We're just getting our tour legs. Is that a thing? Maybe I mean sea legs, that's more appropriate for a band named Hey Ocean!," says vocalist and bassist Dave Vertesi, laughing. Currently touring across Canada, Vancouver's sand-and-sun pop trio returns with same-city dark prog-rockers The Zolas, alongside Halifax's The Lucy Grays, at Michael's Bar and Grill on Friday.
Hey Ocean! has been surfing a colourful tide for the last few years. After Vertesi formed Hey Ocean! with David Beckingham and Ashleigh Ball in 2005, the band released a few albums and EPs (one on Vertical Records, the label of The Zolas' Tom Dobranski), before signing with Universal Records for Big Blue Wave in 2011, beckoning pop success like a coastal lighthouse.
"It's been an interesting transition, but less of a change than you'd think," Vertesi says, reflecting on the band's move from independent artists to affiliated ones. "We were all waiting to see what would change, but we still work really hard. It's great and it gives us resources, but the way we've structured and built the band means that it functions the best when we're at the helm."
With the skill of old sea captains, Hey Ocean! has washed over some of the US market with songs appearing on American prime-time. They also have a loyal My Little Pony fan base, which has created fan video after fan video of Pony tales with Hey Ocean! soundtracks (check out the vids on the band's website---cute, and a little weird). Hey Ocean!'s quirkiness extends to recurring aquamarine motifs and themes running through their records and videos.
"We're from Vancouver, and where you live is a big part of the framework and setting for anything you're going through," Vertesi says. "We never say, 'Hey, we should pull back on the ocean imagery a bit.' It's a natural thing for us, we love the ocean."
Hey Ocean! looks forward to seeing the Atlantic. "It's always grounding, especially when we've been away from our ocean for so long," says Vertesi.
The Zolas released their second album, Ancient Mar, this week on Vancouver's Light Organ Records. A heavy departure from 2009's ultra-smooth Tic Toc Tic, the seemingly epic Ancient Mars has a '90s group-based sound with a stronger progressive rock influence.
"But it's not a nostalgia record," says Zach Gray, The Zolas vocalist and bassist, who performs with Dobranski as a duo. "A lot of the record is about those isolated times between university semesters."
You know when you're wondering what the hell you're doing with your life? That's what he means. Less nostalgia and more poetic remembrances of lost moments from young adulthood.
"The title track, 'Ancient Mars,' is a really nerdy metaphor I came up with," Gray describes. "Scientists have evidence of Mars as being lush with vegetation and water. Fast-forward a few billion years and there are just little traces of beauty, like those relationships you have when you're 23.
"When you break up, and you run into the person again, there's no evidence of all that optimistic beauty that once was---it's a beautiful place that you can never go back to."
So you move forward with the waves. Between the warmth of The Zolas and Hey Ocean!'s melodies as sweet as a popsicle in the sun, it'll be a western day on the east coast.
Hey Ocean! w/The Zolas, The Lucy Grays, Friday, October 5 at Michael’s Bar and Grill, 6100 Young Street, 10pm, $12/$15
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