D.C.-based The Southern Ocean has incorporated a blazing fusion of post-rock and elements of ’90s alternative rock since 2014. The band came onto the scene with the release of Hu, a 10-song album written and recorded by Jeremiah Prevatte (A Perfect Kiss, Age Sixteen). When guitarist/vocalist Ian Stanford (Always the Runner, Yesferatu) connected with Jeremiah, they combined their songwriting efforts and produced The Essence of Absence EP. Its four songs are dynamic, shimmering, heartfelt, and vulnerable, yet unafraid to get aggressive — marking a sonic milestone en route to the band’s self-actualization. The band went through a few lineup changes before Ian and Jeremiah met drummer Charles Tomlinson (Code Name Juan) by chance at a show in 2018.
The Southern Oceans’ latest effort, The Radians EP, showed off the band’s abiding pursuit of expanding their sonic palette and range. “The Radians EP is the best distillation of our sound to date. It covers a lot of ground in terms of dynamics and sonic textures — it’s loud and cathartic, tranquil and contemplative, often within the same song,” said Prevatte.
“Lyrically, we deal candidly with some subjects — addiction, political turmoil, and relationships — that are painful on a very personal level, but we also try to reassure the listener that there’s hope for things to get better. The last song, ‘Twelve,’ is about finding the will and self-awareness to stop destructive behaviors and start over, even if it can be very difficult,” added Stanford.
“We’ve been near-perfectionists in writing, recording, and mixing these tracks, and we are super excited for other ears to hear them. We hope people enjoy them and find them relatable. After all, music is about community, and we’re beyond ready for that kind of fellowship again after the year we’ve all had,” said Tomlinson.
Today, The Southern Ocean drops the video in support of the single “Heart Head Dead.” Dealing with abuse, addiction, and loss, the finished product is showcased from a highly personal perspective. “The song ‘Heart Head Dead’ addresses some heavy themes from a very personal angle — abuse, addiction, and loss. We shot and edited the video ourselves to make sure we illustrated this in a powerful and tasteful way, showing the story of a couple who appear to have it all together but are enabling the worst in each other,” Prevatte says.
Jeremiah-you started the project solo but now have incorporated two more bandmates. What did you feel was missing?
Comradery and diversity of thought. I wanted to play live with a full band and write with others. It was cool writing all the instruments for the Hu album because I’d never done that. I’d also never played guitar in a band, and although it was fun writing two guitar parts, I craved hearing what my guitar parts would inspire in someone else and vice versa. To my luck, Ian answered a Craigslist ad and has been an excellent writing and performance collaborator. Years later, after many lineup changes, we met Charles and quickly clicked musically and as friends.
We have been seeing a slow, steady build-up to bands getting ready to hit the road. What has been this past year like for you not playing live shows?
Our current lineup had really begun hitting its stride when the pandemic set in, but without playing in front of audiences, it’s really hard to get a sense of how your music makes people feel or whether it is connecting with others. However, we’ve channeled our energy into other endeavors, like mixing two singles (“Friday Night” and “Pink Moon”) and the Radians EP, shooting and editing two videos (“Friday Night,” “Heart Head Dead”), and ramping up our social media presence. The circumstances also freed us up to be perfectionists about our recording and other content, as there was no rush to get back out there.
We’d love to get out on the road, and we hope to make a run around the East Coast for a week or so at some point. We look forward to getting really good at playing these new songs and playing real loud in the near future.
Reading the band’s bio, I notice you not being shy of embracing the emo side in the first sentence. Has this been a point of contention?
A former bandmate of Charles’ used to joke, “The main rule of being in an emo band is never to admit you’re an emo band.” Some terms come with a lot of baggage attached, and “emo” in particular has had its share of ups and downs over the years. But it’s not a point of contention for us; we are clearly influenced by a lot of early-’00s emo bands. I think that’s the music our hearts are most drawn to.
Yet, as we discover more of our core sound, we are noticing our sound also includes some post-rock, post-hardcore, ’90s alternative, and maybe some pop-punk. Ian has played in post-rock bands, Jeremiah has played in popular emo/hardcore bands, and Charles’ other projects have frequently veered into Americana music. We bring all these experiences to bear on this record.
How complicated was the recording process for the EP? Especially with the pandemic, it had to be interesting to do things that you usually wouldn’t be happening.
DIY is typically a difficult experience in some ways, but it helped us when it came to the pandemic. Luckily, we had tracked drums, bass, and most guitar before the pandemic started. So once we realized that the pandemic was going to continue for a while, we developed a plan to record vocals and overdubs following social distancing and public health protocols as closely as possible. It also helps when you have your own studio, so you don’t have quite as many considerations. Mixing was a little tough because we weren’t getting together to hear the songs and tweak them while in the same room.
Did the pandemic alter the writing process for the EP?
We could easily adapt our typical process to the pandemic. We create scratch versions of every song because we like to be thoughtful and intentional about the music. One of us will record a foundation for a song and send that to the others. For their additions and input, and we build from there. In fact, Ian just sent us some scratch vocals for some songs on our upcoming EP tracks to review and collaborate on, and it was natural that the experience of isolation and collective trauma has crept into some of the lyrics for the new songs, for sure.
What were some of the big takeaways that people should know about the EP?
The EP reflects our growth both as a band and as people and is much closer to the ideal sound we have in our heads than any of our previous releases. The songs are very personal and address the extensive individual and societal turmoil that seemed to pervade the last decade, whether that was one of the band members losing a close friend to addiction or life in the politically volatile environment of Washington, DC. These are some heartfelt songs that speak to a lot of ills and goodness in the world. Keep an ear out for more music!