Melbourne’s Ocean Grove have expertly communicated their brand from campaign to campaign over the last decade using eye-catching visuals and familiar-yet-fresh styles. Releasing their sophomore full-length album earlier this year, Flip Phone Fantasy unapologetically cycles through the band’s dearest influences of the early 2000s and landed their second top-10 spot in the ARIA charts.
“Combining futurism with nostalgia, we aim to make our listener feel connected by the familiar, inspired by raw self-expression and intrigued by the unknown. We hope to invigorate and unite both our mature and youth audiences alike.” – Dale Tanner
Ocean Grove’s early material firmly established themselves in the heavy music landscape, yet by no accident has it faded into irrelevance in less than ten years. Their confident embrace of rebranding has ensured the band would survive through multiple changes of style and personnel, all while expanding their audiences and opportunities. Speaking to vocalist Dale Tanner, he shows us how to approach the music business with wide eyes and a positive attitude.
What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
Dale Tanner: I value freedom, self expression, positively affecting others and adventure in general. What more reason did I need to choose a career path that facilitated all of those things. Like anyone, I’ve been tempted by the illusion of safety and had my fair share of warnings about the risks and unpredictability in the life of a creative. I studied a Bachelor of Science/Arts for four years and toured heavily at the same time. When I finally graduated there was no denying what brought me the utmost joy and those voices of fear and doubt were nowhere near loud enough to stop me from committing 110% to music. What it came down to for me was the realisation that when I’m creating and performing, I embody my true highest self and I become an agent of positive change. I still to this day don’t prioritise anything over that.
Besides making music, what have you done to get to where you are?
Dale: I try to stay in a child-like state as much as possible and allow everything to excite me and tickle my curiosity – I’m not afraid to wear that on my sleeve. The way I see it there’s so much variety and excitement in life and I’ve got a taste for it! I dig art, I dig music, I dig people. Through those examples I’ve learnt to use my peripheral vision to take in the world around me and integrate whatever lessons I can pick up along the way. I’m strongly compelled to say yes to opportunities (sometimes to my detriment) and to stay wide open to the hidden gems within people, places, and challenges. My relationships and interactions are very important to me in which I’m always striving to be as approachable, respectful and inclusive as possible. It’s these characteristics in others that have helped me discern what an honest, genuine person of integrity is and ultimately that’s what I aim to embody and pay forward.
How do you approach developing timelines for your career?
Dale: Establishing short-term and long-term goals (both very achievable and ‘reach for the stars’ type stuff) is the important first point of call. Sitting down by yourself or in a circle and spit-balling dreams and bucket-list items is a fun way to establish what you want to do and where you hope to be in 3, 5 or even 10 years. My team and I then like to set out a two year timeline outlining our touring schedule, music releases and everything in between and we follow it as religiously as possible. It’s invaluable to know where you’re going to be and what you need to plan for months in advance. Having a lot of short-term goals in there helps you keep focussed and determined whilst the achievement of the long-term goals takes place in the background over a longer time period. Of course nothing is predictable, especially in the music industry, so there must be some budge-room allowed for and adjustments to the original timeline can always be made. Ultimately in my project, we look to excitement as the compass needle forward.
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What is the most significant challenge you have conquered in your career?
Dale: This would have to be the change in lineup that Ocean Grove recently underwent. The scariest part of losing a front man and guitarist in one motion was knowing that the formula we had grown so accustomed to had to be reimagined. I’ve always been a big believer in framing your disadvantages to your own advantage, and this was a big opportunity to do so. Getting Twiggy in as our new bassist and having me step up as frontman was the reinvigoration to the band we maybe didn’t even realise we needed. The combustion of new and old to create something anew – a chemistry that wouldn’t have existed otherwise – was the perfect reminder to persist through difficult times and changes. We have become more resilient and grateful people as a result and the future is more promising than ever thanks to this developing attitude.
What will musicians discover from touring and how should they prepare for it?
Dale: That it is fun as hell and things get smelly. School camp for adults if you go about it the right way. However be prepared to have your daily life routine flipped on its head. You need to know what your tools are for managing your mental health, even if you don’t identify with those struggles regularly. No one is exempt and don’t underestimate your basic human needs. Your survival and security will be challenged in ways you’re not used to when you’re home and you will realise how important consistent food, sleep, human connection and alone time are. If you rise to the challenge however, touring can train you to become disciplined in the mind and body. When it comes to being off stage on a tour you need to know how to take responsibility for yourself and understand self-preservation. This way you can actually appreciate both the gritty and grandiose aspects of life on the road. It might be unfamiliar to you, but It’s important to call on your resources for support when you inevitably feel displaced while touring. There is strength in vulnerability and this could be as simple as phone calls to home or making self-care a priority by seeking out a gym or local massage therapist. At the end of the day, if you want to take touring seriously you can’t just throw yourself in the deep end and expect to swim for very long without some life rafts.
How should people educate themselves on current industry issues?
Dale: In my experience the best way is to ask questions. You genuinely need to care about different points of view and seek the knowledge from a humble place. Basically, be willing to find out that everything you thought you knew could be wrong. If you want to know an intimate truth you have to go to an intimate source. Interviews, podcasts and music documentaries are a great place to start. For me, as an example, the recent documentary Her Sound, Her Story was hugely informative regarding the issue of underrepresentation and gender inequality in the Australian music industry.
How have you integrated modern technology into your content process?
Dale: We have a lot of fun creating online content and have always been a relatively DIY band. Someone in Ocean Grove is always cooking up an idea of how we can engage with our audience and bring a lighter side to our marketing. We’re super lucky to be able to create a lot of our own graphics and videos in house, and having a member who is skilled with things like Photoshop has proven to be a pretty handy resource, too. There’s no limit nowadays to what you can create and share worldwide to market your music and brand, so there’s no reason why your socials can’t become your very own radio, television, store and stage all rolled into one. For instance we’ve recently turned to apps like Cameo to personally entertain and inspire fans from anywhere in the world, and even started our own trivia show each Friday night via our Instagram story.
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