Spring has sprung in the city and live shows are popping up all over the place. If you look hard enough you might even come across an indie music gem sprouting in an unexpected location such as busking on the sidewalk outside of Preloved on Queen St. West, which is where I met up with Vancouver’s Hey Ocean! before their show at the Horseshoe Tavern on April 24.
If their name alone doesn’t already give hint as to where Hey Ocean! is from, their sound certainly does. Vocalist/flutist Ashleigh Ball, vocalist/guitarist David Beckingham, bassist Dave Vertesi and drummer Dan Klenner play homage to their Vancouver roots with a pop ballad driven, funky, jazzy, hip-hop inspired positive vibe. If the description sounds all over the map, it’s because the band creatively covers a lot of different genres. Some might see that as a weakness and lack of focus, but their foot tapping West Coast grooves agree with me. Listening to Hey Ocean! is not a far cry from chilling out by the ocean.
“It’s hard to not be positive when you come from such a beautiful place,” Ball said as we discuss Vancouver’s influence on the band’s style.
“When you first start touring it makes you nervous to present your music to another city that might not be into what you play. But then you get this huge dude come up to you after the show with crazy beard and braids and wearing metal shirt say, ‘Man! I really dig your band!’ Its crazy how despite regional differences, people just really like the music,” Vertesi added.
It’s not really that crazy. Despite regional differences, good music will always translate as good music. Hey Ocean!, plays good music and Toronto gets it. Vertesi continued by humbly commenting on their national support:
“It’s important to avoid a sense of entitlement. We are lucky to have the support that we have. Compared to the states, for example, we are so lucky to have the grants and support from the government. Bands in the states don’t get anything. We are very lucky and the help breeds good music,” he said.
The show later that night further served as an example of good Canadian indie music. Sandwiched between Foxfire and Spiral Beach however, Hey Ocean! was definitely the best fit in the Horseshoe. Introducing themselves with a four-piece percussion instrumental, they then led into the familiar bass line from “A song About California.” There was something undeniably intimate felt when Ball took out a tambourine and harmonica. Campfire anyone?
While maintaining this characteristic West Coast vibe, they kept the set list tight and balanced between both of their albums, 2007’s Stop Looking Like Music and last year’s It’s Easier to be Somebody Else.
“Beatboxer Broke My Heart” brought the set to a climax and Ball’s jazz flute instigated a flurry of dancing flannel and hoodies. Keeping it short, sweet and the crowd wanting more, Hey Ocean! was joined onstage by a few band members Foxfire as they danced and closed out with a freestyle, tribal-esque jam session.
Although Friday’s performance was the last of their tour with Spiral Beach, you can be sure they will be playing many a festival through out the summer and I was assured by drummer Dan Klenner that they will return to Toronto soon. Until then, you can keep track of them through their site www.heyocean.com