Hey Ocean! is a rare kind of band: one with a devout, unwavering following, a surprising bit of mainstream notoriety, and yet—despite all this—remain underdogs, only just now breaking out into the mainstream with their new album IS.
Yet let’s rewind the clocks: the group—which has been active since 2002 and features Ashleigh Ball on vocals, David Beckingham on lead guitar, and Ball’s friend since childhood David Vertesi on bass—has been working on its unique, optimistic brand of indie-pop for some time, its debut album Stop Looking Like Music having come out all the way back in 2006. Their music videos were clever, they toured constantly, and by the time 2010 came around, a surprising thing happened: Ball works as an actress in her spare time, doing a lot of voice work for kids shows and straight-to-DVD family franchise films. In 2010, she started doing the voices of Applejack and Rainbow Dash in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic—a show that has taken on a gigantic life of its own, which, as it happens, has lead the band to grow exponentially this past year.
In 2011, the Canadian group scored its first Top 40 single in its homeland with “Big Blue Wave”, its brand-new album IS made the charts for the first time, and it is embarking on its biggest tour yet. Before getting too caught up in all of that wackiness, however, David Beckingham sat down to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here discussing how closely his life resembles that of the movie Aladdin, why he wants to time travel into Vancouver’s past, and narrows in on which album is truly the greatest one ever made ...
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Beasts of the Southern Wild.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Aladdin because I didn’t have a ton of money growing up, did some stealing to get what I needed, and went after rich princesses (occasionally with a flying carpet).
3. The greatest album, ever?
Hardest question ever. Too much good music out there—this question makes music lovers heads explode. Rumors by Fleetwood Mac.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
5. Your ideal brain food?
The outdoors and some good conversation.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Growing up on three different continents (Europe, Africa, N. America). I guess I feel like moving around a lot as a kid and not losing my mind only made me stronger, and it’s an accomplishment. Also, my friends often think I’m too vocal about it, which makes me wear it even more so like a badge of honor.
7. You want to be remembered for ... ?
Creating something meaningful.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
The Haida people of the Pacific Northwest, The Ancient Egyptians, and the Mayans.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
The underwater Yonaguni Monument.
10. Your hidden talents ... ?
A linguistic knack, as well as accents.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“Experience is the greatest teacher, but fools will learn from no other.” My comparative civilizations teacher gave me this advice in high school by typing it up and putting it on the wall for me. The thing is, in some cases I just chose to apply the “experience is the greatest teacher” part, so I guess I was a fool. Then when I realized that I wasn’t completely invincible, which I still struggle to believe, I started heeding the advice of close friends and mentors more. Rest in peace Mr. Holysh.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I think that would have to be my Fender Jaguar. I bought it, but steal my picks. Is that bad?
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or ... ?
Levis 510s all the way.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
The Dalai Lama maybe? I feel like he’d have some good things to say about life.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
Oh that’s easy, Vancouver 200 years ago for a week and then 190 years ago for a week the 180 and so on until today. It’s the city I know best, and I’d love to go back and see it when it was nothing but old growth trees and first nations people and the sea was clean. It would be cool to see it develop and walk down the streets before they were built ... bring the ghosts to life.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
Spa, I guess?
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ... ?
Herbal teas. Coffee is pretty amazing too, but I need to go off and on to manage the addictiveness.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Both at different times of the year—Islands in British Columbia in the summer and Montreal in the fall. Spring in Vancouver and an oceanfront farm in Costa Rica in the winter months.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Stop leasing our rivers to private companies, you dimwit. No to Bill C-45!
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
Writing, living, learning, loving. A new group of Hey Ocean! songs. Touring down to SXSW and hitting as many US cities as possible along the way and this year.