DATE OF INTERVIEW:
OCEANS OF SLUMBER
7th October 2016
DOBBER BEVERLY; CAMMIE GILBERT
In March this year, Oceans of Slumber delivered one of the finest albums of 2016 to date, with their sophomore full-length offering, 'Winter'. A platter of music characterised by a genuinely progressive mindset, and sincerity of both emotion and compositional imagination, it's a sophisticated work of art; an unmitigated masterpiece. Featuring the beautiful, powerful, moving, widely expressive and tonally gorgeous vocals of Cammie Gilbert, the album's atmospheric instrumentations are elevated to sublime levels rarely hit within any genre of music. Without a doubt, this bunch of musicians from Houston, Texas, are the real deal. Over in the UK as main support to Ne Obliviscaris for half a dozen shows, drummer Dobber Beverly and Cammie settled down with Metal Discovery outside the Rebellion in Manchester, a short while after their soundcheck, for a natter about 'Winter', catharsis, the emotional sincerity of their live performances, just where such an incredible voice comes from, and cover versions, as well as frequent divergences into a variety of other interesting discussions...
METAL DISCOVERY: ‘Winter’ was a 10 out of 10 masterpiece for me in my review. Has it been glowing reviews all round?
DOBBER: Yeah, it’s been incredibly well received; like, better than we could’ve expected, which is awesome. I mean, we love the record so, when we created it and finished it, we were like, “oh, this is awesome.” But, when you hand that out to somebody, you kinda…
(Cammie Gilbert on performing live)
"...a lot of performances are almost decompressing in front of everyone. It’s a bit like ripping yourself open in front of everyone and allowing them to see you decomposed and see you with raw emotion...It’s exciting to perform but it’s also very exhausting, emotionally. It takes a lot to be that vulnerable in front of everyone."
Oceans of Slumber - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2015 Jeremy Pierson
MD: It’s out there in the world.
DOBBER: Yeah, once you release your kid and they’re like, “your kid fucking sucks”… you know, so when they started coming back, we were fucking super goddam happy.
MD: Do you personally regard it as a masterpiece you’ve created?
DOBBER: Oh, hell no. It’s just a picture, you know. It’s kinda marking a time period for us; that’s how we see it.
MD: The album’s rich with atmosphere and there are so many profound emotional depths to the music in the most organic sounding of ways, so did the creative process feel like a very natural one, in terms of both songwriting and recording?
DOBBER: Oh yeah, yeah. We finished the record a while before Cammie came in and replaced our original vocalist. So, in writing it, we burned through the writing process in an incredible amount of time. We finished our first record, ‘Aetherial’, and we probably had ‘Winter’ finished about six months after that.
DOBBER: Yeah, we write too fast! That’s why ‘Blue’ came out. We’d actually finished ‘Winter’ and needed to chill, and had to stop. So, when Cammie came in, we had this grand idea of what we were gonna do because I’m heavily, heavily, heavily into English hard rock and prog rock and a few of the other guys are, too. And, so, we were throwing around a few ideas of Deep Purple songs we wanted to redo; you know, ‘Sail Away’, which has the hardest fucking organ intro in the entire world! And, so, when we got to some things, I was like: “What’s the guitar solo of all guitar solos? But we can’t do ‘Comfortably Numb’.” And we were like, “well, let’s do ‘On the Turning Away’” because I had some ideas for some different cool arrangements. But we had to do it all live, which made it harder. We’re a limited band – it’s not like we have some huge budget. The whole ‘Blue’ record was done for about a thousand dollars.
MD: So you didn’t track everything individually?
DOBBER: No, it was all live.
MD: All live in the studio, then…
DOBBER: Yeah, every bit of that was live.
MD: That makes it even more impressive, I have to say, because ‘Solitude’s is probably one of the best Candlemass covers I’ve heard. You’ve really captured the essence of the original, in the vocals and the music.
DOBBER: Oh man, what a song! And that’s why it came about. You and I are probably closer to the same metal generation and I have this ongoing thing about there needs to be more metalheads in metal, and there’s not. And I was thinking about songs like ‘Solitude’… because I would’ve done something like ‘Crystal Ball’ or ‘A Sorcerer’s Pledge’ or something, if it was me. But, as an introduction to Candlemass, I’m like, “well, let’s do ‘Solitude’”… because, for us older cads, ‘Solitude’ is just like, yeah, a badass song, and the younger people are like, “who?”… which is sad as hell.
MD: ‘The Bells of Acheron’ next… that’s one of my all-time favourite Candlemass songs!
MD: Did you get any feedback from the Candlemass guys for your cover?
