Interview with Oceans In The Sky
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I grew up in a musical family, so I started playing classical music at a young age. But when I first heard rock music, I was instantly infatuated and became a massive music fan from then on. I started writing songs and playing in all kinds of different groups not long after. If I weren’t playing music, I’d likely be doing some other creative thing, maybe film or animation. I’ve done some video work and the process of having a vision, telling a story, and building a world is somewhat similar to writing and producing music. Or maybe a kindergarten teacher. I taught kindergarten for a year in Taiwan and it was a blast.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Family and friends are more important to me than anything, so I enjoy spending time with them the most. I feel lucky to have amazing people around me who make me laugh and inspire me. Love you guys! I’m a bit of a nerd. I love anime and video games and learning languages. I was first exposed to Japanese music through anime and video games. The songs are mostly in English but I sing in Mandarin and occasionally throw in a little Japanese. I love to travel and live in different countries and languages. It’s a joy to go to a new place and have that feeling of being like a child. Songwriting can be a similar thing for me– a lot of listening, repetition, exploration and not letting myself get too discouraged. Being a bit out of my comfort zone brings out that childlike wonder and excitement in me, and the songs I write where I’m exploring new sounds are usually my favorites.
How long have you been around?
Mugen began in 2013, and we recently changed the name to Oceans in the Sky in 2022.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based out of New York City, and spent a lot of my life in Taiwan. I don’t know if there’s a New York sound to the music, but certainly there’s a confidence and a punk energy in the music that is partially inspired by this amazing city. Growing up with friends of all different backgrounds exposed me to way more diversity of sounds and genres than most and that can be heard in the music. Spending a lot of time in Taiwan I grew to love a lot of Chinese and Japanese pop and rock. There’s a good amount of pipa (a traditional Chinese instrument) on the upcoming album, and other colors, melodies and production influenced by music from those places.
How did you come up with your stage name of Oceans in the Sky and what does it mean to you?
It was initially inspired by the great film “Castle in the Sky”. And I’ve always loved the sky. It’s a reminder of how small we are and how vast the universe is. We get so caught up in our lives we can go days without really noticing the most beautiful natural painting above us. It’s always changing and always there. And I liked the idea of “Oceans in the Sky” because I also love the ocean and bodies of water in general. Ocean and sky run parallel to each other but are separate entities. With my music, I tend to look for parallels in different sounds that normally wouldn’t go together and I blend them.
Tell me about your most memorable shows (as a performer or an attendee)
Our recent show at The Footlight Underground in Queens is definitely up there. I had been playing solo for a while so it was the first full band show with this new lineup of myself (Liam Frost), my brother Connor Frost and two of my closest friends Wonjoon Jang and Joe Anderson. It was the first hometown show since before the pandemic too and we played a bunch of these new songs. The sound person was really, really incompetent to the point that it was almost laughable. But I had my boys by my side and we played to such a hyped up crowd of amazing friends and fans. It ended up being a really special night despite the technical issues. Thank you so much to everyone who came to that one– you were the reason that show was great!
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Probably Revolver in Taipei. Just this awesome little venue in Taipei with great sound and a built-in crowd of super passionate music fans. I played there a lot when I lived there and we played there when I toured China and Taiwan in 2018 with Dizzy Bats. That was an incredible show. It was so touching that a lot of people were excited to see us even though it had been a couple years. It would be cool to play The Sultan Room in Brooklyn in the near future. Hope to play The Bowery Ballroom in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully some festivals in Taiwan and China too.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
That’s a tough question. Playing with Weezer, Blink, Perfume, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Phoenix, Passion Pit, Jay Chou…with any of them would be tight. But I’m gonna go with The Color Fred, Lilito, AM0RA and Mighty Tortuga. They’re all bands on our label (Heading East Records) and I’m blown away by how good they are. I hope we can get a Heading East tour going because that would be epic. Can’t be a southern tour, though, gotta head east.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Play shows often and don’t forget to have a life outside of music. Earlier in the album writing process, I was too focused on the album. I wasn’t playing shows much and I couldn’t afford to go out with friends because all my money was going towards recording. I wasn’t happy and I genuinely believed that it was okay to be really unhappy as long as I was making good art. That was dumb.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
They all mean a lot to me and I don’t really have an answer for this. But “Sparks” (which we are working on transferring from the old Mugen page) was the first song I did where I felt like, “Wow, I made this?” And that’s been sort of the standard ever since. If I don’t have that feeling– goosebumps and “holy shit!” feelings about a song, it doesn’t go past the demo phase.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
They’re all high energy so it’s all super fun to play. “Song of the Summer” tends to bring out a lot of energy in the room and is a blast to play. People probably most often request the original version of “Fake Holiday” (which we are also working on transferring from the Mugen page). Maybe they’ll request “Fake Holiday- Remix” now since I personally think it’s a way better version of the track and just came out under Oceans in the Sky. On the recent tour, people seemed to like the upcoming single “Ghost” the most.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
Usually starts with melody. I value good catchy melodies above all else. Then I build the worlds around that. Then I write lyrics to the melodies. I like to tell stories and I’ll free-write dozens of pages, zero in on the message and parts that I like, then draft the lyrics again and again till it feels right. Melodies may change a bit to work best with the lyrics. Then I record in my home studio. I just have a basic setup with the gear I need. Sometimes I record as I’m figuring out the song, sometimes I have it all in my head and just lay it down. Then I go into the studio with Jon Markson, my very talented co-producer and mixer, and he and many other killer musician friends help complete the vision. I like to be there for the whole process because there’s something about being in a room together and communicating through music. I’m inspired by life and the world around me and by my favorite artists and sounds.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
It varies, but with the album, there’s definitely a theme of wherever I am in the world, I’m searching for a sense of belonging and happiness. I try to be as real as possible because sincere and vulnerable lyrics are the best kind, even if it gives me a bit of anxiety that people will hear it.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We will drop more singles, music videos and the album all in the near future! Go check out the bands on Heading East Records, too– they’re all amazing. We also have a show on September 17 at The Footlight Underground (with a different sound person) in Queens! Come hang! Thanks so much for listening. If you’d like to follow along, @oceansintheskymusic is the social media handle. Thanks to Volatile Weekly and thanks to you for reading, listening and supporting us!