BEST OF 2020 #4: Ocean Grove
I will never quite forget interviewing Twiggy Hunter from Ocean Grove. Days after hanging up the phone with the genuinely lovely bassist, the band hosted a meet and greet in Sydney which I was unable to attend due to scoring an irritating head cold the weekend before (also a reason why the interview was published as a written IV; my voice was shot and barely hanging on). Swiftly following the band's innocent moment connecting with their fans to celebrate their brand new album release, Ocean Grove announced the heartbreaking news that one of the members had tested positive for COVID-19, and all attendees needed to be tested and/or monitor for symptoms. It was a devastating reality check about what lay in store; but it was also a moment handled with transparency and tenacity in the infant days of the pandemic acceleration in Australia back in March (aka a significant time for many, and yet somehow it feels like it was about 10 years ago).
The pandemic may have dampened celebrations for Ocean Grove as they unleashed their sophomore album Flip Phone Fantasy into the world, but the end result was nothing short of kaleidoscopic brilliance; a mix-tape for the masses as ornamented and durable as the imagery on the album artwork, and a resounding tribute to all things eclectic and eccentric. Bold, beautiful and bodacious as all hell, come revisit both the album review for Flip Phone Fantasy, and the in-depth insight Twiggy Hunter imparted before the world completely lost its collective marbles.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: March 15 2020
Wielding a flurry of nostalgia amid a rollercoaster of sonic explosions and heartfelt swoons, Melbourne icons of all things oddball and heavy Ocean Grove have solidified their skyrocket to the moon of the heavy music world with an utter triumph of a sophomore album, with Flip Phone Fantasy unleashing into the world last Friday.
Unwaveringly unique, eternally engaging and just downright hard-working; there’s very little wonder as to why the Ocean Grove gents have clasped at perfection with their latest release. And while the road to Flip Phone Fantasy was not without its twists and turns, it’s the presence of every ounce of creativity and passion from the OG crew utterly poured out with such loving care and flair that ultimately offers an honest reflection of the group's sharply finessed musical identity, as well as a haven of originality and artistry to fans, both new and old alike.
And while many know them as the "odd world" hooligans with absolute hearts of gold, today in honour of Flip Phone Fantasy’s release we’re bringing you an epic chat Tiana Speter grabbed with bassist Twiggy Hunter just days out from the album dropping into the world last week. From the album process to incredible fan moments, musical memories and mixtape must-haves - come dive into the amazing world of Ocean Grove, interview below!
TIANA SPETER: Hey Twiggy, so awesome to be chatting with you today, it's been a busy time lately for Ocean Grove just getting back home from Europe - but it's extra exciting for you guys because we are now officially in the week of release for Flip Phone Fantasy...what is it like to be finally at this stage?
TWIGGY HUNTER: It's fucking crazy to be honest! We're all so happy to be days out, there's so much anticipation, and it's the moment we've all been looking forward to. I think even with the album release date being announced not too long ago, it was so much weight off our shoulders after so much wait. So, we're all set and ready and we really can't wait to get the ball rolling again!
TIANA: Yeah, definitely! I recently dropped a review of the album, and it's safe to say I did love it - and I'm not just saying that because I'm talking to you right now, I genuinely did enjoy it. But diving into the album a little bit more for a moment here...obviously it's the first Ocean Grove to feature yourself on bass, and a few other changes happened in the lead-up too. But I've read that you all were given unlimited license to be as "you" as you could be while making this album...what did that actually entail?
TWIGGY: With me coming into the band, we were all friends prior to me joining so it was all super easygoing in the process. But the boys definitely gave me a lot of power to be...well, I guess the undertone of the sound in songs like SUNNY and SENSE AGAIN, the more Brit-rock or Brit-pop moments, that's kind of my whole energy. Coming into the band I really tried to kick 'em all in the ass and tell them we've got nothing to lose as far as being true to ourselves and unapologetic and just be as fucking rockstar as can be. But not rockstar in saying like "be a prick to anyone", I think being a rockstar is just being unapologetic and letting people know that they can be the same and to be yourself no matter what anyone says. So we went into it with total confidence and we were all at 100 with our energy. And even though we went through a big couple of months there in the writing process, we all had that high energy the whole way through and we really went into it knowing there was literally nothing we could lose because the whole album from start to finish is a big compilation of who we really are. And I think we all delivered to our highest degree, and we all feel total confidence at this point too. Getting off the plane the other day at 5:20am after touring with a Japanese band who go pretty fucking hard everyday...and now knowing the album is only a few days out it's like...it is so wild. And I don't think it's kicked in just yet to be honest! I always say to people, they're like "are you jet-lagged?". And I'm like "nah, I feel fine!". And then last night when I laid my head on my pillow I was literally knocked out within seconds, so it hasn't kicked in fully yet what's to come. But we're all feeling so happy and so grateful that people are getting behind it, we've had so many kind words, like you just said you love the album - it genuinely means so much to hear. And for the people out there doing the hard yards for us as well, it really is a nice feeling to hear from people, and people from all different walks of life - even the Euro crowd and the UK crowd, everyone was really getting behind it and so pumped for it, as are we. We're here for everyone, and we're just psyched to start making some serious moves with it!
