Oceans Of Slumber Muses On Touring And Varied Styles
Dobber Beverly is one of the premiere drummers in the 4th largest city in the United States—Houston. Those who have heard his drumming in extreme bands Demoniacal Genuflection, Insect Warfare and War Master (Oceans guitarist Anthony Contreras also plays in War Master) can attest to his technical skill and speed. With Oceans of Slumber, though, he sought melody over speed. Not that there aren’t really fast parts in the group, but these are part of their dynamics. Singer Cammie Gilbert further adds to the group's harmonious nature. Her voice is smooth, jazzy and emotive.
In addition to writing their own deeply moving, emotional songs, the band has made a name for itself covering classic songs like Emperor’s “The Wanderer,” The Moody Blue’s “Nights in White Satin," and most of, Candlemass’ “Solitude.” The group strikes a balance between capturing the essence of the original song and creating their own, unique take.
The band has released the “Blue” EP and earlier this year the “Winter” album through Century Media records. They have participated in major European tours warming the stage for My Dying Bride and Enslaved. Before a Texas crowd full of friends, Dobber Beverly and Cammie Gilbert answered a few questions pertaining to their albums and recent tours.
Rex_84: Your first full-length recording, “Winter,” has been on shelves for a few months. After having a few months to let the album breathe, how do you feel about it?
Dobber Beverly: We still feel pretty good about it. It’s a very strong record, even coming from us, not to be too biased about it--it’s an odd thing to say, but we’re very happy with it. We knew the record was good. We didn’t think anyone else would think it’s good. Luckily, that’s changed and some people think it’s cool.
Rex_84: What was the recording process like?
Beverly: It was actually broken up over a few different studios because we did pre-production for a handful of songs and then we wound up using the pre-production versions of those songs. We went in and recorded the rest of the tracks around that after we built the rest of the record out. Everything was done digital and it was pretty much all live. We do everything fairly live, a few takes per song and then kind of move on. We kind of stick with whatever we do. Hopefully we are prepared enough when we go into the studio. It was cool and short. We don’t take too long.
Rex_84: Do you play live in your videos?
Beverly: Most of the time.
Rex_84: The title track, “Winter” seems like the glue that holds the whole record together. I see it as your hit single. Do you feel the same way? Do you feel it’s your best song?
Beverly: Probably not for me, personally. I would say it gives the best glimpse into what we do. It makes up everything we do. The thing about the record it was thematically put together, but musically pieced together. One side was cohesive and the other side was mechanical and off the cuff. “Winter” and “Devout” were written around the same time. “Sunlight,” “Turpentine” and “Suffer the Last Bridge” were written a year before that. “This Road” was probably the last song written. The song “Apologue” is actually a Demoniacal Genuflection song that we adapted to Oceans and put clean vocals over. “Apologue” is an absolute evil death metal song. We have a lot more music that we are going to do that with on our new record.
Rex_84: I feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness and solitude in your songs. In fact, you cover the song with that title, “Solitude,” by doom legends Candlemass. Did you pick that song for the emotions it presents?
Cammie Gilbert: We are big fans and take a lot of influence from doom metal. To sing that, I feel like it’s one of my favorite songs. It resonates strongly with the dark void and desolate things that are going on inside that it conveys some of the strong emotions we try to capture in our original works. Definitely motifs that we dabble with heavily. We’re not a happy band. We don’t strive to be.
Beverly: I chose all the covers that we do and I chose that one because it’s such a good song. Two, because it’s an unknown song among younger people. I wanted to show there are newer bands with older members that are still relevant creating that type of music in modern metal. I wanted to reach out and say we exist and are creating new music. Here is our version of this older song. It brings people into newer music back into that. Maybe they investigate further and see where our metal roots and all that stuff came from. That’s the most important thing to me. I have a lot of different branches of music that influence me, but I’m a metal head through and through. I can get with everything from Nationalist black metal, which has nothing to do with me ethics wise, but the vibe and extremity I enjoy, and all the way up to symphonic with bands like Ulver that have ventured further out of it.
