Interview: Oceanographers

Oceanographers (Photo by Tyler Branston)
Oceanographers
(Photo by Tyler Branston)

Oceanographers have been working their way into the heart of the indie-rock scene in Vancouver since their first single dropped in late 2012. Fast-forward to 2014, and the band has settled in, taken over, and redecorated too. They’re on the brink of an EP recording project and are scheduled to take their first steps onto a festival stage at Squamish this year. Their rise might seem sudden, but it certainly isn’t surprising. With the swirling storytelling of “Last Night” and the signature emotional bite behind “Red Horizon,” the Vancouver four-piece are ready to break through.

We caught singer and guitarist Clayton Dupuis on a quiet stretch of grass (next to an aesthetically pleasing parking lot) to talk about their journey into indie-rock and whether or not they actually know anything about oceanography.

LotusLand: Hey there polar bear, could you introduce yourself?

Clayton Dupuis: I’m Clayton, and I sing and play guitar in a band called Oceanographers.

And what’s going on with Oceanographers right now?

We’re taking our first break since we started playing together, because our bassist is in Ireland finishing up university. He’s got a semester there and it’s a good chance for everyone to hit the reset button before we play Squamish music festival in early August.

You also had a recent single called Red Horizon.

We just put that up to stream, yeah. It was one of four songs that we’re going to be releasing on an EP. We don’t know exactly when we’re going to be releasing the EP yet, but probably some time during the summer. It was probably the closest to being cut before we started recording. There was a lot of stuff that we were unhappy with and we totally reworked it last-minute, the day or two before we went into the studio. It ended up being the most ideal track to release, so it became the single by accident.

Cover art by Eva Gil
Cover art by Eva Gil

It’s got some interesting cover art, whose idea was that?

It’s interesting, it’s my girlfriend and her friend. She’s also the photographer of that photo, I don’t know how someone can both be in a photo and take it, but she’s pretty good at that. We thought it was a pretty controversial and captivating picture to stick on a single, so we ran with it. It felt like it fit the song and fit the mood.

You recorded at Monarch Studios, correct?

Yeah, working with Tom [Dobrzanski] is unbelievable. The Zolas were one of the bands in Vancouver that we really looked up to and listened to before we were even playing seriously in a band. To be able to work with someone like Tom…

When you’re working with a producer, you want to be able to take their advice and their ideas as gold. When the band is bickering or unsure about something, the producer holds that weight over somebody because there’s so much respect. It makes it easy, because everyone’s going to get on the same page as the producer. We got to experience that making this record. Whenever we were uncertain, we all trusted Tom enough to trust his instinct and whatever he thought the best choice was.

You’ve got a pretty crazy summer ahead of you as well. What’s it taken to get to the point where you can play on a festival stage?

Our first album and our first recordings were just us learning how to write songs and play in a band. It was a learning process. We don’t sound anything like our first recordings and we’ll probably continue to move  away from that kind of sound. But it’s necessary to make music that isn’t perfect, and make music that isn’t necessarily very good at first. Just make music for the sake of making it, and slowly your craft will grow out of that. You’ll be able to remove the excess ideas and things that aren’t suitable for what you’re trying to do. From a songwriting standpoint, it’s a matter of putting out material, learning from your mistakes, and being critical of what you’ve done before to find things that you want to change.

It’s also a huge step for anyone to decide that music is what they want to pursue in life. What did it take to convince you that music was worth the risk?

I think I knew that I wanted to play in a band before I even graduated high school, but there wasn’t really an opportunity, I hadn’t found people that were interested in the same way. When I started playing with Oceanographers, it was probably a year or two into university that I realized that we wanted to take whatever we were doing in school and put it on the back burner so we could focus on music. It was a gradual thing, but it was only gradual because it didn’t seem like a possibility. I’d always wanted to play music.

We’re going to abuse you with some oceanography questions now.

This is perfect.

Question number 46: What is the maximum water depth of living coral reefs? a) About 20 meters b) About 100 meters c) About 100 meters or d) About 2 kilometers.

Wow. Man, I never did well on multiple choice tests.

I could just not give you the choices, if you’d like. 

[Laughter.] I’m going to go with the shallowest, and I should probably explain where our band name came from, to give insight as to why I’m so oblivious about ocean questions.

Well, you were right about the coral. It’s 20 meters.

Awesome. As for the band name, everyone in the band was a pretty big fan of Wes Anderson, especially the drummer and I. When we met, we were both doing Contemporary Arts at SFU, and we bonded over our love of the movie Life Aquatic. Because they’re oceanographers, it kind of seemed fitting.

This is more fun if you don’t know anything about oceanography, honestly.

I know nothing. Zero.

Question number 39. What type of currents erode and deposit fine sediments on the continental slope and rise? a) Tidal currents b) Turbidity currents c) Longshore currents or d) River currents

Tidal?

Turbidity.

I should have gone with that, it sounded smarter. Bigger words.

Alright. Most volcanic activity on the sea floor takes place on a) Continental shelves b) Abyssal plains c) Continental rises or d) Mid-ocean ridges

It’s either C or D. I’m going to go with D.

Right on. You got two out of three, that’s pretty good.

That’s not bad, all my years of not studying for tests in high school have paid off.

Congratulations. Before settling on Oceanographers, did you have any absolutely terrible band names?

Oh, yeah. I think that the worst runner up was Pelican.

[Laughter.]

I don’t know why. I don’t know where that came from. Other than that, there were some absolutely cliché ones, like the Halicons. I think Pelican was the worst and also the closest to being our band name.

It’s… majestic?

A bird that lives by the water. I don’t know what we were thinking.

Oceanographers are currently hibernating, but they will awaken in time for the Squamish Valley Music Festival. Tickets can be found here.

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