TIANA: It's interesting actually, you mentioned how you personally brought your own musical influence to the album, and it really does feel like there's so much personality throughout Flip Phone Fantasy - but so much shifting personality. Obviously you've covered so many bases in terms of genres, you've got your straight up rock, you've got sweaty bounces and then some really beautiful melodic moments...was that the plan, to span out as much as possible sound-wise, and a case of everyone bringing a bit of their individuality into the mix, or did it just naturally evolve as you went along?
TWIGGY: Yeah, I'm not sure if people will know or not but the entire album, the entire concept of Flip Phone Fantasy was very curated. We knew exactly what we were doing from start to finish and we wanted to get that across in every moment on the album. I've been explaining the album to people as a synchronisation of human emotion. In the album itself we want to be a timestamp in peoples lives and something they remember. I think it gives good reason for people to feel more than one thing rather than listen through and just hear, you know, one genre or one emotion. It definitely touches on all those genres because each one of those songs encompasses a different feeling, and we want people to feel that when listening through. And I think you could be a pop listener and you could listen through the album and only like a couple of songs. But I think even those listeners from a range of different genres - they all have reason to find a moment on the album. We definitely went into it with the mindset of writing it as a playlist more than an album because with the current musical climate, especially from an internal view of it all...music in general, the market in general is just changing literally monthly, I think. And we really wanted to grab the bull by the horns in this moment in time and make something for people that will create something for them that they can really hold onto and not get sick of after one listen. As I said, there's a couple of ballads on there and, as you said, a couple of big rock songs on there, some Brit-rock moments...we just had that mindset of creating something for everyone.
TIANA: It's definitely mission accomplished there! And I know in the lead-up, obviously everyone has had some sneak peeks into the album with some amazing singles dropping, all of which actually highlighted what you just spoke about. And I know you did mention earlier some songs already that you brought your own element into...but as a potentially impossible question: do you have an overall favourite song from the album? Does one in particular stand out for you?
TWIGGY: I think the one song that was a highlight for me, because it was so back and forth for quite a while in the process...the one track would be...it's hard to say between GUYS FROM THE GORD and SENSE AGAIN, but I think SENSE AGAIN because it's got a lot of different OG elements, and it's kind of that middle ground between songs like JUNKIE$ and ASK FOR THE ANTHEM. I think SENSE AGAIN holds a lot of that mixed energy that we really wanted to get across in the album as a whole so...yeah, it would have to be SENSE AGAIN, and it was actually so natural in the writing process. That entire chorus and end section on SENSE AGAIN, Sam (Sam Bassal - drums) and I actually laid that down literally in minutes and then that end vocal - I just sang totally improvised, and that stayed on the record! So I think that's one of the truest moments for me especially on the album. And I think playing it live for the first time, that's gonna definitely be a teary moment for all of us.
SENSE AGAIN (OCEAN GROVE)
TIANA: You've actually essentially just answered the next question I had for you, I was going to ask you what album tune you're most excited to bust out live. So - well done you, that's two for one for me for a question! But on that topic of live shows, as you said earlier you've literally just landed back in the country after a heap of shows, and no doubt there's a fair few more on the horizon for you guys. But looking back a ways, obviously you've played in other bands prior to joining OG...but while playing with Ocean Grove, has there been a live show moment that has stood out for you significantly? Whether it was good, bad or even, perhaps, hilarious?
TWIGGY: There's honestly so many (laughs). Every show we'll always look at each other during some moments in every set and kind of have a giggle cos something funny will happen. But I think one of the highlights for me especially was when we played in Budapest, my background is Hungarian so I got to meet a lot of my family while we were there just recently on the Euro tour with Crossfaith. And when we played there it was just such an epic show. After the day before meeting all of my family there for the first time and none of them spoke English and having a translator...playing the show the day after was just so crazy to go out. The crowd were just so responsive and it felt so...I'm not too sure what the word is! Probably just so empowering walking out to a roaring crowd, and being the main support on that tour and seeing so many people singing our lyrics - and English isn't even their first language! Seeing them sing along to these songs - I had goosebumps for the whole show, and then afterwards we were meeting fans who had tears in their eyes. We were like..."this is fucking crazy!!". It is honestly such a blessing and we're so lucky to be able to do that. And that whole tour the whole way through there were honestly no complaints...but meeting some of those people in some of these non-English speaking countries...it was probably one of the biggest moments in my life, honestly, to meet people who had tears rolling down their faces when hugging us and stuff. I'm almost choking up thinking about it now, honestly!
