Forward Motion: Q&A with The Only Ocean

Post Author: Myles Hunt

L.A. indie rockers talk dream concerts & creating during quarantine

It’s time to get lost in the airwaves once again in the sweltering summer heat – and despite the crappy events surrounding the world. Only good tunes will save the day and keep everything in an optimistic motion forward. It seems best to start from California, a state that is attempting to find that safe normal once again. Luckily, The Only Ocean, a promising rising quartet, are one of the acts paving the way. They just released their latest single and shared music video, “Watch It Fall” via Side Hustle Records, and its honesty can be shared among many listeners. Recorded with Jonathan DeBaun with music video direction from Joshua Drew, it was all hands on deck to see the song to fruition.

The track will have listeners tapping away immediately. Its catchy rhythm funnels through with ease. Vocals enter the fray with twinkling goodness to follow, and melodic harmonies lead to the expanse of chaotic glory. Such pleasant madness arrives in cataclysmic fashion with an unusual grace. The allegorical message of “Watch It Fall” cannot be ignored, nor can its relatable energy not be felt. It somehow finds a way to match the feelings of all who are stuck in this bizarrely scary time. While there’s plenty of good within, as many have seen, it’s hard not to explore the stress that everyone shares collectively as a species. The Only Ocean has succeeded in gifting a song that is an encapsulation of even a sliver of that shared emotion. Empathy has never been more unified. 

Band members Wesley Hill, Tamara Simons, Jonathan Palmquist and Jordan Kaufman all took the time to elaborate on the wild journey that has been their world in 2020. You can read their thoughts and listen to “Watch It Fall” below.

How have all of you survived Covid-19? Have you made the most of it all?

Wesley: There have definitely been so many ups and downs during all this, but for the most part I’ve enjoyed everything being put on pause for the moment. It’s given me time to focus on things that I wasn’t able to before.

Tamara: I’ve been cooking more, and trying to be adventurous in the kitchen. Oh, and every Saturday is called “covers night” where I just play along to songs, sigh.

Jordan: [I’ve been] self-isolating and minimizing exposure to anyone outside my household. Podcasts and video games have been a godsend.

Jonathan: My girlfriend moved in with me when the quarantine started and we got engaged!

Have there been any great creative moments that have sprung from this time in quarantine?

Wesley: Being able to write with everyone has been really refreshing. We set up a Google Drive at the beginning for quarantine and everyone’s been putting any idea they have in it. In the last four months, we’ve got 30+ songs. It’s been the most collaborative I’ve ever been when it comes to writing and I’m really happy with everything we’ve done so far.

Jonathan: Before quarantine we were more focused on playing live, but these circumstances have allowed us time to work on brand new material for the first time with our new band lineup. We’ve worked by each coming up with and uploading our own ideas and feeding off of what others have done. This allows us to each have our contributions while maintaining collaboration. The bad thing is that since we’re not practicing in person, we can’t organically jam on our ideas, so working off of each other’s uploads takes time and patience.

How has this new body of work evolved your sound and approach to the craft?

Wesley: We’ve been touching on different styles. We’ve written some of the slowest songs and fast songs the bands ever done. There’s a healthy balance of everything with these new songs. Weirder the better for me.

Jonathan: With the new quarantine ideas being the first that I’m involved with creatively, I’m excited to add my own sound and character. I’ve also been lucky enough to buy lots of new percussive sound effects and upgrade my cymbals, which adds a wealth of musical and sonic possibilities.

What is the first thing you plan to do when this damn virus is done for?

Wesley: Simple answer, just being able to hang out with as many of my friends as possible. I miss hanging out in large groups of people. That and of course it’d be great to play a show. At this point I’d play anywhere.

Tamara: I’m going to scream in excitement but with a mask on of course, and play a damn show!

Is there an ideal venue you hope to perform at in the future?

Wesley: I’d love to play the Fonda Theater. It’s always been one of my favorite venues in LA to see a show.

Tamara: Hollywood Bowl, I worked there for ten years. Wow, to go there and see all my old bosses is the ideal dream!

Jordan: I’m excited to play at any venue. Unfortunately, some great venues that we were hoping to play at have closed as a result of COVID.

Jonathan: The Greek Theatre, such a great atmosphere. 

What is your dream show? Is there fire, explosions, unicorns, zombies, etc?

Wesley: I’d love to play with Lil Nas X

Tamara: I’d love the Spice Girls to join us on stage for a song because why the hell not?! I want Jonathan to have a drum roller coaster. I would love the show to feel and visually be like the Flaming Lips, David Bryne, St. Vincent or an Arcade Fire show.

Jordan: I just want to give my best performance to the biggest audience with the best tone. However, if I’m getting specific, my dream show would have an insane light show and we’d all stand on risers that could shift closer if we wanted to interact with each other. We’d all also have a crazy selection of instruments that would be specific to certain songs. It would be LOUD!

Jonathan: I want a black stage with each member in their own box, elevated 10-20 feet off the ground and moving around. Each box is surrounded with one-way mirror glass, so that it looks like there are infinite copies when they’re lit up. Something Es Devlin would design.

What advice can you share to other creatives, in any medium, during these strange times?

Wesley: Enjoy the time you have to create. When you’re in the hustle of shows and practice, sometimes it’s hard to sit down and write music. At this point no idea is too weird, so push yourself and see what you can come up with.

Tamara: Don’t give up, it will be okay and you can get through this.

Jordan: Use the time to work on yourself while also thinking of others. Routine makes it difficult to disrupt recurring behaviors, so having that routine interrupted can be beneficial. If everyone comes out of COVID as a healthier and more empathetic person, that is a win.

Jonathan: Don’t lose hope, the industry will have to adjust but it’s not going away. Stay focused on creating something that you believe in.