Oceans of Slumber released their self-titled fourth album last month, bringing the next chapter of their heavy, explorative metal sound to the world via Century Media Records. Metal Contraband’s Chelsea spoke with frontwoman Cammie Gilbert about some of the meaning behind the record, the drive behind Oceans of Slumber, her background as a vocalist, and their Type O Negative cover song. Check it out below.
You have the new Oceans of Slumber album out now, I just want to start things out by asking about some of the ideas and concepts that went into it?
So, Dobber [Beverly] and I had really been exploring historical documentaries and films, and we coupled the intake of that with a lot of transition in the band, and this sort of feeling of going forward from a place of needing to make some big decisions regarding the band. We’d had this turnover of members and were put on a quest to find new members, so we were like, next album we’re going to give it our all. We’re going to do what we want, we want to put in these things that we have seen, things that we were angry about, things that trouble us, and be very real and raw within the premise of the album. So we sort of dove into these themes of internal vs. external conflict, depression, negative societal patterns, drawbacks in human nature and culture, and we really just wanted to kind of explore it all.
I can see that in the lyrics and the general feel and emotion, there’s a lot of different meaning and things going on – so you would say that you’re pretty much inspired by the world around you, that’s what drives the lyrics for you guys?
100%, we’re definitely a band that writes from our direct experiences and perspectives, we’re very emotional and in tune with those emotions, and we like to give light to the negative side of emotions that people have to deal with that don’t get as much recognition.
And then that perfectly melds well with choosing metal as the genre, the medium to express those emotions. So you were saying that you had a turnover of band members, that transition was happening as you were writing for this album?
Yes. So, the timeline for when we were ready to write a new album was kind of already working itself out, and a lot of life changes that led to previous band members making different decisions. It’s a hard road, it’s not something that can just easily be sustained by everyone, so with their departure, we were looking for new people and bringing them in as the album was being formulated and written. And so it kind of worked out to when we got everybody involved, that we were completing the songs at the same time.
Well, it sounds like it worked out, because the results are great, and it’s an album that’s — not even just the album, Oceans of Slumber in general, you’ve got a very heavy sound that’s so melodic as well, you have a very cool blend of styles. Talk about what’s behind the music of Oceans of Slumber in terms of how it all comes together with you guys?
It’s very organic, but Dobber is at the helm of the direction of the band and the exploration and influences of the band. He’s always in pursuit of the music, he’s always expanding on his understanding and knowledge of music, he’s incredibly varied in what he has as his own influences, and his ability to focus and kind of streamline everyone’s interpretations of an idea is, I think, what ultimately makes the songs what they are. I stay the furthest away from that part of the process, Dobber thinks of an idea, or he has a theme or he starts off with what one of the guys sent over, and it gets formulated into a song, and it’s delivered to me when it’s going to be what I’m for sure going to write to. I don’t like hearing the songs as they’re put together, that way I don’t get too married to an idea that maybe won’t stay, or something that gets changed or whatever. So it helps me to kind of put space between what they do musically and then what I end up doing lyrically or vocally.
So it’s kind of that the lyrics come to meet the music after the music’s already in the works, usually?
Yeah, the song will be done and ready for me to write to it before I try to do anything.
Well, it all blends together, this is a great record, so…keep on doing what you’re doing with that!
*laughs* Thank you.
Something else I have to ask about for this record is the Type O Negative cover, where did the idea to do that one come from?
Well, we’re huge Type O Negative fans and we’ve been doing “Wolf Moon” live on tour for a couple of runs, and so when it came time to write a new album, it’s like, we need to record this so it can be permanent, and so everyone can hear it. We, in our Oceans of Slumber fashion, we love doing covers, we love interpreting different songs, and so every album needs at least one cover on it. So we were just going to make it work, and get this on there.
I love that it was something you were playing live, because I feel like when bands have a certain song that they love to cover in their live shows and the fans like to hear it, the most fans can see of that after is their own phone recording or a YouTube video, so the fact that they can actually have it in a tangible album form is cool.
Right, it started off as this special treat touring, but we just fell in love with it, and we’re just trying to watch the cellphone videos like, “We need to record this”.
So Cammie, you, as the voice of Oceans of Slumber, how do you feel that you’ve all grown as a band over this time, and that you’ve developed as a vocalist with Oceans of Slumber?
I think that we’ve found this perfect medium of instrumental to my voice, of intertwining my voice with another instrument within the band and leaving space to sort of expand on my ability of what I can do vocally and it’s still married to the music in that kind of perfect way. I’ve approached the different albums in so many different ways and approached how my voice is going to be portrayed on these albums, and it’s gotten to this place of confidence where it’s like, this is what I sound like, this is what I want to sound like, and this is how I want to sing and I’m still metal. I still want to sing in a metal band and be in the metal genre, and this is how I’m going to do it. I feel like with this newest album, that sort of stride was much stronger than it’s been in the past.
