ere’s what is known about
Black Ocean: Its members are fond of fake pseudonyms,
enjoy hanging from rafters and are not politically
motivated. Oh, and describing the band’s sound
is not their responsibility. “Isn’t that
your job?” Ryan (aka Zach) asks.
The singer-guitarist is calling from the road, one
week before hitting Salt Lake City for a two-date concert
with Tolchock Trio. Last time his group came to town,
Ryan lit up the stage—and then the crowd when
he confronted various attendees on the dance floor.
One woman was particularly surprised when the wiry
musician wrapped his microphone around her neck, inviting
her to sing along. Live, Black Black Ocean is magnetic,
a quality that highlights its overriding purpose—to
||Black Black Ocean’s Ryan (or rather Zach) exercises controlled chaos during one of the Denver scream-punk-core band’s typical performances. Ryan is not a neo-con.
That said, the band members are not numb to other
issues. In fact, Ryan’s insistence that they are “not
Rage Against the Machine” doesn’t negate
their involvement in Bands Against Bush (BAB), an international
resistance movement that utilizes art to enact change.
The organization initially began as Rock Against Reagan,
but has since evolved to accommodate an equally (if
not more) imposing administration. Black Black Ocean
tuned into the cause after a trip to New York City. “It’s
mainly a lot of anti-Bush commotion used to keep Bush
out of office—or at least raise awareness of
issues Bush doesn’t support,” Ryan says.
The band’s role took place at the Knitting Factory’s
Old Office with a lineup featuring Man in Gray and
Nimbus. Other groups affiliated with BAB include electropunks
Le Tigre, Yuka Honda and The Ghost of Lester Bangs,
Yet for all the high-profile artists performing along
with Black Black Ocean, the band seems more impressed
with upstart projects. Ryan cites Salt Lake City locals
Tolchock Trio and Form of Rocket as current influences.
The latter is undergoing a realignment of sorts as
Curtis Jensen leaves to pursue an education. Ryan,
like many other fans, isn’t sure how this will
affect the local scream-core group. “I heard
the guy who’s replacing him (Eric Bliss) was
the original drummer,” he says. “But I
guess he plays a mean guitar, so…”
In his downtime, or at least over phone interviews,
Ryan is fairly laid back. However, his more legendary
influences include Tom Jones and The Jackson 5, both
artists known for being charismatic performers. It’s
not surprising to discover how energetic the casual
conversationalist can be once the spotlight casts its
His behavior is fitting for a band that Tolchock’s
Dan Thomas credits as one of the hardest-working bands
at this level. “I think they’re doing it
right,” he says. “Plus [Ryan] is really
good-looking, so they’re destined for greatness.” Thomas
was first introduced to the band after it submitted
an album to Red Triangle Records. At the time, the
local label was little more than a flashy Web site,
but the glitzy facade was sufficient for reeling in
the unassuming Denver boys.
“It’s actually the only submission of a record
that we’ve ever gotten,” Thomas says. Red
Triangle’s Jeremy Smith was impressed with the
singular entry, but couldn’t offer any lucrative
contracts. Smith instead convinced the group to perform
with his band Alchemy, an invitation which led to Ryan’s
now-infamous Urban Lounge performance. “It spawned
a really good relationship,“ Thomas says. Thanks
to their patience—and Red Triangle’s persistence—the
strengthened label has released Black Black Ocean’s
second EP, Vultures for Permanent Fix. The deal, however,
is noncommittal, thus allowing the group to shop around
(Action Driver Records will be putting out its next album).
This way, Quentin (Mitch), Jared (Winifred), Steven (Tyler)
and Ryan can still rock out with their Salt Lake City
friends without fear of selling out.
Come see Black Black Ocean when the group performs
Feb. 4 at Kilby Court and Feb. 5 at the Urban Lounge.