DOBBER: Everybody in the band and everybody in Avatarium, other than Leif [Edling]. So, everybody came back to us and thought it was amazing, and that was like a “thank you” moment; you know, we didn’t even think anyone even listened to it – we’re a new band but we’re not new people, so…
MD: Leif is still not too well at the moment, I gather.
DOBBER: No. Marcus Jidell, the guitarist for Avatarium, is a pretty good friend of mine, and he played with Evergrey, who are a band I Iove, and I messaged him, and I was asking him, “did you and Jennie check out the Candlemass cover?” And he was like, “it’s fucking brilliant, I’ve sent it to everybody, and they think it’s brilliant too.” And I was like: “What about Leif? That’s the one I wanna hear from.”
MD: The main man.
DOBBER: And he was like, “he hasn’t said anything and he probably won’t.” I’m like, “oh man, that sucks…”
MD: You’ve talked in previous interviews about the cathartic nature and potential of ‘Winter’ for listeners, but was it born from a collective catharsis for the band? Was it a cathartic experience for yourselves, writing and recording the album?
DOBBER: Yeah, the instrumentations and everything, if you don’t pour some kind of… you know, it’s the Beethoven thing – music without passion is a bastard, basically. So, it’s the same for us live as it is for us to record; you know, we have an idea of what we want but we need to channel a certain thing. You’ve got to get yourself to a certain mood and it’s an amazing thing because the creative process is the catharsis and you’re like, “I’m able to pour myself into this”, and, while I’m playing, it’s like some kind of transfiguration of this into some sonic texture. The most important part of it is doing that and it’s the most important part of us playing live; it’s the same thing; it’s a very emotional process.
And, writing the record, we’re always shooting for… nothing to play upon your emotions, because this is not marketing; this is not PR for us; it’s for me, it’s for Sean and Anthony and Keegan; it’s the way that we collectively hear and see things. There’s a grand design and the arrangements stuff and the direction of what we do, it’s singular as a group but it’s also a vision that comes a lot from the way that I see and hear things in the world. And I’m happily surrounded by some of my closest friends in the world, who also happen to be some of the most brilliant musicians and interpreters. So, if I have a story and I have an idea or, say, riffs or something, I can just give it to them and say, “you do what you hear for what I’m doing, and I do what I hear for what I’m doing”, and we just play off each other. So, yes, it’s incredibly emotional and it’s incredibly deep and it’s very real. And, when we play, it’s very real.
MD: How about you, Cammie, do you experience catharsis through the live performance?
CAMMIE: I’d say that a lot of performances are almost decompressing in front of everyone. It’s a bit like ripping yourself open in front of everyone and allowing them to see you decomposed and see you with raw emotion. There’s no detaching everything that went into a song and performing it live. Like, that’s where it comes alive; that’s what it is. And it’s always equally intense to get that reflection back from people when you know it kind of connects with them. It’s exciting to perform but it’s also very exhausting, emotionally. It takes a lot to be that vulnerable in front of everyone.
DOBBER: Well, it’s not painting by numbers. You know, music, for us, is not mapped out. So, we don’t show up and play the record. There’s colours every day; there’s changes in your life every day, and we reflect that. I certainly do… if there’s some monumental event in your life… it’s like: “You guys are coming to see the band. If you’re coming to see the record then just listen to the record. If you’re coming to see our personalities and something come to life, then you might like what we’re doing.”
MD: Marvellous! The cover art is incredible. The more you look at it, the more it seems to reveal. Did you give the artist, Costin Chioreanu, free reign for the design?
DOBBER: Yeah, absolutely.
MD: Did he listen to the music first and then create something around that?
DOBBER: I gave him the whole record months and months before anything was happening. The thing in the professional world, or when you start building a professional network, is that you’re hiring or contacting them for a particular reason. It’s the same thing as I was saying before: “I don’t need you to interpret my idea of what this picture is; I need you to interpret my idea and that’s it.” And so, when I gave him the record, he sent me this piece of surrealistic art and I looked at it, and I was like, “no”. He was so frustrated because he was like, “I have to do this justice to what this record is and what this record means to me.”
He’s an Eastern Europe, romantic type of guy, so he was very angry at himself and he was just angry about the situation, which is amazing because it meant he cared about it, you know. And, I just said: “So, send me your next thing. Listen to it and what does the record say?” He was like, “this is what it says to me”, and he sent me the concept art for the cover and I said, “that’s it; that’s it completely.” It’s the world expanded and it’s like life coming out of this individual. This guy’s just there and it’s like life exploding out of you. It’s what all of this is, you know. It takes a bravery to live a certain way…
MD: I guess Costin kind of went through his own catharsis, you could say.
DOBBER: I think every album cover he does, to a degree, is like that. He usually only takes on things he cares about a lot.