I can see what you’re saying with that, it’s this sense of confidence and mastery in how it all can intertwine together. I’m sure you guys are all experimenting and learning, especially with new band members coming in, but I can see it being as a, “Okay, we know how we want to make this sound and how to get there” kind of thing.
I also want to get more into your background as a musician, how you got started with it, what kept you going, things like that.
I was actually thinking a little about this last night, and we went on a little band field trip since the guys were in town and we were rehearsing and stuff, and we went to an amp studio here in Houston, and it was really awesome to sit with someone that’s so incredibly knowledgable about music and what they do and how they do it. And he was asking me about getting in the band, and it’s like – I grew up in a very musical family and I always loved to sing but I didn’t consider myself in pursuit of being a music artist or doing it to this extent at all. There was kind of a shift in my early 20’s of just needing an outlet for a lot of the tension and conflict and things that I was feeling, and so I thought of being a band. And once I kind of found myself in that world, it sort of just expanded. It’s like when you find what you’re supposed to be doing, it has a way of working out, rather than trying to make something work. And so I feel like it kind of happens like that. I got into a band, and that band was next door to Oceans, and then we ended up being on a show together. I think it’s pretty hard to be in a metal band in Houston and not cross paths one way or another, there’s only so many venues that cater to that, and it’s a pretty close-knit network that I think…while we were kind of rock, like post-rock, we weren’t really metal, there’s only a handful of rehearsal studios too. So one way or another, we would have crossed paths, but it was serendipitous. I’ve always loved all kinds of music, and I definitely gravitated to that kind of grunge-era Alice In Chains, Soundgarden style vocals that were so raw and so real, that to me, sort of resonated with the realness and rawness that I had heard in a lot of soul and R&B and gospel singers growing up. And so, I didn’t think about, “Well, there’s not this or that style in that genre”, per se, to me these different vocal undertones are what’s the same across all the genres. But sometimes I feel like people are too particular about, “That artist sounds country”, or “that artist sounds hip-hop”, or “that artist sounds metal”. To me, I just hear a person with a voice, and the music they’re singing over is what makes the genre, not necessarily the vocalist. It’s maybe a little bit of a different perspective of how I look at it, but it brought me to where I am now.
That’s a good perspective, and I think you can hear that multi-genre influence. I agree that a lot of what comes from a vocalist is emotion and portrayal of lyrics, portrayal of a certain thought or idea, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that you can only say this certain kind of thing in doom metal vs. death metal vs thrash metal vs. funk or soul or something. If you’re able to act in a sense, with your voice, to have that emotion come across, it’s the vocalist that comes through with that.
So for somebody listening to the new Oceans of Slumber album, what do you feel like you want someone to take away from it? Is there any kind of a message, an emotion, or even just an idea that if it sticks with them after the album, you’d be happy?
I think that there’s a lot to take in from this album, I guess what I want for listeners is…it’s there to be explored as much or as little as the listener wants to. So they can really dive deep, and there’s a lot of background, a lot of storyline, and there’s kind of a long journey to each of these songs that, when you put them all together, the album is this huge landscape to travel through. The energy of this one is what carries over, and I think that there’s something there for everyone who’s struggling with anything that’s going on in their lives. There’s a hopefulness to this album that hasn’t maybe been there previously in some of our work, that I think leaves people with something to take away of standing up to that conflict, whether it’s internal or external. Sort of rising above these sort of personal troubles that there’s more of an embedded call to action with this album. I feel that it inspires people to make movement, whether that be in gathering new habits in their own lives or taking that next step to fulfill a goal, or seeing injustice and working toward undoing it. My hope and my feeling is that all of that is intertwined and sort of relays to the listener.
Absolutely, I love that. It’s heavy music but a positive, inspirational overall message and feel behind it. So that’s really cool, you’ve come up with some great stuff there. In terms of moving forward with Oceans of Slumber – it’s obviously really hard to talk with any band right now about the near future with the difficulty with touring and the whole scenario. But what do you guys have in mind for the horizon, any livestream activities, any further music in the works?
We have a live show planned, coming up next month. An album release show virtual thing. And then, we’re definitely trying to kind of work on putting some more stuff out there – behind the scenes and covers. We’re the kind of musicians that, either we’re touring or we’re working on new music, so in an attempt to slow ourselves down from writing as much as we already are, kind of just sharing a little bit more on our influences and what we’re up to with all this downtime. So definitely looking for ways to get in touch and engage with everybody soon.
That sounds like a great approach to it! I know a lot of bands are having to get creative in how to keep that connection with the fans since you can’t have the live connection, but that sounds like some good plans you guys have in store.
Yeah, for sure.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Cammie, Oceans of Slumber is an awesome band and this is an awesome album.