TIANA: You're giving me goosebumps too!! I'm not normally this much of a softy!
TWIGGY: It was honestly fucking beautiful. I don't think anything can beat that, that connection with people who you've never met and yet you share something with them, you now? It is just fucking beautiful.
Twiggy onstage in Budapest//pic by Murray Deaves
TIANA: That's honestly incredible, and absolutely speaks volumes about what you guys are doing and achieving as a band. Love it! And on that note about your family, did you grow up in a musical family? Was becoming a musician something you were destined to aspire to, and were there any significant moments that spurred it all on?
TWIGGY: Early on in life I actually wanted to be...it might sound a little psycho but it's not at all. I had an obsession with shows like RPA, like the surgery TV shows. And growing up when I was really young I wanted to be a surgeon or a doctor...and...I don't know how the fuck I landed where I am now (laughs). I'm sure being a surgeon would maybe pay a little more than what being a musician does...but I definitely wanted to play music, even then. My family were very into music growing up and me and my dad and my mum, we had a lot of similar tastes. I had an uncle who played music and even just family friends...one of my friends Cody while I was growing up, he was the first person to actually put a guitar over my shoulder. Losing him in a car crash when I was younger, that was even a shaking moment. I don't know, it's funny...the people who inspired me to actually play music like my uncle who I mentioned as well...he actually passed away only a couple of years ago, and it's kind of like my idols have fallen along the way, but I'm able to carry the torch for them in a way.
TIANA: As much as you would never want to plan it that way, that paving of the way...what an amazing legacy and journey to where you are now. And also, you're probably doing the same hours as a surgeon at this stage...
TWIGGY: (laughs) Yeah, probably more! I reckon we worked more hours than I can count on this Euro tour. But I definitely am so grateful to be able to do what we do and I wouldn't be able to do it if it wasn't for the people who get behind us and all the friends and fans...actually, I wouldn't even call them fans! We think of them as family for sure because they all come out in droves and give us so much energy, and give us so much love. We wouldn't be doing it without them so - I owe it all to them.
pic by Candace Krieger
TIANA: Now, I won't keep you much longer I promise. But - given that Flip Phone Fantasy is a bit of an homage to the flip phone era and the whole mix-tape phase that was kicking around at that time…what songs or artists would we have found on one of your playlists back in the early 2000s when you may have been rockin’ a flip phone?
TWIGGY: It’s funny because I guess a lot of the music in that time…like, I listened to a lot of 2000s stuff...but at the same time, I was still listening to throwback stuff even then. But! I’m just gonna throw it out there – Britney Spears’ Toxic.
TIANA: Oh my god. What an actual banger. This is the BEST!
TWIGGY: Yeah, that’s it! My sister got me into a lot of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and stuff…even hearing and seeing Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty when I was a young boy…that was a crazy moment for me. I think Chrisina Aguilera and Britney Spears and all of them were just such fearless artists. And growing up with such strong female figures in my life – seeing artists like Christina and Britney just owning what they were doing was just such a fucking cool thing to me being a young boy. You know, there’s so much over-sexualisation in things, especially in pop music. But I think artists like that, it was just such a sick thing to me. Even Toxic – the video and the song…just epic!! (laughs) I can’t even explain it, just in that moment of time, what a fucking cool thing to live through. So, yep – final answer, I’ll go with Toxic by Britney Spears.
TIANA: I’m so into this. And I can’t lie, anytime I hear that I still get that sudden urge to bust out on the d-floor.
TWIGGY: Yes! That’s definitely like a “let my mullet down” and go crazy song.
TIANA: Mullets out for Britney! Well Twiggy, thank you so much for giving me so much of your time today, and I’m so excited for you guys with what’s to come. I hope that you can have some time to process it and most importantly enjoy it! Congrats on such a killer album.
TWIGGY:Thank you so much! Appreciate all the kind words, and we can’t fucking wait!
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: March 2 2020
Like a kid in a kaleidoscopic candy shop, a veritable feast of genres and nostalgia awaits on the hugely anticipated sophomore album Flip Phone Fantasy from Melbourne heavy mavericks Ocean Grove.
