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Oceansize - A Tribute (Feature)

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 Written by Ben Bland
Oceansize - A Tribute (Feature)

It is sadly a rare thing in this day and age. Rare indeed for a band to have the strength and determination to be everything they want to be without caving in to the inevitable financial pressures and lack of mainstream recognition. It is even rarer, not just in the world of today but in the whole of modern musical history, for a band to be anywhere near true musical perfection. Yet Oceansize, in the minds of many including myself, achieved this elusive state. The elusive state in question meant that it was never a case of the band possibly writing anything bad but instead of writing things that were slightly less amazing than everything else they wrote.

They were never an easy-going band. All of their albums require multiple listens to even begin to fully appreciate. They were never a band who made a significant commercial impact either. They were consistently ignored by the mainstream press, by the people who are supposed to be championing the cause of brilliant bands. Perhaps this is because Oceansize were never wholly one thing nor another. Their sound contained elements of post-rock, metal, shoegaze, prog and more but never defined, or rather limited, itself to one specific field. This is perhaps what made them so unique and so special.

ImageWhereas the likes of contemporaries Porcupine Tree and Mogwai could easily be placed into categories, Oceansize never really could. Whilst this in itself does not make them better than anyone else it does reinforce their refusal for compromise, even when it made the assignment of actually getting anywhere in this stupidly unfair industry more and more difficult. Case in point: the band’s final album ‘Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up’ opens with a track, ‘Part Cardiac’, which is effectively sludge metal at its heaviest and most ferocious. The same album contains heartfelt balladry (‘Ransoms’ and ‘Pine’) as well as a more punk than prog breakneck screaming workout (‘It’s My Tail and I’ll Chase It If I Want’) and a work of such post-rock esque elegance that it should have caused Explosions In The Sky and Jeniferever to hang up their instruments in defeat (‘Silent/Transparent’). Each and every one of the songs I have just mentioned is unique and stupendously brilliant in their own special way. Whether it was the riffs or the lyrics or the vocal harmonies, there was something that made each and every song the band wrote, special. They aren’t all quite perfect but then being perfect all the time cheapens the idea of perfection, does it not?

This is also a band that carried with it an exceptionally dedicated fanbase; a fanbase that included among its number a vast array of the band’s contemporaries as well as many of those who cynically claim rock music to be dead. These fans would readily travel the length and breadth of the country to see their heroes at one of their, always exceptional, gigs. Indeed some fans from further afield (the US especially) spent their money travelling halfway across the world just for a ninety minute set. They were also genuinely nice guys. On the occasions I met members of the band they were always courteous and easy to talk to, even if Mike did me the disservice of failing to recognise me second time around! They cared about us, made us feel important as fans. The news that the band has split has been taken hard by the fans but also received as an opportunity to be thankful for everything this truly amazing band has given us. I didn’t think it would be right to write this article to wallow in my own nature as an Oceansize fan so here is what some other fans would like to say on the band’s passing:

Rod Simmonds:
“Oceansize changed how I listen to and in fact how I evaluate music. They raised my concept of musical standards from what was good to what was exceptional. I quit playing guitar for 6 months after I heard Effloresce because I never thought I could aspire to such musical perfection. Effloresce impacted my life so hugely. There have been many moments in my life, highs and lows, where Oceansize’s music has been a commentary and a spiritually uplifting force without which I really would have seen different outcomes and been a different person. It is a tragedy that there will be no new output from my most dearly loved band, but I am happy that their legacy enriched my life in so many ways”

Federico Rodas:
“I would like to say that i trusted Oceansize to get that crappy pop and shit music out of the system... and awareness people that there is better music out there.... that is something good to show something beautiful like Oceansize was... I will always love their music”

Brian McKenzie:
“I had a lot of favourite bands growing up but then I discovered Oceansize and found that thing that was missing...gorgeous harmonizing guitars tickling my ears, mind bending time signature changes, filthy guitar riffs, and incredible vocals of Mike Vennart. I have never heard anyone sing with as much conviction and passion as Mike. He doesn’t have the best voice but I'm not looking for the best. All I wanted from my music was to know that the band put all of their heart into making that music not only for the fans but for themselves. That's Oceansize”