Beverly: Yeah, but not hugely. I like them quite a bit. This newer record was a surprise. I’m glad they got all the vocalists back. Our bass player (Keegan Kelly) loves that record. It’s his favorite record of the year, I think. I think it has sections that are amazing, but there are other things out there for me that are stronger. Hell, me falling in love with Enslaved after this tour we did was a pleasant surprise. Seeing them play live every night and seeing them play “Allfoðr Oðinn” was quite a song. We head banged with them for about 30 nights straight.
Rex_84: The video for “Suffer the Last Bridge” shows you walking alone in graveyards and woodlands. Is this another ode to solitude?
Gilbert: “Suffer the Last Bridge” is about someone who does things all the wrong way and continuing and struggling but making the same mistakes and cutting ties with striving to be better. The theme to capture was going with a lonely, introspective sort of theme to the graveyard symbolizing that’s where it finally stops. That’s where things finish or end up whether you figure it out or not. We definitely tried to capture the loneliness and the struggle to try to find yourself or someone else that doesn’t meet you halfway. It’s difficult to want more from someone than they want for themselves. In doing that, you’ll find yourself always coming up short for patching together that relationship.
Rex_84: You offer another cover of a classic song, “Nights in White Satin.” The song retains much of the feel of the original, but you definitely put your own spin on it. How did you manage to find that balance?
Beverly: With a lot of these older songs growing up and being inundated with that style of music as a kid—my brother and my sister listened to that stuff a lot. I liked those songs first as a listener. Then as I got older and into the more technical aspects, metal and all that stuff, I still love those songs. I would listen to them and think those guys are striving for the same things that I do as far as the textures, atmospheres and emotions. They just didn’t have the means, technology and there wasn’t metal in the ’60 and ‘70s. So when I hear a song like “Nights in White Satin” or “Solitude” or “Cashmere” or these other songs, I would hear these big applications for black metal, doom metal, hard electronics and things like that. With “Nights in White Satin” it was the same thing that I felt the stepping up of intensity as the song built. By the time it got to the Mellotron parts and flute solos, I thought it would be cool to have a tremolo-picked guitar part or a blast beat underneath it makes more sense. Instead of it containing the drop down in intensity like it did, we went the opposite direction. As the song goes on, it builds more extreme, more extreme. Even live we play it differently. We change up some of the syncopations of the end parts just because it’s a constantly evolving thing.
Rex_84: Cammie, how did you incorporate this song into your singing style?
Gilbert: I remember researching it. I want to say he was nineteen when he wrote it travelling. I try to find the common ground in where it was written and how it applies to experiences I’ve had and things I’m going through. It’s a pleasure and heart-wrenching song to sing. It is definitely one of our more emotional songs. “Sunlight,” and “This Road” probably get me borderline choked up every time. Stylistically, it’s where I come from and a style that I enjoy singing naturally. It’s always a pleasure to do these covers and pay homage to what they are and the feeling they give people because it’s a sharing or borrowing. They wrote this song and it resonates to people. Then they come after the show and tell you it still resonates with them and I feel like it’s cheating a little bit. I’ll receive that and send it where it’s supposed to go. It’s definitely meaningful and powerful to cover these songs, definitely that one.
Rex_84: Cammie, did you write the lyrics?
Beverly: No, the band did. We wrote everything, start to finish. “Lullaby” is hers. She edited us. She’s a really good writer. She edited everything we needed and she changed anything that she wanted. The whole band moved forward on the whole album. She will take all of it, lyrically, on the next record. Well, most of it. We have some sketches. Basically, we will have her come in and interpret what we write.
Rex_84: Cammie, what artists/writers influenced you?
Gilbert: Artists-wise, I grew up listening to my mom’s oldies-but-goodies. She was into everything from Luther Vandross to bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, The Gathering--Anneke van Giersbergen’s era and now being obsessed with her, in general. Writing wise, I never thought about it. Just reading in general and being concise, detailed and direct as possible—really honing in on describing that experience and the old, juicy parts of bad feelings. I try to capture that. I’ll have to think about that. Where do I get my writing influences? I just jabber on. It comes from my own personal terribleness.
Beverly: She as a background in psychology.
