Freshly Minted Ocean Grove Frontman Dale Tanner Talks Personal Growth & What To Expect From The Band’s Next AlbumWritten by Sally McMullen on February 13, 2019
Ocean Grove have kicked open the doors of 2019 with their new tune ‘Ask For The Anthem’. And while they may be rocking a new lineup and a slightly varied sound, they’re as unapologetically themselves as ever.
It’s the Melbourne quartet’s first release since former lead singer Luke Holmes and guitarist Jimmy Hall bid the band adieu at UNIFY Gathering last month. So it’s no surprise that it has a slightly different flavour now that Dale Tanner has jumped into the frontman role and The Beverly Chills’ Twiggy Hunter has joined the boys on bass.
The song embodies Ocean Grove’s signature fusion of untamed rock n’ roll meets hip-hop and grunge, but the warped production, layered lyrics and Tanner’s unique vocals give us a taste of the fresh sounds we can expect from the new record. The accompanying music video is a similar mixed bag of visual references that range from 70’s psychedelic rock to 90’s grunge and underlying commentary on constant media consumption in the digital world.
While they’re currently focused on the band’s future, Ocean Grove did have some tough pills to swallow in 2018. In particular, Tanner experienced a massive reality check after receiving a wave of backlash following some self-confessed naive comments around gender diversity in Australian music during an interview at Download Festival last year. Almost a year later, he speaks quite candidly about the experience, how it opened his eyes to the issues in the industry and why he’s grown as a person as a result.
But with a new record in the works and a spot supporting Hands Like Houses on their Australian tour currently underway, Ocean Grove have plenty to look forward to. We had a chat with Tanner about stepping up as the front-man, learning from the tough lessons of 2018 and why Ocean Grove’s new record will be their best yet.
Music Feeds: ‘Ask For The Anthem’ just premiered on triple j’s Good Nights. What have the reactions been like so far?
Dale Tanner: Yeah, Bridget gave us a nice big wrap and it was very exciting and we got some positive feedback over the text line so it’s nice to finally have it out there in the world. People have only had one listen but for the most part, everyone is super pumped.
With the new direction that we’ve taken with this song, there’s obviously the odd person who might get ahead of themselves and write us off believing that it encompasses everything that we’re going to be doing going forward but that’s not necessarily the case.
MF: Your music is readily available thanks to streaming services, but do you still get excited hearing a new song on the radio for the first time?
DT: Each time that we’ve had a song premiere on triple j, I remember where I was and what I was doing. It’s very much a significant moment imprinted in my mind. I treat it with the utmost attention and importance because, like you said, although everything that surrounds us in the digital world is so easily accessible I think there’s something quite special about having a song played on the radio because it’s kind of out of your control. You don’t know who could be listening and that potential for random listeners to tune in and hear your song is really exhilarating. The off-chance that you’re going to appeal to a wider audience and get your music out there is incredibly exciting.
MF: You’ve said the new single’s meaning is a little deeper than what it may seem on the surface. Can you talk us through the story and inspirations?
DT: Well, we touch on a few inspirations from early millennial, 90’s and 80’s sounds and experiment with something new. We wanted to make this song, sonically and lyrically, sound like it would’ve fit in the kinda pop, hip-hop infused rock world that was coming out in the early 2000’s with No Doubt and stuff like that. But we wanted to put our own punk twist on that and leave it up to the fans and let them interpret it however they wish. I guess that’s the ultimate challenge. It might sound like we’ve written the song to be potentially a bit more commercial but we’ve done that intentionally to challenge people.
With the lyrics, we want to leave it up to the listener but it touches on some of the cracks that exist in the 21st century in regards to our overstimulation and the way we interact with one another. There’s definitely some social commentary in there and it’s multi-faceted in that sense. We’re talking about a few different things in a parody-type way and in a punk, resistance-type way of getting people to pay attention to below the surface and get a different angle and perspective. And to get that message across in a different way than just blatantly saying it. I think that’s what makes good music and lyrics and art, to get that message across in a unique and engaging way and I hope we’ve achieved that.
