The roomy digs at Eye Level Art might be the perfect place for Virginia-based indie-rock quartet Over the Ocean’s distinctively dynamic music. In the last year or so, the group has taken strides to venture out of the Norfolk band scene with a signature sound.
“There’s a small scene in Norfolk, with a few bands that sound sort of similar to what we’re doing,” says lead singer/guitarist Jesse Hill. “All of them are fairly different, but in the same sort of genre. It depends on what circles you move in. I don’t think there’s a typical Norfolk sound, though.”
Hill, drummer Josh Whittle, bassist Ben Crumrine, and guitarist Josh Bogart made a splash last fall with the release of a swirling debut titled Paper House, on which warped sound collages go from being nearly inaudible to very loud within a few measures. Sometimes it’s a quick move. Other times, the build-ups are excruciatingly glacial.
“Our big guitar sounds are a big part of the recordings and the live show,” says Hill. “I think it’s fairly dynamic. There are moments where it’s just as quiet as it ever is loud. I’m not sure where that came from. We all love the music of Sigur Rós and the way they reach their climactic moments, so that’s a big influence.”
By using feedback, distortion, echo, and bits of dissonant guitar interplay, the band accents much of the music with eerie overtones and mesmerizing chord progressions. It’s like early Radiohead attempting early My Bloody Valentine with a slight jangle and a lead singer under hypnosis.
With pulsating guitar effects and booming drums, “The Rich and the Poor” might be the most bombastic example of the band’s quiet/loud dynamic. The steady, anthemic title track lumbers with more of a Band of Horses groove.
Hill, 24, started playing electric guitar as a young teen. He and Crumrine were the first of the bandmates to start working on original material four years ago.
“Once Ben came in, we started being more deliberate about what we were doing, but I don’t think it was a native musical expression for any of us,” says Hill. “It was a hybrid experience, I suppose.”
As the lyricist, Hill brings song ideas and sketches to the band with the intention of letting them react naturally and adding their own parts to the basic arrangements. It’s a healthy process that yields impressive results.
“We really clicked in the beginning,” says Hill. “What we played made sense to us, but I don’t know that we were looking at it from the same perspective. It got more high-volume as it took shape. Nowadays, we’re almost always the loudest band on the bill. I can’t think of a band we’ve played with who’s louder. But’s it’s not always loud …”