Popdose last caught up with David Schelzel of The Ocean Blue in March of 2013 (read it here) as the band was about to release, Ultramarine, their first album of new material since 2004’s Waterworks EP. Now here we are more than a year and a half later to celebrate today’s release of an expanded Waterworks on digital, vinyl and CD.
SPOILER ALERT: In this new interview, David fills us in on the inspiration to revisit Waterworks, plans for the next Ocean Blue record, new music you may hear before year’s end and a potential super group that’s in the works.
POPDOSE: When we last talked, Ultramarine was weeks away from release and the tour had yet to begin. So here we are a year later, did everything live up to your hopes and expectations?
DAVID SCHELZEL: We are really happy with the record and the tour. We went in with zero expectations and were pleasantly surprised with the reception. People liked the record a lot, old fans and new. It received some nice critical press too. When you work on something for a long time you can lose perspective, so the response was really nice.
Your last EP, Waterworks, was released in 2004 — soon after the sales peak of the industry and before the rise Napster and iTunes. This time around, you’re on your own label, Korda Records. How did Ultramarine fare in this new world?
Well again, we didn’t have expectations. And there were some nice surprises. Ultramarine enjoyed really good numbers on iTunes; digital accounted for many times over what we sold physically. We did a multiple runs of CDs and the vinyl sold really well too. Ultramarine is the first album since our debut to be on vinyl, so that was exciting for a lot of fans.
Did streaming sites dent your sales?
We look at streaming a lot like we used to look at radio, it gets your music to people and helps promote the band, the records and the shows. We’ve had countless plays on Spotify and other streaming platforms; it’s great for many reasons but the royalties unfortunately don’t amount to much.
From the posts on your facebook page, it seemed like the tour was a big success…
Yes, I think so. Most of the shows last year sold out, and we had a really enjoyable time traveling together and playing for great crowds. The touring is a lot to plan for, logistics, promotions, etc., so that’s why we stuck to the East and West coasts, the Midwest and some stops in South America. We heard from a lot of disappointed fans in cities we didn’t make it to, and would love to get to more places down the road as we can. I hope with the next record we’ll be able to do that.
The media landscape has also changed since Waterworks; the new world is great for sites like Popdose because we have the chance to talk to our favorite artists.
Yes, media has really changed during our time making music. A huge shift to social networks. We certainly couldn’t have done what we did without that shift. But some traditional media did come through for us, and then echoed across the Web. We had an Associated Press story that was picked up in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and scores of other newspapers plus The Huffington Post. And a great USA Today feature. I saw all of them online and completely forgot to pick up a physical copy like I used to. Today you premiere your video on sites like Stereogum instead of MTV. Less TV and radio; more YouTube and blogs like Popdose.
Last week, PopMatters premiered the entrancing and surprisingly Joy Division-esque ‘Can’t Let Go’:
Somewhat. We wanted to revisit that release for a couple of reasons. One was artistic; the other more practical. Waterworks went out of print on CD over a year ago. And it never came out on vinyl. As we looked at a vinyl pressing and a new CD run, we thought about what we might do to make the whole thing more interesting. The 2004 release was the outcome of sessions that I had hoped would amount to a full length album, but I didn’t think we had that at the time. Hence the EP. But looking back at the sessions, we did have enough songs recorded to bring the EP up to full length. Most of the tracks on the original EP were written by our guitarist, Oed Ronne; one was also co-written with Allen Clapp. So we listened to the recordings of the other songs from those sessions and picked three more that we liked best. Two are mine, ‘Golden Girl’ and ‘Can’t Let Go’. The third is Oed’s cover of ‘Take a Broken Heart’ — it’s a Burt Bacharach/Hal David Song originally sung by Ricky Nelson.
Did you re-master these tracks or hit the studio to finish them up?
Not really. No changes to the original tracks. And we added just some percussion to some of the new ones in a few spots. It was tempting to go back and gussy them up, but we resisted that.
So what’s next for you and The Ocean Blue?
We all still balance the rest of our lives with making music with the band; those things will always run parallel; I’m also working on some new projects, one with my friend Don Peris and another new project with some interesting and much more famous people.
Dare I say, a supergroup? Please be a supergroup.
Let’s just say surprisingly kindred spirits. More details to come.
The project with Don is a Christmas record. We’ve been doing songs around the holidays for years so this time we are trying to finish a proper full-length holiday album that should come out later this year. Or next. We’ve also started work on the next Ocean Blue record.
Til David & Don’s record comes out, be sure to check out one of their previous collaborations:[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/72444240″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
What’s the rest of the band up to?
Peter (Anderson) is a session musician and producer, so he always has a lot of projects in motion. Oed is a designer and graphics guy. Bobby Mittan, on the other hand, is locked down with an ironclad contract to only play bass with The Ocean Blue (laughs).
We’re heading out a short tour this fall. For (last week’s) show at the Troubadour in LA, we had two great bands on the bill with us. Parlor Suite is wonderful — we’ve worked with their drummer before — their sound is Americana turned electronica. The Western Lows sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain meets My Bloody Valentine. We hit the East Coast (New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Wilmington and DC) in October.
And with that, we wrapped our interview and David sailed away.
The Ocean Blue’s Waterworks
EP LP was always a curious coda to the band’s initial run. Granted, the extra copy of the original EP that I squirreled away to eventually sell on eBay has probably plummeted in value like my Princess Beanie Baby, but the new full-length version (four out of five stars) makes it all worthwhile and a must-have for fans old and new. ‘Golden Girl’ is gorgeous and bridges the sonic gap to Ultramarine. ‘Can’t Let Go’, as previously mentioned, recalls Joy Division, or at least what their next album would have sounded like had Ian stuck around to enjoy the Eighties. ‘Take a Broken Heart’ sounds like a sad song, but it’s impossible not to smile ear to ear while listening to it; the cover is kinda left field for the band (who previously covered Sire labelmates, the Smiths), but serves a wonderful and sunny sojourn.
Waterworks is available digitally via iTunes, Amazon MP3 and other outlets. You can pick up the vinyl and CD editions at your neighborhood record store (if you’re lucky enough to have one) or directly from the band. And if you have yet to experience Ultramarine, one of the band’s best albums, get on that right away (today, at least, it’s on sale here for only $5.99)!