MF: You can definitely pick up those cross-generational references in the music video, which is 70’s psychedelia mixed with early 00’s nostalgia. Was that fun to create?
DT: Yeah, it really was. It was really fun to envision it because listening to the song, it already brought so many images and ideas and a vibe to our minds before it had even been created so we knew exactly how it had to look.
In terms of the actual storyline, we thought it would be in line with that parody commentary (of the lyrics). It was inspired by many other music videos that play with this idea like your Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blink-182’s that play dress ups and make commentary on the clichés and stereotypes of society. So from that perspective, we’re aware that it’s nothing new but it’s the extra little layers that we’ve added in there that we hope people will pick up in terms of commentary on authority and the music industry and how we interact with music as a listener in the 21st century and how everything is such a quick fix. We can have that immediate stimulation whenever we want it.
So that’s the angle that we chose, but lyrically there were a couple of other completely different angles that we were going to go with that ended up getting scrapped. So the one we ended up going with not only showcases who we are as people, we’re very fun loving and don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’ve done similar music videos in the past and we wanted to reinvigorate that style of music video that some of our fans know us so well for. I guess the last couple of videos haven’t been too heavily focused on us as individuals and have been much more story-based. So we wanted to reel it back a little bit and make it fun while still maintaining a message as well as introducing our new member in a fun way.
MF: So with the new single and lineup, does that mean we can expect a new Ocean Grove record some time soon?
DT: We are working on a new release as we speak. There’s already a lot of material that’s been written before the surprise departure of Luke and Jimmy. We were going business as usual. Even ‘Ask For The Anthem’, that song was written and intended to be released with Luke on it. So it’s not as if we’ve released this song in the wake of this news and popped something together really quickly. It had been in the works for months and months and we’d done 20+ revisions on the song to get it where it’s at. The only thing that really changed is that when we came to the decision that I was going to step up as frontman, was that I re-recorded my vocals over the top of where Luke’s were going to be.
So I think that’s very important to make mention of in regards to this next release coming. Some of the stuff that’s going to be on the next release has been written already. So it’s kind of exciting to face it and we have a new member who also brings his own flavour. So we now have the chance to take what we’ve already written and infuse it with this new lineup, this new energy and chemistry and mould it in a slightly different way that fits with the band moving forward. I can guarantee that this release is going to be the best body of music that we’ve put out and I have no doubt about that. I’m super pumped for people to hear more music because it’s been a while but it’s definitely on the horizon.
Sometimes that’s a blessing in disguise. A bit of a spanner in the works and a change in chemistry and perspective sometimes is the best thing for art and for anything really. We’re really excited.
MF: So when can we expect to hear the new record?
DT: The plan is to have it out at some point this year. Obviously we’ve had a few unexpected delays that have pulled things back a little bit. But as we have with this whole rejig of the band, we’re still trying to get new music out as soon as possible and the same goes with the new album. We’re not slowing down by any means. We’ll keep working on the album and hopefully get it finished and out at some point this year. I can’t say for sure, but it’s probably looking like the back-end of 2019.
MF: Yeah, it seems like the last few months have been a whirlwind and aren’t slowing down with the Hands Like Houses tour coming up. What are you most excited about for those shows?
DT: Yeah, it’s a funny thing because when all of this news broke to us behind the scenes with Luke and Jimmy, we had to treat that with the time and respect that it deserved. But at the same time we were in the peculiar situation of already being booked in for UNIFY and the Hands Like Houses tour. So from one perspective, once we had the sit-down meeting and we were like “OK, the band’s going to be changing but wouldn’t it be great to have one final celebratory performance at UNIFY?”, which is what eventuated.
We were so lucky to have the guys go out with a bang but at the same time we knew that not only did we have to make sure that new music was going to be out but we were also going to have a band that was ready for the tour. So I feel like I’ve been the busiest I’ve ever been in my entire life in the last few weeks but it’s been a good kind of busy because it’s exciting and we’ve approached it from that perspective of “Nup, we’re not going to throw our hands in the air and take a break to let it work it out”.
