Pools of the pacific, waves of the west

Popular Vancouver band Hey Ocean! plays Revolutions tomorrow night

Lead singer Ashleigh Ball says Hey Ocean!’s music is inspired by nature and the scenic surroundings of their hometown, Vancouver.
Lead singer Ashleigh Ball says Hey Ocean!’s music is inspired by nature and the scenic surroundings of their hometown, Vancouver.

Imagine, if you will, David, holding an infant in a Vancouver home.

Nearly two decades ago, the Hey Ocean! guitarist David Beckingham was my babysitter.

I reconnected with Beckingham briefly during a conversation with lead singer and flautist, Ashleigh Ball.

Over the phone, I could hear muffled traces of Beckingham’s voice as we dialogued through Ball, who was caught in the middle of the reunion. Swept away in light-hearted reminiscence, Ball and I, who happen to share the same hometown, spoke fondly of the city’s various offerings. I mention a favourite hangout spot that rests on one of Vancouver’s finest views — one my friends and I call it

Secret Beach.

Reciprocating, Ball mentions a spot of her own — a spot a little further down than my own.

“My friend, he brought a couch in his truck and left it there. I’ll have to go check out your spot when I get home,” she said.

“I’ll have to go find that couch,” I responded.

Ball considers that perhaps the band’s west coast origins have been imprinted on the nature-inspired music they write. With a name like Hey Ocean! this seems plausible.

“It’s home. You can’t help but write about what you know best. It’s a beautiful place. We’re surrounded by oceans, mountains and trees,” she said.

“I think you can’t help but miss that when you go away on tour.”

I’m beaming with pride at this point, if you can’t tell.

Hey Ocean!’s exploratory disposition and creation of music seem to be guided by the previously mentioned sense of nature. Examples include songs like “Big Blue Wave” and “Islands.”

As I spoke with them, it became clear that the band writes about what they care about.

“I remember turning my phone on one day and there was this message from Gene Simmons,” Ball said.

In her burliest male imitation, she continued.

“Oh this is actually Gene Simmons, and I’m calling about your band. Yes, it’s the crazy guy who sticks his tongue out. I’d like it if you would call me back.” Simmons would go on to court the band for his record label.

I think it’s fair to say that many would envy such an opportunity. But to my surprise, Ball explained that Hey Ocean! would ultimately decide to go their own way. “I remember him pulling out his credit card — it had KISS printed on it — and saying to us, ‘We’re talking about music business here, not music.’ We just felt like he may have seen us as dollar signs,” she said. “He gave us a lot of great insights about songwriting, and he knows a lot about music, but it just wasn’t our cup of tea.”

When asked about the band’s brand or image, Ball responded with a short and sweet description of “homeless and poor.”

Quite comically, she refers to the currently luggage-less Beckingham.

“Somehow David’s suitcase fell out of the trailer and got lost within a 2 km radius. So he has no clothes,” she said. “This kind of thing happens all the time.”

Hey Ocean! plays Revolutions on Saturday at 9:30 p.m.

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