New quarantine duo contemplates the paradox of soul searching in its debut single for New Year's Day
It’s officially 2021, and while an end to social distancing appears (thankfully) to be on the horizon, a pandemic continues to affect the present and, consequently, the future. Much new music released in the new year will have come from late quarantine writing sessions, so it will be interesting to see what artists around the world will have to say from such a state of limbo.
The Ocean Majestic speaks on the matter by its mere existence. The brand new Oklahoma City band is an online collaboration between Bryan English and Jamie Bramble, both members of local indie rockers Westering. Fans of atmospheric guitars and gracefully full-bodied vocals will want to take note.
There are enough similarities between both The Ocean Majestic and Westering to suggest that the new project would probably not exist if its predecessor was still able to practice and gig regularly. However, with COVID having blocked so many paths, the two musicians worked out a detour.
Of course, Internet-based collaborations happen all the time. Long before 2020, they have been the organic drive behind many projects. Locally, it’s the format that gave us Husbands, and Soundcloud artists like Lonemoon and Slyrex can thank a lot of their online numbers to long-distance collaborations.
The Ocean Majestic is different, though. It’s a combination of voluntary and involuntary creativity, and that’s not the only way that it represents the odd limbo of quarantine. In its debut single, the band relates its thoughts on time and space, both of which felt out of proportion in 2020, to oxymorons of the human condition–losing oneself to find oneself, feeling dead while living, running to stand still, etc.
The song is called “Everyone Speeds on the Turnpike”, and you can stream it here in this Make Oklahoma Weirder track premiere.
With a moving bassline and steady drums that travel like Guitar Hero-esque white dotted lines, “Everyone Speeds on the Turnpike” cruises a highway of sound. However, while the music doesn’t necessarily evoke a feeling of suspension, the song prominently boasts a recurring line in its chorus about “going nowhere.” This is the song’s primary paradox, and it makes a lot of sense when one realizes the key to that specific wording. “Going nowhere” does not carry the same meaning as “not going anywhere.”
In other words, The Ocean Majestic implies that “nowhere” is a destination in itself. This is why the music plays with such motion. Nowhere is a worthy, albeit abstract, place to visit because when one gets there, one can reflect on the path they have been taking and whether it’s the right one to continue when one returns to it. It’s not unlike quarantine, which has given many people pause to reassess “normal.”
The on-point song title is not only a play into the growing popularity of wry mouthfuls in alternative and punk rock tracklists, but it’s one of the less common ones to make perfect tonal sense in context as well. “Everyone Speeds on the Turnpike” is about flooring it on the open road, pumping adrenaline through a sedentary body like smelling salts to the unconscious. Logistically, it is one of the few ways to seek a thrill within quarantine, but it’s also a metaphor for the pent-up desire one can have for a change of pace within one’s life.
There is a significant break halfway through the song that seems like both an end and a continuation. The Ocean Majestic finds its pause after a verse and a chorus leads the band out to find it, then the band turns around and plunges back into the song, echoing the lyrics’ literal reference to U-turns. It also echoes going back into “normal” civilization, armed with the experiences and lessons from the pandemic.
This may or may not have been what the band explicitly intended, but the parallels are certainly there. Either way, it speaks to the universality of the songwriting. In addition, “Everyone Speeds on the Turnpike” is just a great vibe, winding through brisk atmospheres colored with touches of nervousness and melancholy. It’s a nice interpretation of the song’s concepts, which are similarly just a bit too restless to chill out entirely. Even the final bass note, which lingers half-resolved throughout the choruses, ends the song on the same note of limbo.
With its debut single, The Ocean Majestic has presented an indie rock track that can be literally described as pivotal, since it hinges on two halves in both composition and theme. What a fitting way to start 2021.
A new calendar year is a fresh page in the book of one’s life, but it’s one that is preceded by heavily scrawled ones. It’s also followed by those yet to be filled, and New Year’s Day is that fleeting moment to stare into the waiting parchment, to consider what to write next. Will it be more of the same story, a plot twist, or a new fable altogether? Perhaps a drive to nowhere can help decide.
“Everyone Speeds on the Turnpike” is on all the major streaming services, though the $1 purchase on The Ocean Majestic’s Bandcamp page is always the more financially supportive option. You can also follow the band on Twitter to stay up to date on Is It Over Yet?, the upcoming EP expected to drop early in the coming year. Lastly, for some supplemental tripped out imagery, watch the music video for “Turnpike” below.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.