Manchester-based producer Oceaán will release his second EP, The Grip, on December 8. The EP sees him expanding on the sound of his debut EP, experimenting with less straightforward production and putting his voice front and center. It places him somewhere between the mournful electronic ballads of SOHN and the glitchy futurism of James Blake—lofty comparisons indeed, but with each new track he releases, Oceaán reaffirms his talent.
Listen to Oceaán’s new track “Candour,” the third to be shared from The Grip EP, and read our interview below to get familiar with one of the new artists we’re most excited about.
Where are you at the moment?
I’m back in Manchester in my home studio, just getting ready for these next shows we have coming up.
You did your first ever live shows in France recently, how was that experience?
It was obviously going to be a nerve wracking experience, but I was really excited, and I thought the France and Copenhagen shows went really well. The crowds were great, the hospitality was great, it went really well.
What was the reasoning behind playing your first shows in Europe even though you’re based in England?
Well it was mainly because we thought it’d be really cool to play our first shows abroad and use it as a sort of testing atmosphere. It’s almost a bit of a learning curve. Putting myself in at the deep end, is the only way I can really progress.
What is the live setup like?
I’m playing keys, doing samples, and singing, and then I have a drummer, and that’s it. Just the two of us.
I saw that Lapsley performed with you and you were also in the studio together. Can you tell us anything about what you were working on?
Lapsley sung on “To Lose” in Copenhagen. She wrote a verse for it and added vocals and her voice sounded great on that. In terms of the studio, it was used as more of a rehearsal space, but we have a cover in the works at the moment, so hopefully it’s just the start of working together.
We first got to know you when you put your first Oceaan song, “Need U,” on Soundcloud in July 2013, but had you been working on music for a long time before that?
Music has always been a major part of my everyday life. I had a few projects here and there, but I started laying down some keyboard sounds, kept working on it, and messed around with a few samples. I had been listening to a lot of house at the time, so that influenced my sound. I didn’t have a lot of material before, but after I wrote “Need U,” it was just a natural progression from there.
Did the label Chess Club reach out after “Need U”?
Well, Chess Club actually reached out a bit after, but I had the opportunity to do some more remixes. I did one for Swim Deep first, which was given to me by Will from Chess Club, and then I remixed MØ. Then, he asked me to send some of my original material and it just went from there, it was a very organic kind of progression.
Working on the Grip EP, you had a label and you knew people were interested in your music—did that change how you approached making music at all?
Well, I always find it incredibly difficult to be creative with deadlines and the sense of expectation. It changed the way I work in terms of recording being very sporadic, I was kind of limiting myself in what material I was using. I had the same setup as the first EP, plus a vocal mic, but I was just working in my studio at home. It took a lot of the outside pressure off, just working on it in my own space.
You mix electronic production with the more soulful vocals, but what other influences on your sound can you pinpoint?
It’s fairly broad, but I can pinpoint influences fro a few of the songs. At the start of “Veritas” for example, the percussion coming in was influenced by a compilation album of rock, soul, and disco tunes from Papua New Guinea from the ’70s. I’ve been listening to a lot. It’s called Guinee 70: The Discotheque Years.
How did you come across that?
I found it on a music blog I follow. I have a pretty large sample database, but I really like the harshness of the percussion sound on the record so I wanted to replicate that while blending the synth aspect of my music and soul of my voice.
What’s behind the increasing clarity of the vocals on the new EP compared to the first one? Did you have more confidence or do you feel you have something more to say this time?
I think it was a mixture of the two. With this EP, I wanted the vocals to be the forefront. I’m not trying to put out club oriented tracks, I wanted clarity, not necessarily in the message I’m trying to get across, but at least in the vocals themselves.
How involved are you in your music videos?
For the “Grip” video, I worked with Harvey Pearson, who’s really talented and came up with the idea of taking the artwork and chopping it up from the outset then gradually transforming into the whole artwork by the end. In terms of my input, it was quite hands on.
If you could choose anyone, someone to remix tracks off your new EP, who would it be and which tracks?
For “Grip” I’d love to have a remix by Pearson Sound, but for “Veritas” I think it’d be cool to have someone like Deptford Goth. I think that’d be really interesting, to bring it down to a more solemn sound. Of course SOHN would be amazing for any of the tracks.