‘Flip Phone Fantasy’ is the new album just released by Victorian band Ocean Grove.
To say it’s been a pivotal year for Ocean Grove is an understatement.
Despite major changes to the band’s line-up, the now four-piece have risen from the ashes and brought forth their genre-spanning sophomore album ‘Flip Phone Fantasy’. The day after returning from their tour of Europe and United Kingdom with Crossfaith and Black Futures, frontman Dale Tanner is happy to be soaking up the Melbourne sunshine at home while bassist Twiggy Hunter is getting his hair bleached. Both agree they’re “feeling really good”.
When I spoke to Dale and Twiggy, it was two days before the release of the new album – their first record following the departure of founding members Luke Holmes and Jimmy Hall.
“The time that the conversation was brought up whether I would ever consider joining the band, I was in LA weighing up whether I wanted to eventually move over there,” Twiggy says.
After learning the surprising news of Luke and Jimmy’s departure, and some back and forth over the phone with drummer Sam Bassal and manager Caleb Williams, Twiggy decided to head back to Australia. He booked his flight home for the week after and officially joined the fold in January 2019.
“I feel completely liberated and like I can truly harness who I am as a performer and artist now that I’m doing the exact thing I know and love.” - Dale Tanner
Within a month, the refreshed group unleashed the frenetic earworm ‘Ask For The Anthem’, announced Twiggy as their new bassist with Dale Tanner taking over on lead vocals (via a Tony Hawk-inspired game loading screen video, no less) and set off on tour with Hands Like Houses.
The new era of Ocean Grove had officially begun and their momentum was unstoppable. When the group started working on ‘Flip Phone Fantasy’, existing tracks were scrapped or rearranged.
The band spent days on end at drummer Sam’s home studio, who doubles as Ocean Grove’s producer and sound engineer (“the master controller, we call him,” Twiggy says), paying rent for houses they were barely living in at the time.
According to both Dale and Twiggy, it was this creative energy that allowed the group to find their feet as a unit and impart their respective influences into the melting pot that is ‘Flip Phone Fantasy’.
“For any band,” Twiggy shares, “having new members join is a make or break moment, so we thought we’ve literally got nothing to lose. Why not go into it with clear heads and come up with the best stuff we’ve ever written?”
The concept behind ‘Flip Phone Fantasy’ embodies the idea of a mixtape encompassing a range of genres, harkening back to the sounds (and technology) of the '90s and early '00s.
Over its 40-minute runtime, the record evokes the feel of Linkin Park, The Prodigy, Oasis and Alice In Chains, melded with the heavy self-proclaimed ‘odd world’ style the band has come to be known for. “We were never going to discard the core sounds and energy that our fans have grown to love in terms of our heavier tracks,” Dale says.
“But at the same time, we weren’t shying away from embracing those Brit-rock and grunge sounds that appear on the album, which is a step in a new direction.”
According to the vocalist, the band’s shakeup enabled the members to refine their writing process and work collaboratively in a way they hadn’t experienced before.
With its previous six musicians contributing ideas, the band’s roles were sometimes confusing – as an example, Dale says that Running Touch and Sam would often write guitar parts despite not playing the instrument live.
This time around, the four-piece’s responsibilities were clearly defined, allowing them to focus their energy on songwriting. “It was the first time where I truly understood the power of being a team,” Dale says.
“Sometimes too many hands in the pot can be bad, but if you do it in the right way it can be really helpful and I think that’s the first time we harnessed that.
“It’s thrilling to know that we’re opening the eyes of people that may have a preconceived notion of what it means to be a heavy band. We throw those ideas out the window and just say, ‘hey, come on over here and have a taste – we promise you’ll have fun and enjoy it'.”
In addition to Twiggy joining the band, Dale hanging up the bass and assuming his new role as frontman injected a new dynamic into the way the group worked together. After assisting Luke with backup vocals since the band’s formation in 2010, Dale’s progression to lead vocalist required a shift in thinking.
“I love Luke. We’ve been best friends since before the band when we were 12 and will continue to be best friends until long after the band’s done. But I know the things that Luke did, I might not ever be able to do,” he shares.
“The first thing to come to terms with was the fact that I was going to be bringing my own style and flavour and being okay with that, not trying to just mirror and replicate what Luke had done.”
Like Twiggy’s assimilation into the band though, Dale’s experience as Ocean Grove’s new frontman has been a natural and rewarding process. “Playing guitar was a gateway for me into music and something I enjoyed mucking around on, but deep down I was always a singer and a vocalist. I’ve sung ever since I could talk,” he says.
“I feel completely liberated and like I can truly harness who I am as a performer and artist now that I’m doing the exact thing I know and love.”
The future of Ocean Grove in its latest iteration looks bright. The band is thrilled about their latest foray into musical experimentation, with Twiggy stating that each member is “at the peak of our creativity and happiness”.
He continues: “We owe it all to the people who get behind us and give us a reason to pursue this lifestyle. The whole process meant so much to me and I hold it close to my heart. We’re all proud to call this album ours and it’s really true to who we are.”