A Conversation with Oceansize's Mike Vennart

On the heels of their upcoming Australian tour with Cog, I got the chance to talk to Mike Vennart on all things Oceansize and a whole lot more. Jump in....

If you are reading this, chances are you may be a fan, a casual listener or someone who wants to know more about Oceansize. I sat down with Mike Vennart (vocals/guitar) to discuss all things about the band, comparisons to their peers, Vennart's feelings on the upcoming Australian tour with Cog, the band's progression on new material, and a whole lot more.

The first time I heard the band I was not really sure what specific genre Oceansize fell within, a progressive genre, a metal genre or something completely left of field. I asked Mike about it, and his answer was quite interesting.

'Being as I can't stand having to explain to strangers on what Oceansize sound like, I often resort to using the word "psychedelic"', he said. 'Some people may read that and think the 70's, bad acid and flower power, but to me it suggests more of a decorated, baroque-esque approach which makes sound say in comparison to a band like Dream Theater."

Like Dream Theater, Oceansize are not a hugely commercial band with extensive radio airplay worldwide. Having said that, they have gotten more of an underground fanbase which is rapidly growing due to word of mouth and the all mighty tool that is the internet. 

Mike goes on to explain where he thinks Oceansize sits in today's music industry.

'I used to think about where we fit within the current state of the music industry, but I really don't think about it at all now. I don't want to go down the cliched path of saying we don't fit in anywhere, but we tend not to get press coverage in just one particular area,as far as the genre & marketing aspects,' he told me. 'I think that's for the press to decide. We just make the music and put it out. If we sat aroung trying to sketch out some genre manifesto, we would probably be a bit more one dimensional, but that being said, there are many musical
differences that are to be found between each individual band member. On the other hand, maybe we would be multi millionaires!'

Oceansize's latest effort, 2007's Frames (Superball Music/Riot) has had very positive reviews from music press, fans such as myself, and the band's peers alike. I asked Mike what he thought and his answer was quite humble.

'Lovely. We thought everyone would hammer it.'

Oceansize are definately a hard-working live band, and I feel Frames definately has it's place within the band's live catalogue. I asked Mike on where the Frames material sits within their live set and if it is more dominant, or if there is an equal balance.

'The Frames material translates suprisingly well,' Vennart said. 'Writing the album was a very insular experience. It was our first record where we did not consider as to what anyone would think, our fans, our friends / family, our record label etc. We did not consider any of those elements until the end and we got a bit nervous before we started to play the new material live prior to the recording, but the fact that everyone took very positively to the material made us breathe a massive collective sigh of relief in the band,' he explained. 'It has given us confidence to remember to always trust each other in the band, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks one way or another. It was very liberating and made the atmosphere much more constructive.'

As we were speaking on the topic of the band's material, I asked Mike what is happening with the follow up to Frames, and what has come out of the creative process to date and when we can expect to hear some of the new material.

'It's predictably complicated but I am not talking about the music here, I am talking about the situation. In all honesty, I don't know what the record will sound like as we have so much material to work with and we have not whittled it all down yet. We do have a new EP coming out in September that at this stage is shaping up to be longer than what most bands' albums are nowadays.'

I ask a lot of people who have heard Oceansize what genre they think the band falls within, I get replies such as progressive rock, progressive metal and artrock. I asked Mike what he thought the genre the band fell within himself.

'Most of the bands that would be classified as "Prog rock" are mostly bands I don't really listen to, I grew up on metal, but in recent times, I have been drawn towards and been more excited about music that is less "in your face",' he said. 'Life is a lot less dramatic nowadays
and I just don't get moved by an all out barrage of sonic agression as I once used to. But I definately our music as progressive - but not "Prog".'

Considering Mike is one of the founding members of Oceansize, I had to ask him what he thinks would be his favourite song of theirs at this stage of the band's career, and also what he thinks would the most underrated from their catalogue.

'I think my favourite song would be Only Twin, as it has a lot of the "trademark" ingredients we love using in Oceansize, such as symphonic guitars, simultaneous and alternating time signatures, heavy bits, thematic changes and telephone vocals. The song as a whole has a bit of an evil soul to it and I think we pulled a mean trick with that song.

'As far as underrated goes, I really don't know about a specific song, but our album Everyone Into Position copped a bit of a pasting upon its release. A lot of our fans were a bit disappointed with it initially, but a lot of them grew to love it,' Mike reflected. 'The same thing happened with Frames initially as well, but to a lesser degree. I am glad in a way, a lot my favourite albums I too felt uneasy with upon the initial listen such as Faith No More's Angel Dust, Pavement's Wowee Zowee & Talk Talk's Laughing Stock.

'If everyone loved an album on their very first initial listen, I can imagine they would probably get bored with it over multiple listens.'

Oceansize are about to hit Australian shores for the very first time in June, covering all of the major capitol cities from Perth to Sydney with our own hard-touring Cog. I asked Mike what he was mostly looking forward to and what material we are going to hear.

'As far as the tour itself, it would be the bit that goes in between the beginning and the end. And the bits that book-end it too. Sydney will be a particularly special one for me, as I had one the most soul-enriching experiences of my life there many years ago.

'Set-list wise, there will be a spread of material from everything we have done as it is our first visit to your shores, we want to play stuff from our history as well as the Frames material.'

So there you go. If you like what you read and want to know more, they may be coming through your town or somewhere close, so please buy a ticket to their upcoming tour with Cog, or go buy a copy of Frames.

Frames is in stores now on Superball Music / Riot.


Australian Tour Dates with Cog  -04.06.09 Fremantle Metro

05.06.09 Adelaide The Gov
06.06.09 Melbourne Hi Fi
07.06.09 Melbourne Hi Fi
10.06.09 Beach Road Hotel Bondi Beach (Oceansize Headline Gig)
11.06.09 Brisbane Hi Fi
12.06.09 Newcastle Panthers
13.06.09 Sydney Selinas