On its first album in six years, dream pop veterans the Ocean Blue deal with what frontman David Schelzel calls “the big existential question — life and death and why are we here?” That Bergman-esque question is nodded to in the Bergman-esque video for the track “Kings and Queens,” premiering exclusively below.
“We’re all older,” Schelzel tells Billboard. “We’re kind of in mid-life now and everybody in the band has been through either life, death or huge loss in the last couple of years and it just makes you stop, pause and think about what you’re doing, and why. Songs have always been a way for me to deal with what I’m going through and what I’m thinking.
“This season of life has been particularly difficult,” adds Schelzel, who declines to provide details, “and it just kind of came out in these songs I was writing.”
Directed by Allison LaBonne, the “Kings and Queens” video blends color performance footage with black & white images of a young man’s oceanfront chess game with a cloaked, Grim Reaper-like figure — a knockoff of the iconic scene in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal. “It’s the first video we’ve done in a long time where I feel like we had the time to execute on a concept that made sense for the song,” Schelzel says of the clip, which was filmed on the northern shoreline of Minnesota, “which is a lot like the southern coast of Sweden where (Bergman) made a lot of those films. The song really sets the theme for the record, more than any we’ve done in a long time, wrestling with those big questions.”
Schelzel says the Ocean Blue didn’t plan on a six-year-plus break between 2013’s Ultramarine and Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves, which comes out June 21. But he says that being an independent band now, after years with major labels such as Sire and Polygram, “we don’t have those pressing timelines and we make records in the spaces that we have in our lives. I tend to be a perfectionist so I’m always wanting one more bite of the apple in the recording studio, and if you don’t have a deadline or someone clamoring to put out a record, things can kind of flip and you can take more time these days to make a record — even if it’s easier because we all have our own studios and more expertise than we did before.”
Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves also comes along on the 30th anniversary of the Ocean Blue’s self-titled debut album, which spawned the alternative rock hits “Between Something and Nothing” and “Drifting Falling.” The group will be celebrating that landmark as well as promoting the album this year, and Schelzel — who’s also working on a second album with the all-star 5 Billion Diamonds — explains that the group stays together for more than the music.
“I think what’s kept the Ocean Blue going is the relationships,” he says. “These guys are my friends and we have relationships that go really deep. I think it means that we enjoy making music together, we enjoy traveling and playing shows together, and I care about the guys. You can’t ask for more than that from a band, can you?”