Gilbert: I definitely enjoy the unraveling of sanity. There are these ideas and perceptions that we take for granted and then something happens and it shatters all of that. Someone dies, abuse, a terrible accident or a world catastrophe—all of those things change these thoughts and ideas that you take for granted. I take pleasure in it. I find it interesting and intriguing when people make that switch. When that shift happens there is a switch in psychology from the absolute to the grey area. When you see life is not black-and-white or easily defined for a simpleton. I like the complicated areas of life where colors cascade and merge. I like to write about those things. I’ve always kept journals. My bookshelf is filled with journals. I maybe never go back and read them. I’m real big on Lovecraft right now. I think his stories, how they are shaped and the whole worlds, I find so cool. It seems really, really difficult to do what he made seem pretty simple. I like his style of writing. There are these worlds and short stories and pieces of those worlds. I would say the style is the biggest one I strive to get into, fictional wise. Otherwise it’s an organic bleeding of my own heart.
Rex_84: Tell me more about your tour with Enslaved. When did this occur?
Beverly: September 28th through November 11th. That was thirty-four shows. We did three festivals: Euroblast, Rockstadt and Damnation Festival. Big tour, we did it in a van old school. Very brutal. It’s a big van, but it’s a van, still. It was rough. We were in Europe as fall hit. It was cool, about three weeks into the tour we went to Greece. Greece was like 78-85 degrees. So that kind of sucked once you are used to the cold weather. We flew from Copenhagen to Athens the next day and from Athens to Berlin, so we went from 40 degrees to 80 degrees back to 30 degrees. It was pretty intense. The tour was great. Good turn outs. Everything was good for us. Grutle and Cato are the big jokers. Ivar is like a big teddy bear. He’s very soft spoken. Grutle is like this over-energized, A.D.D., Viking guy. He’s really quirky with what he does. He’s a funny character, for sure. Good front person, good guy.
Cato, their drummer, is some kind of Norwegian fisherman/outdoorsman legend. They are supposed to come over and go to the Trinity River with me. They are mystified by this alligator gar that was caught there. The guy that caught this world-record gar is my uncle’s best friend. A guy named Bobby Fly. The last night we started hanging out, they started carrying on about this alligator gar. I asked how they even knew about this. They said they watched “River Monsters.” They didn’t believe me when I told them my uncle’s best friend was the person who caught it. He’s a crazy-ass old man. He’s a legend in the area we are from. He got jumped in the Philippines by a machete squad while they were on leave from an offshore job. One of the guys stuck a machete in his forearm, he pulled the machete from his forearm and hacked the guy in his neck. He hacked another guy. It was a group of them that attacked a group of Americans. He killed a couple of guys and got out alive. Hardcore old man. Then he came home, got hit by a car and it chopped his legs off. They are interested in coming and meeting my uncle, dad and family. They have tons of guns and hunt on a ranch, so they are interested in it.
Rex_84: What was it like touring with My Dying Bride? They are an influence on you guys, right?
Beverly: Of mine, absolutely. That was amazing. I like Enslaved, for sure. I like some Enslaved records, but My Dying Bride is a band that I love. The tour with them was master class. The way they ran their operation, the way they treated everybody, the way things were ran…
Gilbert: They are like family.
Beverly: They are gentlemen and a lady.
Rex_84: Did they buy you a pint?
Beverly: Lots of wine, actually. Aaron (Stainthorpe) drinks a lot of wine. The funny thing is he is a bit more playful than what you would expect. He has a filthy mouth—bad, terrible jokes. He’s crass as hell. He fits right in with us. He’s super cool. We’ve made long-term friends with most of the band since that tour. Every time we are in England, we see the bass player (Lena Abé) or Shaun (Macgowan)—the keyboardist and violinist or the drummer. Andy (Craighan-guitars), Calvin (Robertshaw-guitars) and Aaron are old men. They never leave their house. They never go anywhere. They were there for Damnation Festival. We were in Halifax where most of them live now. Shaun put us up for the evening and took us out and fed us breakfast the next day. Doing that in the beginning of the year was very much a spoiling for us. I wish we could do it again. I talked to them about coming to Texas and us doing a festival. That would be the one. That’s what we should do. We are talking about doing a fest next fall in Houston, a big fest, and having something like that.
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