The Ocean Blue
, formed in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1986, is an American indie pop band that combines melodic guitars and synthesizers. Its core original members included David Schelzel on lead vocals/guitar, Steve Lau on keyboards/saxophone, Bobby Mittan on bass guitar and Rob Minnig on drums and vocals.Its current line-up includes David Schelzel on lead vocals/guitar, Oed Ronne on keyboards/guitar/vocals, Bobby Mittan on bass guitar and Peter Anderson on drums.The band's sound may be best described as jangly guitar-based modern rock. Influences include such bands as The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, R.E.M., Echo & the Bunnymen and New Order. The Ocean Blue's earliest shows always consisted of a healthy dose of covers by these bands. To this day, The Smiths and New Order covers still punctuate concert encores.
The members of The Ocean Blue first met in junior high school. They cut a series of demos while in high school, with Scott Stouffer sitting in on drums. They managed to get two of these earliest recordings, "On Growing Up" and "Wounds Of A Friend", included on a local radio station compilation in late 1986. The compilation also included very early work from friends and mentors of The Ocean Blue, noted local artists, The Innocence Mission. Rob Minnig, would join as permanent drummer in 1987, and the classic line-up of Schelzel/Lau/Minnig/Mittan would continue through 1994.
Sire Records years
The Ocean Blue's members were just teenagers and still in high school when they signed a three-album deal in 1988 with Sire Records, at the behest of Sire founder Seymour Stein. The Ocean Blue's self-titled album was recorded in London with producers John Porter and Mark Optiz, and many listeners were surprised to learn that the band wasn't British. The first single, the song "Between Something and Nothing", an Echo & the Bunnymen-sounding rocker, hit the top of the college and Modern Rock radio charts in the fall of 1989. The band's busy calendar included U.S. touring and an appearance on one of the first episodes of "Club MTV with Downtown Julie Brown". The follow-up single "Drifting, Falling" was also a top 10 Modern Rock radio hit, and featured a video of the band in various locations in and around their hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania. The band's first two videos received massive rotation on the fledgling MTV show "Post-Modern MTV". The band later joined labelmates The Mighty Lemon Drops and John Wesley Harding on an extensive U.S/ Canadian tour. All of this promotion helped the band sell well over 150,000 units of the record.After time in several New England studios, in 1991 the band released the lush and dreamy sounding Cerulean
. It had several Modern Rock radio hits, including "Ballerina Out of Control" (#3 hit on the Modern Rock chart), and "Mercury". Both tracks featured videos that fully displayed the band's deepening atmospherics. Cerulean
managed to sell 175,000 copies just as the grunge explosion of late 1991 hit and changed the music business. During this time, drummer Rob Minnig and his brother Pat Minnig began to hone their song production and mixing abilities, which would later be reflected on the next album and its b-sides, which the band chose to produce themselves.The final Sire Records release came in 1993 with Beneath the Rhythm and Sound
. This album saw the band adding more lavish sounds but still riding on the same formula that had gained it such a following. "Sublime" received top 40 airplay, with a beautiful video filmed amongst the steaming, geothermal geysers of Iceland. The album sold over 100,000 copies. There was no second single that had the charting stature of "Sublime", but the Peace and Light
EP released in 1994 helped wrap up the Sire contract for the group.Before the close of 1993, the band contributed songs to the Eric Stoltz film Naked in New York
. Originally, the group was asked to cut a new song, and the band wrote and recorded "City Traffic". For reasons unknown, the song was scrapped and two other tracks from their third album were included instead. The song still remains in the band's vaults.For the duration of their 1993/1994 tour in support of Beneath the Rhythm And Sound
, the band toured as a five-piece with newly added second guitarist Oed Ronne. Westwood One Radio Networks also recorded the group's June 20, 1994 concert in Ventura, California for a promotional CD. To this day, it is the band's only official live album. After getting a spot on ABC for new bands and playing the usual late night shows such as Conan O'Brien, it seemed as if the band had made it.During this time, keyboardist/sax player and original member Steve Lau was becoming more interested in the music business and moved to New York City. Despite the departure of Lau, the band ended his era on a high note, with a live cover-version of The Smiths' classic "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" on the Peace & Light
EP. This EP would feature the only recordings of the five-piece Ocean Blue ever released to the public. Steve Lau exited the band in late 1994, and Oed Ronne was brought in full time. Lau later became a record executive with a Sire Records subsidiary known as Kinetic, a label specializing in indie dance music. (In the latter years, these childhood friends had buried any ill-will. Lau was spotted by many fans at the groups' October 2000 New York City Mercury Lounge concert, and in the spirit of good cheer, David Schelzel and The Ocean Blue directed accolades to Steve from the stage.)
