EMQ’s with OCEAN ENCOUNTERS
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Tournai, Belgium Modern Djentcore band, Ocean Encounters. Huge thanks to bass player Pieter, guitarist Nathan, and vocalist Thomas, for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Pieter: Hi guys! I’m Pieter the bassist, and I’m here with Nathan (one of the guitarists) and Thomas (the singer). There’s also Quentin (the drummer) and Greg (the other guitarist) but they couldn’t make it today. Together we are Ocean Encounters from Tournai in Belgium. We started back in in 2015. Greg and Quentin got together with our old guitarist and singer and started jamming out. Soon one of my students (I’m a teacher) who knew Greg approached me saying that she knew about a band looking for a bassist. So, I went to a practice session and by the end we had 2 songs ready to go!
Nathan: Then a few years later the first guitarist had to leave because of some differences in the band, and so I was lucky enough to be asked to come on. I’d seen them a few times and really enjoyed the music they were making, so when Greg sent me a message saying they needed a guitarist, I jumped on that chance!
Thomas: Yep and then a similar thing with the original singer. He didn’t want to keep going, and I had just left my band, so the timing was perfect. Although Ocean Encounters was just at the precipice of a huge line-up of shows, so to say that I hit the ground running is an understatement (laughs). I had to learn 8 songs within something like 3 weeks!!
Pieter: Now in the most straight forward terms we play metal. Heavy down-tuned guitars, guttural vocals, big drums, lots of headbanging. But if you’re a fan of niche genres or hyper-classification of the multitude of subgenres that exist in the metal world, we like to throw around the term Modern Djentcore. That’s because if you listen to any of our tracks, there’s moments where you’re nice and comfortable, cruising to a nice little section you might enjoy, and then WHAM, out of nowhere you’ll take a nice rap/trap section to the face, followed by a rumbling breakdown chugging its way straight through your living room, and then WHOOSH you’re on the wings of a fire-tailed nighthawk soaring the notes of an ethereal sweep picking guitar solo taking you way above the clouds and into the upper reaches, where you’re serenaded by an angelic chorus, which then dissolves into fire and ashes, as you tumble back down to this purgatorial speck of dust flying through the cosmos…. too much? (laughs)
How did you come up with your band name?
Thomas: Well, as we were getting started, ocean-themed band names were really up and coming, and we were huge fans of those bands. So, we thought, why not head in that direction?
Pieter: On top of that the Ocean allows for an un-depletable source of song topics. You can talk about the monsters that definitely live in the depths, you can talk about ships, adventure, hope, despair. All of it!
Nathan: Yeah plus the fact that Pieter spoke only English or Dutch in the beginning so the internationality of it was a fun metaphor to play around with.
What country are you from and what is the metal scene like there?
Nathan: We’re all from Belgium, except for Quentin, who is actually French. But he’s lived here for over 15 years so he’s pretty much Belgian, but don’t tell him that (laughs). Belgium actually has a HUGE metal scene. And our festivals are award-winning international insanity. Graspop Metal Meeting is huge! Plus, festivals like Alcatraz that try to give non-megastar bands a chance to play on a huge stage with thousands of people.
Pieter: Even the town we’re from used to be huge in terms of the punk/hardcore scene. You hear stories about how back in the 80’s people would come from the big neighbouring cities just to go to the shows here in town. Our drummer even had a live music bar a few years ago, but the town has gone downhill in terms of cultural or artistic support, so it’s all died out a little bit, which is really sad to see.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
Thomas: We just came out with our debut album! It’s called “Anchored” and available on all the usual sites and services. We even have them on old-school actual CDs! So those are available for purchase by either sending us a PM, or coming to the shows!!
Nathan: We also have an EP that came out a few years ago, and that has some serious bangers on, that we still play live from time to time. Like ‘Clock’, oh man I love playing that one live.
Who have been your greatest influences?
Pieter: We are so all over the place when it comes to influences. Even though, just like with our genre, you can place an umbrella over all of them and say ‘rock and metal bands’, but we have everything From Jack Johnson and Xavier Rudd, to Blink 182 and The Offspring, to Northlane and Polaris, to Infant Annihilator and Thy Art is Murder. We even have some EDM and rap/trap influences. So that’s a tough question.
Nathan: And you’ll hear some of those throughout our songs. Like on our first single off the album ‘Disappoint’, there’s this really catchy jumpy riff at the beginning, a heavy lumbering rap section in the middle, and the chorus is this bluesy, emotional, epic thing that sits on top of it all. It’s fun taking the listener on an adventure (laughs).
What first got you into music?
Pieter: Pheewww man. I think that’s also gonna really differ from person to person in the band. I know for me performing on stage has been something on my mind since my parents played Paul Simon CD’s in our house growing up. Then picked up a guitar around my early teens, got together with a friend to play some covers and the rest is history!
