Armed with some of the most memorable indie riffs of the past two decades, Ocean Colour Scene’s winning way with a melody has ensured an enviably long career.
As they set out this autumn to complete what will be their tenth album, one half of the band, singer Simon Fowler and drummer Oscar Harrison, are reprising their acoustic sideline with a visit to West Sussex this weekend.
They’ll be taking centre stage at St.Paul’s Arts Centre tomorrow (Saturday, October 13) in Worthing, as part of a series of gigs that has seen some of our brightest alternative music talent grace the town.
During the past six months the venue has greeted former Bluetones frontman Mark Morriss, Turin Brakes and Squeeze songwriter Chris Difford to name a few.
While the OCS duo have yet to play our corner of the county before, they have in fact visited for a photo shoot on Worthing pier, which much to the approval of local fans found itself onto a ‘best of’ album collection.
“I can’t actually remember anything of that photo shoot. But I do remember earlier on that morning, as we were in Shoreham and I spotted a very strange sight of two brown and one orange Austin Allegro in a line together (the car was recently voted Britain’s worst ever). That’s my abiding memory of that day!” laughed Simon attempting to cast his mind back on the occasion.
Taking a break from his studio recording, he appears in good form after making strong headway with its lead tracks.
It seems he’s in something of a rich vein of writing having also recently found time to put together a solo folk album that emerged earlier this year to strong acclaim.
“We’ve been in the studio a few weeks now and it’s been going well – the new songs are sounding a bit more raw than on our last record and have been working with Matt Terry who has previously produced for the Prodigy. I think this album will be quite eclectic,” enthused Simon on their latest sessions.
He’s hoping it may well add to the impressive tally of five top 10 albums which they’ve amassed since their formation in Birmingham at the end of the 80s.
As he admitted, his home city music scene “wasn’t very big” at the time, so it was perhaps inevitable that his path would cross that of bassist Damon Minchella, Steve Cradock and Oscar who were involved in other musical ventures, before making a decision to join forces.
While it may have taken them a fair spell to find their stride after early record label wranglings, by the time of the Britpop era they had their 60s vibe down to a tee and enjoyed huge commercial success with Moseley Shoals.
The album’s hit singles The Riverboat Song, The Day We Caught the Train, and You’ve Got it Bad, have all weathered the test of time well and were a firm signal of intention for events to come. More than 15 years on from those heady days, Simon looks back on the band’s earlier history with genuine fondness.
It was certainly to prove a lot more rewarding than his first career option as a young reporter at the Birmingham Post, revealing that differing views with its management made him quickly realise that other work avenues would be explored. Journalism’s loss was music’s gain and after plenty of hard graft, Ocean Colour Scene began to gather momentum.
“We really enjoyed those times playing on Chris Evans’ TFI Friday show back then and had great fun with the Moseley Shoals- It was a fantastic album but I don’t think we realised just how big that made us at the time. Looking back at it now, it was quite extraordinary,” recalled the singer of the album that stamped their arrival at the upper reaches of the mainstream charts.
It was to set in motion an extremely busy period for the band, who swiftly set about recording a follow up, Marchin’ Already, which proceeded to knock Oasis off the top album slot and sell well over 1.5million copies.
From there, the albums have kept flowing, and while recent efforts may not have reached the commercial heights of their earlier work, Simon believes they’ve still plenty to offer their dedicated fanbase. He is particularly proud to have finally realised his solo album, which he had been forced to put on a backburner for several years.
At 47, Simon revealed he’s enjoying writing as much as ever, though he tries to take life at a little more civilised pace and is happily settled in the Midlands. Though he values his downtime, he appears refreshingly enthusiastic about the prospect of touring.
The band has pretty much played the majority of the notable venues in the region –but how does he feel about the Worthing debut after all these years?
“It will be good- as a full band we’ve previously played a coastal towns tour which took us everywhere from Jersey to the Isle of Man- though I wouldn’t recommend the latter.
But me and Oscar have been doing these shows together for 10 years now- so it will be something of an anniversary for us at Worthing. As a band we have kept things together – we’ve had success and believe we’re a good live band, even if we are not selling a great deal of records now. We still enjoy what we are doing.”