By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Halloween might’ve come and passed, but the spooks are still strong for Essex-based “D.I.Y.” alt-pop quartet Ocean Flaws with the release of their recent video for the single “Spirit Level.”
Their sound inspired by past acts like Interpol, Editors and White Lies, the song emanates a haunted 80’s-esque blend of harpsichords, synths and guitars.
Tracked at Sugar House in Liverpool, “Spirit Level” was nearly shelved by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s March 2020 COVID-19 countrywide strict lockdown announcement. The song remained unfinished for four months, but once allowed to resume, the band worked against the odds to complete it.
Ocean Flaws are vocalist/bassist Callum Quirk, keyboardist/guitarist Sean Heaney, guitarist Hamish Monk and drummer Alex Pattle.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with the band about “Spirit Level” and more.
Music Bugle – What was it like making your single “Spirit Level”?
Alex Pattle – Stressful! We drove to Liverpool one Sunday in March, arrived in the evening and headed to the studio the next day. We laid down drums, bass, guitar and keys, then headed back to our Air BnB. We were eating pizza – which arrived late, obviously – as our Prime Minister announced a national lockdown, which forced us to travel home that night, only to arrive home at 4 a.m.. Oh, and somewhere in the middle of all that, someone had tried to break into our Air BnB! It was four months before we could return to the studio to add vocals and finish the track.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your particular genre?
Hamish Monk – The kind of music we make, I hope, could be listened to by all kinds of people. If you’re a fan of straight-up pop music, guitar music, or maybe even dance music, there’s something there for you. Theres a good variety of sounds we can make under the alt-pop banner.
Music Bugle – What inspired your band name?
Alex Pattle – We went by a different name, The Shermans, for our first few years together, but decided to change at a certain point because there was a semi-successful Scottish band by the same name, The Shermans is actually part of an unfortunate Cockney rhyming slang and we’d finally discovered our sound and wanted something more fitting. We liked the idea of something with imagery of the sea and added a very “indie” twist with the spelling.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Hamish Monk – The inability to gig is the most obvious effect of COVID-19. Our response to that has been to ramp up the time we spend in the studio – while abiding by the proper precautions – so that we have a fresh batch of songs to play when we come back. Writing them, however, has also been tricky. We’re lucky enough to have a rehearsal space near us that’s remained open by implementing the necessary safety measures, though. We go there at least once a week to jam and write.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Essex to someone who has never been there before?
Alex Pattle – I think there’s a particular – at times unfair – stereotype around people from Essex due to a certain TV show that was filmed in our local high street, but the four of us definitely subvert that stereotype. As for our actual surroundings in Essex, there’s a surprising amount of countryside that a lot of people only started to take advantage of this summer when they weren’t allowed to do much beyond going for a walk. We also have great access to London, which is really convenient for playing and attending gigs.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape?
Sean Heaney – I mean, pre-pandemic, I would’ve said my bedroom or music room in order to write music and to forget what’s going on in the world, but now that I’m there constantly, it doesn’t have the same effect. Now, in the world we’re in, I’m finding it important to get out in nature to escape. I’m finding it a lot easier to be able to clear my head that way.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Hamish Monk – I’ve been listening to a lot of IDM, like Aphex Twin and Four Tet – their early stuff is inspired. Try “Pause” by Four Tet and if you haven’t already, Aphex Twin’s debut, “Selected Ambient Works 85–92.” Great music to work to.
Music Bugle – What’s something you wish happened more in today’s music industry?
Callum Quirk – I wish we could see more support in terms of funding and encouraging artists to go even further! Whether that’s in the form of government grants, radio plugs or larger, more established artists offering opportunities to collaborate. There’s a serious amount of hustlers in this game who deserve to be heard and we’re also on the brink of seeing some of our favorite venues close for good! #SaveTheArts
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?
Sean Heaney – It’s a mixture. They’re outstanding platforms to gain new fans and to post engaging content for people to enjoy. Some of the content that’s come out during lockdown has been fantastic to watch. You’ve had to become more creative with the limitations we’ve faced this year. However, because there are so many bands on social media, it’s sometimes tough to stand out from everyone else. That’s why originality is so important on these platforms. You have to do everything you can to get your character through and to not look like every other band. People don’t want the same content popping up on their feeds from all their favorite bands. That’s the trick.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Callum Quirk -“Keep your head down and who’s to say? In 10 years’ time, you could be in the hot seat…” from David Brent.