Thomas: Yeah for me it was the urge to play in a band. I had a lot of friends that has started different projects, and then one day, while singing along to a song in the car, I realised I could do this whole screaming thing without destroying my voice. So, I practiced a little bit and before I knew it, I was in a band doing it for real!
Nathan: I used to just cover songs in my bedroom. Then bought a 7-string guitar because I wanted to go heavier (now I’m up to 8 strings haha). Then Greg called me saying his band was looking for a guitarist, so I thought why not?! As good a time as any!
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Pieter: Me personally I’d have to say Lamb of God. These guys have been in the game for so long and keep putting out quality material. Plus, every show is a party. I’d just follow them around and pay attention to every single tiny little detail and soak it all up.
Nathan: It’s gonna sound stupid but I’d love to colab with a Grindcore band. For some reason, their shows pull crowds time and time again. You can have a big-ish metalcore or djent band come in from England, and there’ll be 5 people in the audience. But there was this show by this Austrian grindcore band, (not sure how explicit you guys can print but the band was called Vaginal Penetration of an Amelus with a Musty Carrot!!) and the same place will be PACKED. I don’t know how or why, but it’s something I want to learn.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Thomas: Of course, there’s the big ones like Big Day Out or Download. But I think I’m gonna have to go with either Graspop Metal Meeting, or Alcatraz Music Festival. They’re in good ol’ Belgium, so we’ve got the home-crowds, and we can speak all 3 languages of Belgium, plus English, so we can most definitely reach every single f*cking person in that audience. Which is what we aim to do for each show anyway!
Nathan: I’d love to have a Burning Man, but for only metal. Or what was that festival where everyone got stranded because of COVID? Like this island where it was just music and jams for 3-4 days. THAT would be awesome. An island for only metal. Can you imagine? Maybe we should start that…?
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Pieter: An old, beer soaked, smelly, woven bracelet from a woman easily in her 80s. She threw it on my wrist without a single word or caution, tied it tight and spent the rest of the show in the front row. Moshpits and all. It was wet, it smelled bad, but I couldn’t take it off right away because she seemed so happy to give it to me. It was weird hahaha!
Thomas: I’ve never gotten a present! Now I want one!
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Nathan: Listen to the whole album. Even if you’re bored, use it as a mental exercise to focus on something, and stick with it for more than half an hour. Some songs fit the ‘single’ profile, so they’re juicy bits come in soon and fast, but we don’t write all our songs with the sole intention of making them big. A lot of songs are written from personal stories and have a lot of work that went into them, but might take more than a minute to really kick it in gear. Sometimes you gotta climb the mountain to see the best views, not all of them have chair lifts or gondolas to take you straight to the top of the mountain, grab a selfie, and go back down.
Pieter: I totally agree. ‘Free Bird’ or ‘Child in Time’ or ‘Stairway’ don’t “kick off” until several minutes in, and those are some of the biggest songs of all time!
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
Pieter: Ronnie James Muthafuckin’ Dio! That guy knew how to get a crowd going. And such a NICE dude. Always humble, always polite, always a winner through and through.
Thomas: I’m a huge Linkin Park fan, so I’m gonna go with Chester.
Nathan: Dimebag, man. Wow could we get any more obvious with our answers? hahaha! We literally just picked the 3 most straightforward answers to that question!
Thomas: Well, yeah, all those guys had huuuge impact on the scene when they passed. Let’s throw some Kurt Cobain in the mix as well!
Pieter: Fine, but then I’m adding Robin Williams. He wasn’t a musician, but when he passed, I literally cried every time I thought about it.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Pieter: Playing live shows. There’s nothing better than seeing a few heads bob in the crowd. As soon as heads are bobbing and feetsies are tapping, I consider that success. We’ve had moshpits, and there’s no denying that that is awesome when it happens, but a head bob or a foot tap is instinct when you’re hearing something you enjoy, so that’s the signal I look for.
Nathan: For me it’s funny, because right up until the moment I’m actually on stage, I hate it. I hate it so much. The anxiety of going up in front of a few hundred people is something that I still struggle with. But once the intro kicks in, that IMMEDIATELY goes away and it’s go-time. And then I love it.
