The Ocean Blue, The Orange Peels, Willie Wisely, Luxembourg Signal

The Ocean Blue

The Ocean Blue‘s debut record on the famed Sire Records label in 1989 achieved widespread acclaim and radio & MTV airplay. The band of four young high schoolers from Hershey, Pennsylvania went on to do two more well-received records for Sire, the atmospheric Cerulean and alt pop Beneath the Rhythm and Sound, and a fourth record for Mercury/PolyGram, See The Ocean Blue, before leaving the majors in the late 90s. The band did several independent releases in the 2000s, including Davy Jones Locker and Waterworks, and within the last several years began working on a new full length record, their first in over 10 years. That record, entitled Ultramarine, is scheduled for release March 19, 2013 on Korda Records, a new Minneapolis cooperative label that the band helped launch in late 2012.

Ultramarine is a spectacular return to form that recalls the band’s earliest work, and should appeal to fans old and new alike.

On the title, singer/songwriter David Schelzel explains, "We chose Ultramarine to reflect several things. The mood of this record is a little blue, and harkens back to our other "blue" record, Cerulean. It's also a fun play on our name, and we were very conscious of our history as a band making this record. Thinking about our music, what it's meant to us and others. Asking a lot of existential questions about the band, what it was, is, and could be in the future."

Ultramarine was recorded in Minneapolis, MN, Portland, OR, and Mt Gretna, PA over several years, with Schelzel and drummer Peter Anderson producing. "This record unfolded in slow motion,” says Schelzel, “At a glacial pace. We were not on the clock we were when we were on the major labels. And we were not in an insulated studio world for months making the music. We made it mostly in our own studios, on our own time. Regular life drifted into this one more than our earlier records.”

Music recording and distribution, and the social networks of the Web have changed the landscape completely since the band’s last full length. Says Anderson, “We are using gear and technology on the recording side that for the most part didn’t exist when the band was making big budget studio records in the 90s. It’s allowed us to do a lot of things we’d never been able to do years ago, all at a much cheaper cost. We also have the ability to connect with people directly via the Web that wasn’t really there when we did our last release."

Musically, the new record is a return to form for the band. As well as a new beginning. Lyrically it is romantic, melancholic and impressionistic. The melodic singing, chimey guitars and lush keyboards the band is known for weave their way through the songs. Even the saxophone has returned on the opening track. But it is a record full of music that sounds very of the moment.

"It's an interesting time for us to be putting out a new record. So much of the music we see and hear now reminds me of things I loved growing up," say guitarist Oed Ronne. "My friends in their twenties like The Smiths and New Order. It's a strange thing, but good for us I think. We'd love to reconnect with our old fans, but also make new ones among the ranks of the young."

"I'm really looking forward to sharing this new music with people who know us and people who’ve never heard us before. And play some shows," says bass player Bobby Mittan. "It's been way too long."

The Orange Peels

Sometimes plans can be overrated. Sure they can help focus a group toward a common goal, but overdo it and you can end up with an album that sounds and feels more like a corporate quarterly report than art.

When The Orange Peels embarked on recording sessions for their fifth album, Sun Moon (Minty Fresh/Mystery Lawn Music), the band really didn’t have a direction in mind. Afterall, they’d already conquered the indiepop, powerpop and West-Coast rock genres with their critically acclaimed back-catalog, and they didn’t want to fall into the old trap of trying to repeat past successes.

What came next was exciting, unexpected and frustrating as the band navigated a new sound it was inventing with each new session. Gathering on Sunday afternoons without a clear idea of what would happen, the band came up with something new every time, and recorded the fresh tracks hours later.

Peels’ bassist and founding member Jill Pries was partly to blame for the shake-up in the band’s process. The band’s main songwriter, Allen Clapp, was busy producing albums for other likeminded bands (Jim Ruiz Set, The Corner Laughers, Alison Faith Levy) and running his new boutique record label, Mystery Lawn Music. Pries wanted to get the Orange Peels back on track, so she started organizing sessions even when Clapp didn’t have anything written for the band to record.

“I wasn’t too happy about that at first, because that wasn’t the way we typically did things,” Clapp confesses. “I guess I had a certain idea of what a songwriter should do, and I felt like I needed to be bringing the song stuff.”

But it opened up the process to a group dynamic that breathed new life into the band. With the collaboration of lead guitarist John Moremen (Flotation Device, Half Japanese, Roy Loney) who’s recorded and toured with the band on both drums and guitar—and new drummer Gabriel Coan (who comes to the Peels from ambient and electronic bands including Carta and Continental), the band just started making this new kind of music.

It would then be up to Clapp to figure out how to embellish the raw tracks with lyrics and vocals. This was not always an easy path. Some songs had four sets of discarded lyrics, and some ended up with none at all. “I had to figure out who this person was who would be singing a song that sounded like this . . . and then get into that person’s head and write something from their perspective,” Clapp says.

So it is on its fifth album that the band finds itself navigating the confluence of post rock, indiepop, space rock, nouveau psychedelia, and prog rock, with melody as its only compass. That’s probably what some critic will say anyway. The Orange Peels couldn’t really tell you for sure though. They never really wrote a business plan for the album. It all just happened. Welcome to Sun Moon.

This project was successfully funded on Kickstarter in January, 2013. For song clips, session photos and an attempted explanation of Sun Moon, watch our video!

Willie Wisely

Making Audities top twenty of 2012, Willie Wisely's eighth studio album "True" culminates a profound and lengthy career in a single exotic work. Some liken his music to Wings, and others to NRBQ, or even Captain Beefheart.

In his pensive modes he is as evocative and delicate as writers comes, but can assault a stage with the exuberance of The Darkness, should the need arise. His third tour of Japan in 2012 was almost entirely a sell-out affair and dates across the USA continue to pepper the calendar, appearing at CMJ Music Conference and SxSW most recently.

Wisely is a songwriter songwriter, and has collaborated with hit-makers John Fields, Alyssa Bonagura, Bleu, Linus of Hollywood, Evan Lowenstein, and actress Jenna Fischer and comedian Andy Dick. His latest CD marks the 18-year reunion of his Minneapolis-based group the Willie Wisely Trio‚ road warrior phenoms, noted for their circus-like, jazzy-anti-jazz aesthetic.


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