Catherine Ann McVicar:
“I’ll be completely honest...the first time I heard Oceansize I didn’t get it but something in my stubborn head told me to persevere. All good things come to those who wait.  Suddenly what initially appeared to be an over- complicated racket sounded like a heavenly noise with layers that intertwine like the most adventurous of lovers. Oceansize were a rare breed, combining supremely accomplished musicianship with no regard whatsoever for the way songs should supposedly be written.  Their fearlessness and artistic integrity will forever remain in the music they produced”

Kevin Cook:
“Oceansize: a symbol of inspiration and accomplishment, hopes and dreams realized, with a penchant for unrelenting excellence. Hearts and souls worldwide are bound together by your art. Twelve long years and you never once touched the ground…”

Micah Pilson:
“It's hard to put into words just how much this group has meant to me. To their fans, Oceansize are so much more than just a band, they're a way of life. Never before have I witnessed a group of such incredibly talented musicians create 6 completely unique pieces of art (across 4 albums and 2 EPs), whilst still maintaining their core and signature sound. Their music has been both life-altering and inspirational to me in every way imaginable, and I can't thank them enough for how much each of their albums has meant, and will continue to mean to me, in their own special ways. Thank you, Oceansize...and may the future burn brightly for each of you”

“I first caught the band supporting The Cooper Temple Clause in a bizarre little venue off Deansgate in Manchester. It would have been around 2001...  We expected nothing, as is often the case for support acts.. The band shuffled onstage and immediately seemed to captivate the audience. I remember that the venue had an odd PA which allowed the band to be piped in to the toilets... I stood there urinating listening to Mike singing through this tiny speaker to my left... For some reason it just hit me instantly, it was literally one of those moments you'll remember for the rest of your life. Perhaps not the setting you'd like, but nonetheless a memory.... As the band finished their set, they mentioned the EP they were promoting 'A Very Still Movement'. The poor guy selling it seemed to be instantly harassed by equally impressed punters.”

“The ability of Oceansize to muddle the palette of music as we understand it and still pluck the heartstrings of listeners should be commended and remembered most – as the material these musicians have offered is boundless in ambition and timeless in appeal.”

James Ether:
“I feel like a huge void has appeared in my life. I honestly don’t know what my life would’ve been like if Oceansize hadn’t been there to soundtrack it. I’m upset that something so important to me has reached its conclusion, but I will always remember the amazing times I’ve had thanks to that band and how they’ve seen me through the bad times as well”

Jonathan Rimmer:
“You guys were easily the most underrated band in Britain by a long, long way. You deserved to be sharing bills with bands of Radiohead or Muse's stature. But alas it wasn't to be. If there were troubles for a while, the whole band was very professional at disguising it. Speaking to Mike when I saw them in August, he was kind enough to chat for a while and was just an all round pleasant guy. You really represented what a band should be - hard working, down-to-earth but also brilliant. You also represent an entire period of my life. Going into adulthood your music has changed my tastes entirely and both your lyrics and music have cheered me up or spoken to me in a profound way again and again and again.”
So, sadly it is time to bid farewell to this legendary band, one that will never be forgotten by either their fans or by the experimental music scene that they have been a major player in since the day they released debut album ‘Effloresce’  back in 2003. Whether they will ever return is something upon which we cannot speculate, as we do not know the reasons behind the band’s dissolution. What we do know is that four out of the five members of the band will continue their musical careers and this can only be a good thing. Likewise we know that their music, music that has proved life changing for many, will live forever, each and every note.  

Mike Vennart, Steve Durose, Richard ‘Gambler’ Ingram, Mark Heron, Steven Hodson and Jon Ellis...thank you for everything, you guys were the absolute best.

Having said my piece I’ll finish with a couple more comments from other fans:

Steve McCarthy:
“To me, Oceansize are more than a band. They are the reason I am who I am. They have been present at the best and worst times of my life, and completely appropriate in all of them”

John Connor:
“Fucking outstanding band! God bless you lads!” 

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