Over the past few years the UK has been flooded with pop punk bands. Some have had various levels of success, whilst a majority have got lost in the mix by playing off a trademark sound. For their second EP, Middlesbrough quintet Across All Oceans aimed at breaking away from the growing pack. Entitled ‘Homegrown’, the five-track release rides on the nostalgic emotive pop punk tone of yesteryear, and lyrically combines it with vocalist Andrew Thomson facing up to common obstacles that anyone in their young twenties; friends moving away, starting families etc. Tracks ‘Everywhere But Home’ and ‘Monophobia’ serve as an emotional release whilst blurring the line of upbeat pop punk and sincere emo.
With the release of ‘Homegrown’ just days away, we’ve teamed up with Across All Oceans to premiere the video for ‘Everywhere But Home.’ In addition we caught up with Bassist Dan Shepherd who told us about the bands formation, how ‘Homegrown’ came together, their influences and more.
AH: I hear the band is made up of old bands from the Middlesbrough area. Can you tell us how Across All Oceans came together?
Dan: I went to college with Andy (Thomson – Vocals) and Ste (Wetherell- Guitar) and knew Kyle (Davies – Guitar) from a previous band, we used to play with Andy and Ste’s old band every other week so it jus made sense to give it a go with all of us. Then Jono (Drums) is Ste’s younger brother so he came in almost seamlessly.
AH: Moving on to ‘Homegrown’, I was pleasantly surprised by it. I was expecting another UK pop punk type of band. What was your aim when you began writing the EP?
Dan: Our aim was to write something that we wanted to listen to. Something similar to what we grew up with mixed with what we’re into now. In an oversaturated UK pop punk scene we wanted to put our own stamp on it and not release something you’ve heard a thousand times before. With our last EP we were just another pop punk band in a sea of hundreds whereas this time round we feel like we’re refining our sound and hitting a lot closer to what we wanted to do in the first place.
AH: I get the impression that through your personal changes; members away at different universities, people starting families etc, influenced the EP?
Dan: Yeah definitely, it put a massive struggle on the whole writing and recording process. It put a strain on all of our relationships, we didn’t talk for a while because of it and we almost called it a day more than once. We pushed through though and I think that frustration definitely shines through on the tracks.
AH: From hearing the EP and reading other interviews, you seem like you wanted to create something that was honest and not to fit into a trend?
Dan: For our first EP we just wrote it to fit in and get our foot in the door. It was a time where if you weren’t a pop punk band you didn’t get looked at, no one took notice. Everyone was hyped over bands like Neck Deep and State Champs and thats what people wanted to listen to. We were super proud of that EP at the time, but looking back at it now we’re not happy with it at all. We were disappointed that we wrote that just to fit in and its something we never want to do again.
This time around it was all about what we wanted to listen to, what we grew up on and what we’d love to play live. We were completely honest with what we were trying to do and were a lot more honest in the lyrics. Thats where our influences from bands like Brand New and Taking Back Sunday came into it.
AH: How important is it for you as a band to be true to yourself rather than following a crowd?
Dan: For us now, it’s the most important thing. If we’re not into what we’re playing then we won’t play it. We formed a band to play the music we wanted and now we’re doing that we don’t see the point in doing anything else. We’re stoked on how ‘Homegrown’ turned out and this is definitely the most comfortable we’ve felt about our sound and how we convey ourselves.
AH: Stylistically the EP has a mix of melodic emo and pop punk. Parts of it reminded me of Brand New’s debut record and Drive-Thru Records era bands. Who do you consider as influences and how would you describe the bands sound to a new listener?
Dan: Being compared to Brand New is always one of the highest compliments we can receive so thank you for that! Brand New is definitely an influence and a band we hold in very high regard, especially ‘Deja Entendu.’
Our influences will vary depending on what member you ask, but overall I feel as though we take a lot of influence from current bands like Knuckle Puck, Moose Blood and Turnover as well as older bands like Brand New, Sunny Day Real Estate and Underoath.
To new listeners I’d say we’re a mix of 00s Emo and Pop Punk. If you’re into Brand New and Moose Blood hopefully you’ll be into what we’re trying to do.
AH: You headed to Sheffield’s Steel City Studios to record the EP. The studio has a growing reputation. How did you find working with Drew Lawson? What did he add to the songs?
Dan: Working with Drew was incredible, when we first arrived he made sure we were as comfortable as possible and spent the first couple of hours sat talking to us about what we wanted from this EP, how much input we wanted from him and what sound we were trying to convey. He’s all about trying to find the vibe of a record and go off that. He definitely brought out the best of us and the EP wouldn’t have been the same without him. He created a proper relaxed environment for us to work in and it definitely helped. He’s not strictly about work either, we’d go off on tangents and chat about shit in between takes and it just built up this great working relationship.
Drew is primarily a guitarist and vocalist so thats where his main input was, he wanted everything to be the best it possibly could, from tones to lead lines to vocal melodies. He pushed us all well beyond our comfort zones and we’re the better for it.
AH: You’re set to head out on a weekend run with Willowside Park in April. Can we expect to see AAO on the road quite a bit in the coming months?
Dan: We spent the majority of last year miserable sitting on a half finished EP, so we definitely missed out on a lot of potential touring time. We went out a couple times but nowhere near as much as we wanted to. We have a booking agent on board this time so we’re trying to get out as much as possible, we have something currently getting sorted for March with a cool band that we can hopefully announce soon. We’re sorting stuff for later on in the year aswell. We’re trying to hit as many places as we can this year so make up for being so stagnant last year.
AH: Can you give us some insight into Middlesbrough’s music scene? Does it offer many venues for bands like AAO to play?
Dan: Middlesbrough used to have a cool local scene, primarily hardcore but the scene was still alive with shows on every week. Recently the scene is non existent. There are a few bands from Boro doing really well: All At Sea, Wraiths, Oh,Pioneer but they have to go somewhere else to get established. We produce some incredible bands but there’s nowhere in Middlesbrough for them to play.
There’s a festival once a year called Make A Scene Festival that showcases local bands with bigger talent where previous headliners have included Bury Tomorrow, While She Sleeps, Don Broco and even Funeral For A Friend. Other than that there’s next to no local shows. It’s a shame to see the scene decline like this but we’re currently the youngest band in our area and we’re all almost 20. No bands or promoters came up after us so there was no one else to keep the scene alive.
AH: To round things off, what impression do you hope to leave listeners with ‘Homegrown’?
Dan: We just hope to leave them with something different to what’s currently out there, something they feel like they haven’t heard a million time before. Hopefully they can pick up on the early 00’s Emo vibes and find a connection to bands like Brand New. We’re super happy with ‘Homegrown’ and we just hope everyone else will be too.
‘Homegrown’ by Across All Oceans is released on February 22nd.
Across All Oceans will be touring with Willowside Park in April:
15 Genny’s Bar, Scunthorpe
16 Rewind, Wrexham
17 TBC, Sheffield
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)
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