With the years increasing between their head-turning debut album The Rhapsody Tapes back in 2017, it was only a matter of time before Ocean Grove flipped out fans by finally confirming a release date for their second LP Flip Phone Fantasy for Friday March 13. And while the lead-up to this latest chapter for the Melbourne quartet has not been without its unique challenges (including significant lineup changes that saw bassist Twiggy Hunter come onboard with Dale Tanner stepping up as full-time frontman for the group) - there's a sense of shared growth and unabashed joy busting at the seams of Flip Phone Fantasy, partly stemming from the group's desire to still make music that they genuinely love while growing with the overall album process:
“The songs on the album have somewhat of a metaphorical undertone for the futuristic mirror image we hoped to embody by the end of the process...The album is a very intentional blue print for the changes we wanted to see in ourselves.” - Twiggy Hunter, Bassist
As with their previous full-length The Rhapsody Tales, Flip Phone Fantasy doesn't offer a journey in genre cohesion; rather, Ocean Grove gift a lesson in diversity packed full of nostalgic alternative antics that finds its consistency through its staggering composition and unbridled passion.
If the cover art didn't give it away, we're in for dollops of nostalgia as the familiar sound of a flip phone ringtone opens up the album, with SUPERSTAR going full nostalgic with a nu metal/rap rock jam that bears all the trimmings of an Ocean Grove adventure: huge soundscapes, catchy hooks and enough jaunt to bewitch a headbang from everyone in the near vicinity. But before you settle in with the subtle grooves too much - up next is NEO barrelling out like a (non-Miley) wrecking ball, spraying its high octane haze amid blistering distortion and thunderous beats. Gifting a ballistically bold and fiery affair early on in the album, NEO also finds bassist Twiggy Hunter swapping frontman duties with Dale Tanner as the group explore the despair and anger of wanting to belong in a world gone mad.
Living up to Dale Tanner's previous statement that Flip Phone Fantasy would mimic someone's mixtape from the flip phone era, SENSE AGAIN finds itself next up entrenched with dreamy melodics amid hulking rock moments, while the aptly named SUNNY grips at Brit rock vibes beneath distinct modern flavours as the Ocean Grove gents deviate heavily from their nu metal roots - and ultimately prove their flourishing knack for engaging yet controlled genre-blurring.
From here we travel between menacing, melodic blasts (THOUSAND GOLDEN PEOPLE), nostalgic electronica (GUYS FROM THE GORD) and simmering pop warmth (SHIMMER) , with each step forward shining an increasingly finessed spotlight on the many, many strings to the Ocean Grove writing bow, while continuously offering unwavering positivity.
But it ain't just all riffs and broad soundscapes on the Ocean Grove menu, with BABY COBRA swirling to life wrapped up in serene and sinewy bliss. It's a brief and beautiful moment of ambient reprieve from the group that oozes woozy, whispered vocals over a sparse, enchanting backdrop, and ultimately marks the biggest moment of juxtaposition with what's to come next - the utterly bombastic ASK FOR THE ANTHEM
If the accompanying music vid is anything to go by, ASK FOR THE ANTHEM is Ocean Grove having the absolute time of their life. From the thematic nods to early 2000s pop and alt rock to the bouncy bass lines, smooth vocals and criminal grooves ASK FOR THE ANTHEM is undeniably an increasingly maligned word - a banger. And while the shift in sonic trajectory here initially freaked the diehard heavy OG fans to near-death when it first released, it's an essential moment that highlights the band's overarching range and booming commercial competence (a fact that is exciting to see from any Aussie heavy band in the current musical landscape).
Slowly bringing Flip Phone Fantasy to a close is the brief hip-hop-tinged interlude SWAY, the thicc n' smooth nu metal gem JUNKIE$ and ultimately the placidly raw FREAKS that balances simplicity with sweeping moments that adequately showcases each and every band member in a stripped-back light. It's a soft finish, but one that somehow perfectly sums up the overall desire to pivot between genres while journeying the spectrum of human emotions.
Unsurprisingly, Ocean Grove have yet again harnessed their own whacky and wonderful world into a colourful sonic odyssey that blends earworms with ardent emotive pathways in a playful yet entirely measured fashion. For some, the lack of constant heavier moments will bring out the griping - but those complaints would only shed light on a lack of understanding about the place Ocean Grove hold in the musical arena. Flip Phone Fantasy furthers the vivid journey OG continue to pioneer in the musical world (while also showcasing the group's self-production finesse). And while it's been previously well-established that this is a band who unabashedly march to the beat of their own eclectic drum, their latest sonic baby powerfully furthers their refusal to stagnate while also wielding some of the most powerful weapons in the modern music world - a hearty dose of nostalgia and the ability to bash out genuinely enjoyable tunes. Motorola RAZRs out for Ocean Grove - Flip Phone Fantasy is a heck of a good time.
BY TIANA SPETER