, keeps things interesting.
Are you satisfied with the feedback you received on Aetherial? I’ve noticed that Mike Portnoy really liked the album. What was it like knowing that such a big star appreciate what you do?
We are completely taken by surprise with everything that has happened so far. The critical acclaim has been awesome and the friends and fans we’ve made along the way are spectacular! Having someone like Mike Portnoy hit you up if very unexpected and beyond an honor. I bought the guys records and videos as a kid. All of them. So having him say he loves our music and further more commend me on my playing (!!!!!!!!) is a dream come true. But he’s a music lover and a legit music lover at that. That’s what makes him cooler than most. He has no problem with saying he likes a band and genuinely supports music.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when writing Aetherial?
Wondering if what we did would be too hard for some and not hard enough for others. Basically putting us in a purgatory of modern music. Classifying us, or the need to, has been an issue with some magazines and blogs, and we expected that. Luckily it hasn’t happened near as much as we thought it would. Thanks for listening with an open mind, reviewers!
Mixing and mastering of Aetherial was done by Russ Russell who previously worked with Dimmu Borgir and Napalm Death. How was your collaboration with him and what in particular did he bring in the overall sound of the record?
I knew about Russ through some friends and after some research and careful consideration I knew he was our guy. He is a rock ‘n’ roll guy and he likes bands that are real bands. Guys that record live and have that old school mentality of substance over style. With plenty of style of their own though, haha. He likes progressive and psychedelic music along with all of the super heavy shit. So it seemed like an obvious choice! When we tracked the record (here in Texas) and sent him the session, I sent no notes or any particular direction for what we wanted it to sound like. When he started returning mixes it was precisely what we had in mind. Down to the vocal and guitar effects. A perfect match for us!
Which song off the album do you think would in the best way fit for a video?
Though we have videos for Remedy and Aetherial, I would choose Memoriam. It covers such a dark and deep series of events musically and lyrically.
What kind of gear do you use when recording? How do you document the music while being formulated?
Personal gear for recording would be:
Guitar amps and guitars-EVH 5150 III and Peavey 5150 II, Ibanez Universe (first generation black and green) and Ibanez Japanese RG7. TC Electronics guitar system (Sean) on one and stomp boxes (Anthony) on the other.
Bass-Ampeg SVT Classic and Prestige 5 string
Drums-CDC Custom kit and Saluda Cymbals
Recording chain would be lot’s of API and Neve gear. A mixture of Solid State and Tube stuff, depending on speed and color. Compression on drum room stuff, so it’s committed! Tracked through ProToolsHD at 96k and monitored through Focal or ADAM monitors.
In rehearsal we use GoPro, Flip, and our smart phones to get some ideas of the finished product. Other than that we just tape live shows and review them for any alterations we need to do.
Which artists or bands would you name to describe what does Oceans of Slumber sound like to someone who didn’t hear you before?
We are most certainly a mixture of a few things. Easiest would be Gojira, Opeth, Devin Townsend, Pain of Slavation, Faith No More, and Disincarnate.
What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?
Art and literature would certainly have an impact. From Caravaggio to Beksinski in the painters/arts world and Milton to Hitchens in the literary realm, though one was arguably a science fiction writer before his time (Milton) and the other was a vile, honest, and quite awesome writer (Hitchens) who rubbed many the wrong way. Of course the gamut of philosophical influences that most have and the ever changing and dastardly world around us.
What was it like opening for Between the Buried and Me? How is it performing live with Oceans of Slumber in general, what do people can expect from your shows?
It was spectacular! Such an awesome and professional group of musicians. Oceans is quite known as a live band around Texas. We are very well rehearsed and very planned for each live performance. You’re only as good as your last show and we try to uphold that every time. A very intense and energetic live show is what anyone can expect from us. Lot’s of nice little variations to those that know our music well enough to catch them!
What does the future hold of Oceans of Slumber? Are you already working on new material?
Hopefully signed to a large label and lot’s of touring. We’d love to do this full time and are capable of doing so! Our second record is tracked and waiting to be mixed in August (2014). It’s a very, very dark concept record called Winter. Very cinematic in scope. Lot’s of videos on YouTube of us playing some of the tracks live, go and check them out!! We write at a pretty rapid pace and already have most of our 3rd record finished! We’ve had a few labels interested but nothing set in stone, so we just stay busy until something comes through. Fingers crossed! Until then, lot’s of shows and lot’s of music.
With Prog Sphere we tend to release a downloadable Progstravaganza compilation series, highlighting the artists coming from progressive related genres from all around the world. Do you think such a thing is good enough to showcase the potential of many unheard bands on the already overcrowded scene?
It’s very cool because this kind of music (progressive) generally has people looking for more of it. Since so many fans of the music are musicians too, I think it’s crucial to our survival in this overcrowded scene. Find like minded bands and support them!
Visit Oceans of Slumber on: