Ahead of Tech-Fest 2017 the festival always takes a selection of bands in a run of dates around the UK. This year saw Oceans Ate Alaska, Napoleon and Carcer City bringing the noise. We sent down our reviewer Cee to check out the show and have a chat with the boys in Napoleon and Oceans Ate Alaska. Here is what went down on the day.
I met the Napoleon lads chilling in their van. Given that it was a blisteringly hot day, it only seemed fitting that the bands were playing Manchester’s renowned Metal club, Satan’s Hollow. They were relatively reserved and appeared somewhat introvert, far from the huge presence they create on-stage.
So how’s the tour going boys?
Sam: Pretty good so far, the Plymouth gig was amazing. With it being so close to home, we had a lot of people come out for it.
Wes: Yeah, but we’re excited for tonight’s gig in Manchester. Pre-sales are looking good and it’s good to be back here after Impericon fest.
Awesome, I imagine Impericon festival was sick!
Wes: It was great, that was only recently over at Manchester Academy 2.
I just wanted to ask Wes, I’ve seen that you’ve recently finished recording vocals for “Album #2”, can you tell us any more about it?
Wes: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely a step-up from Newborn Mind, it’s a lot heavier I think.
Sam: We’ve spent a lot more time on the recording, the producing, etc…
Jacob: Yeah, there’s been a lot more focus on pre-production and we’re really happy with it.
I can’t wait to hear it! Sam, Jacob, Jake – can you tell us more about your writing process? Who gets the ball rolling?
Sam: Well in the past, I would write something that take it to James who would write the drums for it and the boys [Jacob and Wes] would write their parts. However, this time I’ve recorded demos myself and sent them out to the boys, so everyone has been more involved in the initial structure and it’s definitely become more of a collective response.
Jacob: It’s been a big learning curve for us, but I feel like we have a better idea now of how to record and produce our own sound because of this collective approach.
James: Plus, it’s made us feel way more focused when we are recording.
Getting back to touring, Is there anything you cannot leave home without?
Wes: Not so much what I can’t leave home without but there are things I definitely miss when I’m away. For example, me and Sam really miss our electric toothbrushes [laughter] and I miss my dog, of course.
James: I have a, kind of, “man bag” that has everything in it (e.g. chargers, passport just in case, etc.)
Jacob: I don’t really know… Maybe a nice pair of beige shorts? [More laughter]
And finally boys, you’ve been very vocal on social media about supporting Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, I have to ask: What is the naughtiest thing YOU have ever done?
Wes: Gonna go with Corbyn’s answer: “Too naughty to say”
Jacob: Something definitely naughtier than Theresa May, but not as naughty as Corbyn!
Napoleon Gig Review
These lads didn’t waste any time with an introduction! Striding onto the stage, piercing stares forward, Napoleon launched into their set ferociously. Sam’s guitar work was impeccable, with every note in his complex riffs resounding around the club. They were well practised and ready to hit the large stage hard and fast. Wes moved so fluidly and let his vocals carry him from side to side, front to back as he engaged the crowd, thrusting the mic into the eager hands of dedicated fans. James and Jacob powered through the set, with no note or beat out of place, these rhythm boys carrying Sam’s riffs and Wes’ vocals. This is a band you NEED to see live, you owe it to yourself!
Oceans Ate Alaska Interview
I really didn’t know what to expect when I turned up to speak to what can only be described as one of the heaviest, most technical upcoming bands in the Metal scene. Apart from wondering how in the hell they were able to play such intensely fast and complex music, I was really interested in how the boys would be as people. Years of hanging around musicians of varying styles and degrees of ability had, unfortunately created the assumption that their level of ability is due in part to their inability to interact with others: you know, the kind of people who think their guitar riffs and farts are a gift to humanity. However, when the very lovely and welcoming PR team member Hannah led me over to their tour-van and introduced me to the Oceans lads, within the first five seconds my preconceptions were completely quashed. These very talented and professional musicians were friendly, driven and chocked full of quality “tour-bants”. I made the mistake of telling the guitarist, Jibs, that this was my first interview. He gave me a wry smile and simply replied “well, this isn’t going to be an easy one to be honest”. Like I said, I didn’t fully know what to expect…
How’s the tour going boys?
Chris: So far so good, I mean, it’s still pretty fresh off the press…
Jibs: But it’s also not so fresh off the press, we’re a few days in now and we’ve played a few shows…
Mike: But the general consensus is that it’s going really well.
Chris & Jake: Yeah, definitely.
So the Bridgend gig went well last night then?
Chris: Oh yeah, in Wales…
[All the boys proceed to do their best Welsh accents… Jibs is pretty good!]
Jake, how has the past year been for you, joining the band?
