By fusing together colourful poetry and exotic rhythms , Hey Ocean! is quietly carving their name into the Canadian music scene.
“Some things were made for one thing / For me, that one thing was the sea”
The following lines from the group’s enchanting number “Fish” couldn’t speak the truth with any more passion. Each and every life form that calls Earth its nest knows they were born for a single purpose. In some cases, most of us won’t discover our purpose until it hits us square in the face, while others may not find it at all. There are a few who might present valid arguments, but Hey Ocean! was brought into this world to captivate the souls and senses of individuals with their incomparable breed of music.
Not many listeners around the country know who the young Vancouver four-piece is, but because of their colourful creativity and astounding talents, their popularity is fated to skyrocket. Together, Ashleigh Ball, David Beckingham, Dave Vertesi and Dan Klenner emit an exquisite noise that’s like a rare and brilliant abstract painting. Along with mesmerizing, hip vocals and a groovy rhythm section, they’ve used shades of funk, jazz, folk and reggae to create a masterpiece that defines their name.
One thing that makes Hey Ocean! stand out from the crowd of aspiring musicians is their blinding chemistry. A single glance at the band when they’re together will introduce you to a level of friendship barely seen in the music universe. The reason for such a bold statement is due to the ties which bind the group’s instruments together.
“I’ve known Ashleigh for a while now because we’ve known each other since grade five,” says vocalist/guitarist David Beckingham. “A couple years ago we started playing shows and then we met Dave and we started to play a lot more. We definitely felt chemistry when we first started and since we’re all starting to write songs, we keep building more and more chemistry.”
Having such personal relationships has helped mold the band into what they are today. Without it, they wouldn’t have been able to create the music that leaks from their voices and amps and they wouldn’t have been able to claim the name they carry with them.
“Hey Ocean! came from us yelling at the ocean in Costa Rica,” laughs Beckingham. “It had been two weeks without any sunshine and lots of rain and we couldn’t surf even though were staying in a town known for it. So after two weeks of not being able to surf, we went down to the beach and basically went crazy and started yelling angrily at the ocean, going ‘HEY OCEAN! WHAT THE F**K!?’ So when we were trying to come up with a band name we looked back on that day and decided to use that as our name.”
Even though the musicians screamed profanities at the water that surrounded a tropical island, the band’s collective voice is actually soothing. Comprised of an stunning angel who’s the ultimate hipster at heart (Ashleigh Ball) and a soulful crooner who can swoon you with a hint of his raspy voice (Beckingham), Hey Ocean are one of the most talented bands when it comes to vocals. All because of what they bring with them to the dazzling spotlight.
“Ashleigh went to a performing arts school so she has had some kind of vocal coaching,” notes Beckingham. “I really haven’t had any though but I kind of grew up around the church and that’s when I started singing.”
Along with the two main vocalists, the band has been recently showing a collaborative effort as each member is consistently contributing to the songwriting process. Instead of having one individual solely write the lyrics, the group has started to brainstorm together to come up with new material.
“The idea of a song usually comes from everybody,” explains bassist Dave Vertesi. “Like we had a competition one time when we were on the road and since we were split up into different vehicles, we decided to see who could write the raddest song by the time we reached our destination.”
When it comes to songwriting, Hey Ocean! is influenced by everything that surrounds them. Even though they hail from the picturesque west-coast, they’re inspired mostly by what they see when they’re on the road, especially the extravagant landscapes that shape Canada.
“I actually had an interview with CBC Radio the other day and they were talking about how people become inspired by Canadian wilderness,” says Beckingham. “It definitely inspires us because we like to get outdoors and write songs based on stuff like that, like the ocean. There are a lot of oceanic references in our songs but we honestly don’t even mean for that to happen!”
“Our music just kind of happened,” says Vertesi. “Like when we first started out our sound was completely different because we were influenced by different things. Its hard for some people now to event point out what kind of music is Hey Ocean!. Like we get a lot of feedback from the industry with people asking us to pick a genre, pick one singer and just make up our mind already!”
Despite being scolded by the industry, Hey Ocean! recently took their unorthodox style and sound with them on a nationwide tour. Hitting stops from British Columbia to Ontario in a van they’ve had for almost two years, the band has gotten use to the touring lifestyle. Instead of tearing each other’s limbs apart, the group passed the time by listening to Canadian music and favourites like Radiohead and Patrick Watson. This time around, the band did have to deal with a surprise flu bug (that was solved with extreme amounts of sleep) but that didn’t stop them from enjoying life on the road.
“It’s definitely been great,” says Beckingham. “We’ve been touring with Spiral Beach right now and they’ve been an awesome band to tour with. Like to play after them, their energy on stage is so wicked because it sets us up. They make us want to kind of outdo ourselves a little bit. They’re great musicians and great people in general.”
When a long tour comes around, unusual experiences come with them. During a show in Edmonton, the band got to experience something new: what its like when their bassist’s instrument unexpectedly cuts out.
“It happened right in the first song. We got up on stage, got set and literally everything was working fine,” laughs Vertesi. “We started hyping people up and then as we started to play the first song, my bass just wouldn’t play. It just wasn’t my night! Like it happened four other times! I tried using another amp but it just kept cutting out so I ended up using a guitar. But then after the first four bars of the next song, I ended up breaking a string.”
“And it was a completely packed club that night too,” states Beckingham. “People told us after the show that even though they were bummed about the sound, they still enjoyed the show. It was probably the most discouraging show for us but the crowd was so great. Like we kept thinking, if everything was working, we probably would have nailed it that night.”
Even on a bad day, Hey Ocean! can bring out the best in people. Their live performances are almost legendary as their music can sensually touch your ears and force your mind to reminisce about memorable times you’ve shared with friends. Standing in one spot with your hands in your pockets at one of their shows isn’t a choice, as you’ll find yourself smiling, laughing and trying to show your friends you can actually dance like a normal person.
Now that more music junkies are tuning into the band’s music, they’re becoming famous by the minute. Their video for the insanely catchy single “A Song About California” topped the MuchMoreMusic charts, surpassing mainstream artists everyone’s grandparents recognize. Such accomplishments are defining milestones for young, new artists, especially those who don’t live in Toronto, the proclaimed capital of Canadian music.
“It’s nice because its good to know that you’ve worked pretty hard and toured a lot,” says Beckingham. “Like if we pushed the touring, we’d definitely be overwhelmed. But it’s nice to know you’ve been working hard especially since we’ve been self-promoted.”
Staying true to their music, fame and fortune aren’t a goal for Hey Ocean!. Their focus is on sharing the music they create with those willing to listen and those who enjoy having a good time. When it comes to others hearing their name, Beckingham says all they want is for people to look past the letters in the two words.
“We don’t want the illusion that we’re all big surfers and we create surf music. Like when I think about The Beatles, I don’t think about little bugs with shells and wings, I think about the songs. So I hope when people eventually hear our name, they go ‘Oh yeah, I know their tunes’.”