Music Interviews

Interview: Oceansize

With second album Everyone Into Position in the shops and lodged in fans’ hearts, Oceansize show no signs of slowing down.

The record is the Manchester band’s second in as many years but they look set to occupy the section of record collections marked “cherished, unknown gems”.

musicOMH caught up with front man Mike Vennart, who was in a position of some fragility.
Oceansize singer Mike Vennart is in a fragile state, and yet it’s fivein the afternoon. How so? “Well we did a gig in Southampton last night, andtravelled back to Manchester afterwards, so I didn’t get back until 7. Imanaged to sleep for a bit, then my phone rang at 9:30 and it was a Swissguy wanting to do an interview, and I was talking at the speed of a slug, LI T E R A L L Y T A L K I N G L I K E T H I S” (sounds more like a NorthernMike Reid). “Then I suddenly realised and asked him if it was a radiointerview, which it was!”

No such problems for this one though – in factMike is quite enjoying kicking around the house alone, having recentlymoved into a home with his girlfriend. “She’s away in Cambodia at themoment. I do like to spend a lot of time on my own, especially after beingon tour, sometimes you don’t wanna have to make the effort, you know?”

“Sometimes you don’t wanna have to make the effort, you know?”
– Mike Vennart on domestic bliss minus the missus.

Mike spent plenty of time on his own while his choice of vocationrevealed itself. “I grew up on a council estate in Castleford, the band arefrom round there. Did I always feel destined to do music? No, I just knew Iwas rubbish at everything else! I never thought of doing anything, buthaving studied music all my life, just to go out and do a regular job waspretty soul destroying.” He speaks from experience when he says, “On thedole you have time to do the things you want to do, to nurture them, but itcan get a little bit haunting, spending too much time with yourself. I’mlaughing now though!”

Does this mean he writes more effectively alone? “I write a lot oflyrics and stuff. I’m currently trying to get to grips with musictechnology. I’ve just bought a laptop to get a bit more self-sufficient;I’m always reliant on the other four guys in the band to come up withsomething. I want us to keep the organic feel but want to know that I canstand on my own two feet. That’s not to say I’m going to go solo or anyshit like that!”

“We’re sort of blindlystabbing in the dark! I worry when we can categorise ourselves…”
– Mike Vennart on Oceansize.

Oceansize come across as a prolific outfit, with two big-boned albums intwo years, but Vennart is not so sure. “To me, prolific is someone likeBiffy Clyro, who’ve got a hundred songs to choose from for theirnext album. The challenge for us is to keep the quality high. A lot of ourmusic works from little scraps, little gems floating about, and thesethings take root. Maybe a tiny idea two years old will turn into aten-minute record. It’s about constant nurturing, and learning that youcan’t make yourself like something. On Everyone Into Position we tried afew things, overcooked a few tunes, and it was liberating to look back andrealise that not everything we do is really fucking good, but at the end ofthe album we thought once or twice, ‘that’s terrible!'”

Vennart goes on todiscuss the band’s chemistry. “We’re all quite different people and somehowwe understand each other, it makes total sense. We’re sort of blindlystabbing in the dark! I worry when we can categorise ourselves, that’s whenwe’ll really fuck it up. As a band we’re quite unsettled, we keep puzzlingourselves, we like what we do but worry what the fuck to do next!”

At their Islington gig, Vennart dedicated You Can’t Keep A Bad Man Downto “the greatest band that ever walked the earth.” So…. Pink Floyd?”I’m so glad you asked me that question – it’s a London band called TheCardiacs, who’ve been going for about thirty years and make musicunlike anything I’ve ever heard. They’re slightly comedic, very theatrical,and once you get past that there’s a real soul. They’re massivelyunderrated, and totally ignored by the music press. They’re the most indieloser band in the world, but I think they’re so special, to become friendswith them is so special.” Fired up now, he adds, “When a member of thatband pays you a compliment it’s like a kiss from God. I think the factthey’re obscure is a crying shame. Every new person I meet, I bore themabout the Cardiacs!”

“I knowhow pointless it is talking about our music as it speaks for itself!”
– Mike Vennart on how much he values interviews…

We go on to discuss the band’s live persona, one of very much lettingthe music speak for itself. Mike’s worried about his stage act though. “Ithink personally I’m worrying about this as if I’m Madonna! I comeacross and give the wrong impression on stage – some people think I don’tcare, but then meet me and realise I’m not an arrogant twat. To be fair onstage your mind is flitting between being overly confident one minute andthen thinking, ‘Who the fuck do you think you are?!’ It’s just the samewith interviews, just recently I’ve been wanting to give them up, I knowhow pointless it is talking about our music as it speaks for itself!”

Vennart’s family were at the Islington show. “It was a good night,really emotional. The whole family were there, the in-laws and everything.They don’t like the same sort of stuff as me, they’re really kind ofdifferent, they’d prefer to go and see something like We Will RockYou!” He describes the extra pressure a band feels in the capital.”Playing in London and Manchester gives me the absolute fear. There’ssomething about it, I get nervous in a really angry kind of way, feel likeI’ve got something big to prove. I can’t do the “it’s great to be back”stuff or anything like that though, I’m not gonna kiss arse!”

At which point it dawns that Mike has moved firmly into the emotionalstage of his hangover. “I feel like I need to watch ET or something, youknow?!” That means it’s time to return him to the alca-seltzers…

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More on Oceansize
Oceansize – Frames
Oceansize @ Islington Academy, London
Oceansize – Everyone Into Position
Interview: Oceansize
Oceansize – Effloresce