Jibs: Shit! It’s been fucking dreadful!! [Laughter]
Jake: It’s weird to think that this time last year, we were beginning to talk about me joining this band and the ball starting to roll… Since then, it’s been American tours, we’ve been out to America to record an album with Nick Sampson (American record producer, best known for his work with Asking Alexandria, We Came As Romans, Of Mice and Men, The Word Alive and many others.) Yeah, it’s been crazy! Nick is amazing, he’s the man! Yeah I’ve been thrown in at the deep end for sure, but these guys are my best friends, we’ve known each other for a long time…
All the lads: Awwwwww….
Jake: Shut the fuck up [Laughter]
Chris: He was thrown “Into the Deep” [laughing and groaning all round]
So it hasn’t taken you that long to settle in then?
Jake: I’m gonna say no [Laughter]
Mike: That’s the right answer!
Jibs: He didn’t even have the chance!
Jake: Yeah, there was no “bedding-in” period, it was literally like, first show was Minneapolis in front of over 360 people, so…
Jibs: For the record, I’ve just recycled a tin can [laughter]
Chris and Mike: Yeah, in a glass only bin!
Jibs: NOOOOOO!! [More laughter]
That’s brilliant, man! Slam Dunk went well too, a huge turn-out at Leeds, which one was your favourite though?
Mike: I really enjoyed Leeds.
Chris: Yeah, the show at Leeds was insane!
Jibs: I really enjoyed Birmingham, personally, because my friends and family were there and it was really nice. But to be fair, each one of them was really good, we loved playing them. It was definitely a nice surprise, as we’ve never played [Slam Dunk] before, we didn’t really have any expectations, so… Why are you making fun of me?? [The other lads begin to laugh]
Jake: For the record, Jibs just managed to get some serious speed on the fidget spinner.
Jibs: Yeah, it’s REALLY fast this time, listen! [Fidget spinner whirring]
I’m gonna look forward to writing this all up lads! So you boys have got a new album coming out, can you tell us anything about 'Hikari'?
Chris: I can tell you a little bit about it… So it is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, Hikari means “Light”, which represents the band in our current state, both as a band in terms of the point of our timeline that we’re at and as individuals. We’re definitely excited about it, it’s our proudest work we’ve ever created. We cannot wait to release it, for sure.
So Jibs, can you tell us more about the writing process? With such complex tracks, where does it all start?
Jibs: It’s a hugely collaborative process, usually me and Chris will start by just milling through ideas. He’ll come up with something that he really likes the sound of and we’ll sit down and try and put something together for it, or I’ll already have something, which I’ll take to Chris to have a look at…
Chris: In which I’ll rip it to shit [All laughing]
Jibs: So it’s definitely a section-by-section sort of deal, we think about every second that we write… Then we get a little bit drunk, then it gets a little bit crazy, then we wake up and eat crispy M&Ms and listen to what we’ve written and be like “oh shit…” [Laughter]
Chris: I do a lot of production for the band, like all of the Japanese instruments used in “Covert” and “Escapist” was all me. I have a home studio where we recorded most of the new album as well, so it has definitely influenced our sound and how we record. But it’s still a hugely collaborative process, we use the studio as a sort of “headquarters”.
An OAAHQ eh? That’s awesome! Last question, during the set at Slam Dunk, you walked on to an intro track of Rick and Morty, where Rick is ranting about Szechuan Sauce… Who is the big R&M fan?
Chris: All of us!
Mike: Well, I’ve only watched a few episodes, but you [Chris] are probably the biggest fan out of all of us.
Who who’s your favourite character then, Chris?
Chris: Oh, Mr Poopy Butt-Hole, obviously [Laughter]
Jibs: I love Gazorpazorpfield, man [The boys then start doing their best impressions of R&M characters… Once again, Jibs’ impressions are pretty bang on!]
Well thanks very much for your time lads, can’t wait to see you tear up Satan’s!
Oceans Ate Alaska Gig Review
From the second that they stepped out onto that stage, Jake had the crowd in the palm of his hand. They launch into “Blood Brothers” with such force, the drums are mind-boggling. These lads are so much fun when they’re off the stage, but on it, they mean business! By the time they play “Covert” from their upcoming album, the room is in full sway, with pits and kicks. The breakdowns were so intense, you could hear a pin drop in between the notes, it was perfect. One thing I really picked up on was the guitarists and their interaction with each other. Mike’s bass is so prominent in the new tracks and this is no exception live. Adam and Jibs are so in-sync and move together so fluidly that there’s no denying these lads all have a strong connection. As the lads power through the set, it becomes clear that Jake’s clean and crisp vocals add a new dimension to the tracks and he seems to have limitless energy. The same can be said for Chris’ drums, in which he creates controlled chaos that can only be crafted by a handful of musicians. He never misses a beat, moving in ways I didn’t think possible. It was an incredible performance and judging by the huge reaction from the crowd, it seems like Manchester ate Alaska!
Review & Interviews - Cee Gregory