Thomas: Yeah definitely love the live shows. What I hate is how nobody prepares you for the very real amount of shit you have to haul from one place to another when you’re in a band. Like, 90% of being in a band that plays live shows, is literally hauling stuff. Amps, guitars, cables, mic stands, the drumkit, merch. All of it. Actually, physically playing a show is MAYBE 5% of what you ACTUALLY do in a band. And while my love for it is a motivator to do it all, it really blows having to do it over and over again. But you just do it because that’s what gets you on stage.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Pieter: It’s easy to put this responsibility on the shoulders of the music industry because they’re the ones catering to it, but I’d have to say the formula of “success”. It’s leading to simplification of music as a whole. The need to bang out hit after hit after hit is causing the music to simplify, and musicians to run out of ideas (why on EARTH do you need 10+ producers on a single track?!). But I think that responsibility also lies with the audience. Try treading into genres you never listened to before, listen to an entire song start to finish, start listening for, and appreciating diversity in your taste.
Nathan: Yeah, I’ll step in that same boat. I don’t have any idea of how to fix it, but making money from album sales again would be awesome. You really have to understand and exploit the algorithms Spotify and Facebook use before they can be used to an advantage, and by then they’ve run off with such a large chunk of the cut that you’re starting from behind once you get popular enough to actually start drawing money from those streams.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Pieter: “Enema of the State” by Blink 182
Thomas: “Hybrid Theory” by Linkin Park
Nathan: “Miasma” by Black Dahlia Murder. I love the song too because it’s in ¾ measure, so you can Waltz to it hahaha!
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Pieter: Urgh I’m gonna have to be a dick and break the question down into what it is you’re looking for. I know it breaks the rules a little but there really are 3 different answers for me. If you’re looking for quality of sound and dynamic in your tracks, you gotta go vinyl. But do a bit of research and make sure it’s been mastered for vinyl. It makes a serious difference, and once you hear it, you can’t go back. CD’s for in the car 100%. AUX cable is good, but a CD gets that little extra bit of volume and crunch you just can’t get anywhere else. Then download for ease of access. There’s no denying the convenience of Spotify on a phone during a road trip. Thousands of songs, poof, just like that.
Honestly can’t think of a reason for cassettes to be better than any of those 3 options. Plus, they deteriorate and you gotta rewind it every time and yeah, no, CD’s, Vinyl’s and downloads depending on what you need.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Thomas: Gotta say Durbuy Rock Festival 2019. We opened the festival with big big names like Napalm Death and Black Dahlia Murder, we had a solid moshpit, strangers coming up to us afterwards and praising our music, it was just so awesome.
Nathan: Yeah and our shitty little van was parked right next to Black Dahlia Murder’s tour bus, so it was this first moment where we were like “oh sh*t, we’re in it now!”
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Pieter: I’m already doing the other thing! Teaching and history tours of the battlefields around Ypres. I love history. If you don’t like history then you had a shitty teacher. It’s fascinating!
Nathan: Honestly, no idea. I’ve got a job on the side, but there’s nothing that gets me going like playing music with these guys.
Thomas: I’m with Nathan, I do a job to pay the bills and survive, but it’s the music that I really WANT to do all day, every day.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Pieter: Oh man, so many options. But I’ll stick to the question this time hahaha! And just for the sake of making the conversation at that party as interesting as possible: Robin Williams, Jesus, Hitler, Alexander the Great and a Neanderthal.
Nathan: There is nobody I would add or remove from that list. Why a Neanderthal though?
Pieter: We all have a bit of Neanderthal in us, but we don’t know a lot about them. Could they talk? Did they make music? Did they procreate with Homo Sapiens? Was it awkward introducing your Homo Sapien girlfriend to your Neanderthal parents? You know, the questions that matter.
Thomas: You guys are weird. But yes, that list seems perfectly fine.
What’s next for the band?
All collectively: TOUR!
Pieter: Yes, most definitely. That’s a collective goal of ours. Short term is just getting a tour on its feet. A few weeks, a few countries, either with a few bands or by ourselves. We just want to drive to the location, set up, play, break down, load the van, drive, set up, play, repeat for a few weeks. Dirty, tired, craving healthy food and a good bed, yeah that’s the stuff.
Thomas: Definitely. And then long-term the dream is really to get just big enough that we can make a living off of this stuff. The BIG goal is to write an album for a year, then tour for a year, then write an album, then tour. And do that until our bodies give out, or we can’t financially do it anymore.
Nathan: Yeah, we have a few small differences of opinion in the band sometimes. but I think we can all agree that touring is both a short- and a long-term goal.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Pieter: All the classics and the competition of the classics. Spotify, Facebook, Apple music, Google Play, Amazon, Youtube, Groover etc.
Nathan: Yep but all the important information is on Facebook, I think that’s the easiest one.
Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?
Pieter: A cake cut to the size and shape of a biscuit. Kind like mini muffins. Muffins are ALREADY small cakes, why you gotta go and make them even smaller!?
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Thomas: Good questions! A little bit more than the standard! Nice!
Nathan: I love lamp.
Pieter: Nothing for me. Thanks guys!
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