We’ve just got to stay on the front foot and stay proactive about it now and we’ve had these great opportunities. Hands Like Houses is playing some of the most iconic venues in Australia and that in line with the really great lineup with Endless Heights and RedHook, it’s kind of a tour that we couldn’t give up or say no to. So we were really determined to make sure that we were ready. And we are. We’re ready to debut the new song and the new lineup. We’re pumped.
MF: It may be a cliché, but sometimes the best experiences come out of those tough times.
DT: Yeah, you’re totally right and that’s how it’s felt. By rolling with it and seeing the situation as an opportunity for growth and a departure from the mundane and a chance to really reinvigorate things and look at it from a different angle, that’s kind of how you have to approach life in my opinion.
MF: With the new lineup and the controversies in the media, it seemed like there were plenty of opportunities for Ocean Grove to gain some new perspectives in 2018. What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned from the last year?
DT: I think the biggest learning curve in regards to everything that we went through whether it was touring, media, writing the new album, the changing in the lineup. At the end of the day, I personally went through the most self-development than I have before. I learned a lot about myself and my integrity and who I am. Having a proper understanding of the person I am and what I believe in and where I want to take that going forward and the messenger and leader I want to be was very much more solidified. If it wasn’t for the downs more so than the ups, I probably wouldn’t be in the same place.
I guess the Music Feeds interview and the aftermath of that was definitely something that was a massive learning curve for me. Ever since, I’ve had great opportunities including speaking on the panel regarding gender diversity at UNIFY just a few weeks ago. To me that was really special because I guess the way that I had wanted to approach that situation regarding the interview, and how I approach most situations, is seeing it as an opportunity to grow and better myself from it, learn from it and become a better person from it. And then relay that to other people and teach other people and show by action that when the going’s tough or when someone calls you names or calls you out or whatever it might be, yes there’s an opportunity to throw your hands up in the air and feel victimised or like the world’s up against you. But it became very clear to me that by far the best way to approach it was to go “OK, I hear what is being said to me”.
I guess in regards to the gender diversity issue, is that I guess I’m lucky to say that it was an issue that I had never come across in my time as a musician to a deep extent anyway. Of course I was aware of these issues but it had never happened to me or anyone close to me, so I’d never had that discussion about the true underlying issue that existing. So I guess when I answered that question, that was coming from a naive angle and a perspective that I still believe in. I still believe that quality, passion and storytelling should come to the forefront but it’s the fact that what I said is fundamentally incorrect. It has the foundation and it is prefaced by the fact that the opportunities need to be equal and that’s where I went wrong. That’s the understanding and conclusion that I’ve come to after going away and doing some learning of myself and talking to people and the perspective that I gained.
It’s funny, back then at Download, it was something I hadn’t necessarily given too much though because it hadn’t really come across my radar but once it happened and people pulled me up on it, it became something that I was not only passionate about but also intrigued by because it obviously effects people in their own little way but me being me, I wanted to show people that you don’t have to feel down and out when something like this happens and you can take it as an opportunity to grow and that actions speak louder then words. I just thought that the best way to go about it was to show you can take something like that and not only turn it on it’s head but turn it into something more positive.
Within a month of that interview, I met with Michelle Hunder who was one of the co-directors of Her Sound Her Story and since then we’ve became quite close friends and I saw that documentary a couple of times. That was really great in a way because to have that insight into a lot of artist’s stories that gave that perspective that I hadn’t really been looking out for until then. So to answer your question, it was definitely about maintaining the integrity and knowing deep down that I am a good person and I have good intentions despite what people may have said and that I was determined to right my wrong and to make good of something that could be a mess if you let it be. I think that applies to the whole lineup change as well. We just went about it the exact same way and that’s the only way I know to approach life.
Ocean Grove 2019 National Tour Dates
With Hands Like Houses, supported by Endless Heights and RedHook
Friday, 15th February
The Tivoli, Brisbane
Tickets: Official Website
Saturday, 16th February
The Forum, Melbourne
Tickets: Official Website
Friday, 22nd February
HQ Complex, Adelaide
Tickets: Official Website
Saturday, 23rd February*
Astor Theatre, Perth
Tickets: Official Website
* Endless Heights not appearing