Mercury Records and indie releases
By 1996, gone was the light and airy synthesized sounds of the band, and in was more guitar driven music, thanks in part to the arrival of Oed Ronne and the band's renewed interest in the music of the 1960s. Mercury Records picked up the band and released See the Ocean Blue
that fall. While Schelzel remained the predominant songwriter of the band, Oed Ronne composed two tracks and sang lead on his song "Behind."See
was released to lukewarm results. At the last minute, the record company cancelled plans to film a video for the second single, "Slide," and never really promoted the album at all. Despite a nationwide tour, the band fell victim to the global record company mergers and purges that engulfed late 1996 and early 1997. Literally overnight, numerous bands worldwide were dropped by their labels. These record company politics and shakeups also left one of the band's idols, Morrissey, without a record deal for over seven years.In 1999, after three years of downtime, the band recorded and self-released Davy Jones Locker
. It was a breezy album reflecting nearly every style of their careers, and featured lead vocals not only by David but also Oed Ronne and drummer Rob Minnig. Because of its indie status, the release received little radio airplay.In 2001, Davy Jones Locker
was resequenced, remastered, and re-released on March Records. Again, little fanfare or touring was put into promoting the album. March Records marketed both the album and released two EPs, Denmark
were released, each featuring three new b-sides.Around 2000 or 2001 Rob Minnig decided to leave the group after fourteen years, and Peter Anderson (a friend of the band from Minneapolis, Minnesota) was brought in for live shows and eventually permanent recording work.As the band members have grown older, their music has taken a backseat to their professional jobs and families. In 2004, the band released the EP Waterworks
on What Are Records?. A diverse collection of music is found on this six-song disc, again showcasing Schelzel and Ronne's keen ability to craft '60s-inspired pop-music, with Bobby Mittan's basslines and Peter Anderson's rapid-fire drumming. The Orange Peels' Allen Clapp also contributes music and production to the EP. In 2004, the group toured select dates around the nation, even adding The Owls' saxophonist Brian Tighes as an homage to Steve Lau's sound.In 2005, to reciprocate, Oed Ronne and Peter Anderson contributed to Allen Clapp and The Orange Peels' album Circling The Sun
. In October of that same year, David Schelzel entered the studio to record a solo version of Adolphe Adam's 1847 Christmas classic "O Holy Night". This song was available only as a digital download via the band's website for the 2005 holiday season.In late 2005, the Ocean Blue's entire five studio album catalogue and the Waterworks
EP became available for purchase on iTunes, as well as the band's first four videos.On June 1, 2006, the Ocean Blue's Schelzel/Mittan/Ronne/Anderson line-up played its first ever South American concert, with a show at Teatro Rajatabla El Llonja, Barranco-Lima, Peru.In July 2010, the Ocean Blue's long-unreleased 1993 studio track "City Traffic" was uploaded to YouTube, with an accompanying homemade video. The song was originally intended for release with the Eric Stoltz-starred film soundtrack "Naked In New York", but was dropped in favor of two other songs from the band's third album.
In December 2010, the band's website announced that a new record may be released as early as 2011. The website also offered a free Christmas download of a newly recorded cover version of the ancient Basque Carol "The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came," done by David Schelzel and Don Peris (of The Innocence Mission).In December 2011, the band's website announced that another free Christmas download was available via the band's Facebook page. The release was a cover version of "Walking in the Air," a song written by Howard Blake and first showcased in the 1982 animated film The Snowman
, adapted from Raymond Briggs' noted 1978 children's novel of the same name. Similar to the previous year's holiday download, the recording was performed by David Schelzel and Don Peris.On January 12, 2013, the band performed their first gig since 2006, performing at the Korda Records Showcase in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Korda Records was a new independent label formed by several artists, including The Ocean Blue's David Schelzel.On March 6, 2013, the band released "Sad Night, Where is the Morning?," the first single from their forthcoming album, to radio and in digital and physical formats. On March 19, The Ocean Blue's sixth album, entitled Ultramarine
, was released on Korda Records. The band embarked upon a small tour of key markets in the United States, to conclude with two dates in Paraguay and Peru, respectively.