Ocean Colour Scene are back with a new album and Lancaster festival show
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Ocean Colour Scene frontman Simon Fowler is not quite over the hill just yet, but at the age of 52, he’s more recently opted for a quieter life.
Picking up a newspaper, sitting in the village pub, and putting the world to rights is one of his preferred passtimes these days.
But that doesn’t stop the man who brought us The Riverboat Song, Profit In Peace, The Circle, The Day We Caught The Train and other such 90s hits from tuning up his singular voice and hitting the road from time to time to perform in front of sell out crowds that know their TFI Fridays from their Saturday Takeaways.
This year, they’re set to play Kendal Calling, Cool Britannia, the Shiine On Weekender – and they’re also headlining Lancaster’s Highest Point festival in May.
It sounds like there’s another album on the way too.
“Album wise we’re aiming to put something out this summer, but we’ll be doing a lot of the usual suspects at the festivals.
“The thing is the gigs are about the crowd. The crowd has paid to come and hear what they know, so that’s what we’re going to do”.
The band recently toured Australia and New Zealand, where Simon noted it was “mainly Brits watching us”.
They’ve also been touring the Moseley Shoals album in its entirity at several sold out gigs in 2017, but the plan is to do something a bit different this year.
I asked Simon how things had changed with their live shows over the last three decades.
He said: “I think we’re better than we were, we know what we’re doing, you kind of learn how to be a band.
“We’ve been together nearly 30 years now. I think shocked is how I’d describe us being together for that long, but we always intended to be in it for the long haul.
“It’s a totally different thing now, we all live in a different part of the country, so it’s not like we’re hanging out every night.”
Ocean Colour Scene have released 10 albums since their eponymous debut in 1992.
Their second album, Moseley Shoals, named after the area of Birmingham that three members of the band originally hailed from, was a huge success. It spent 92 weeks in the charts - back when the charts mattered - following its release in 1996.
They have had five Top 10 albums including a number one with Marchin’ Already in 1997.
They have also achieved seventeen Top 40 singles and six Top 10 singles to date.
As songwriter, Simon says he prefers to do things the traditional way.
“I use a tape player to record the songs. I just play and press record, and start la-di-da-ing, and it’s been that way since the beginning. I’ve never used a computer in my life.
“I just literally wing it, every time. It surprises me sometimes. I suppose it’s being steeped in great musical history, and I’m still into things that I grew up listening to - Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, The Beatles.”
In terms of lyrics, Simon says he writes “on the hoof” and that his words can be quite abstract.
“Fleeting Mind (from Moseley Shoals) is a unique song for us. There was nothing like it around at the time. I don’t know where the song came from. I wrote it on the same night as I wrote It’s My Shadow. I was off my face I think.
“I used to stay up throughout the night writing, things just seem to seep in. I still don’t know how to do it. Sometimes I sit down to write and nothing comes out.
“With Profit in Peace (from 1999’s One From The Modern) we were at the studio and there was a report on the second Iraq war on the TV.
“Oscar (Harrison, drummer) commented that there’s no profit in peace and we just went from there with it and I wrote the song. Every time we sing it, it seems to apply to the current situation.”
Simon said he was looking forward to performing alongside fellow “britpop” act Cast at Highest Point on May 18.
He added: “I don’t dance much anymore, but you never know.”
Ocean Colour Scene join Cast, Embrace, Sasha, James Zabiela, Hacienda Classical, Rae Morris and many others at Highest Point, Williamson Park, Lancaster on May 18-20.