A lot has happened since 1986. In 1986, a small computer graphics department of Lucasfilm became independent and began calling itself Pixar. In 1986, Doritos unveiled its new flavor, Cool Ranch. Artists such as Madonna and Janet Jackson dominated the music scene. Cult favorite films “Top Gun,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Aliens” all made their debut in theaters.
And in 1986, a group of friends from Hershey, Pennsylvania formed a band in high school and recorded a few demos, calling themselves The Ocean Blue. Now, 33 years later, The Ocean Blue is still thriving on the indie pop scene, playing at DNA Lounge in San Francisco on Nov. 15 as a stop on its “Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves” tour.
Although the band formed in 1986, its history goes even further back. First meeting in middle school, the band members would go on to record a few demos in high school that made it on to a local radio station. Like every teenage band’s dream, while still in high school, The Ocean Blue signed a record deal and quickly released its first album, aptly titled The Ocean Blue after the band. For the next decade, the band would go on to become a steadfast constant in the U.S. indie music scene, releasing four more albums with singles that consistently charted on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. After a 14-year hiatus, the band released its sixth album, Ultramarine, in 2013 and its seventh, Waterworks, in 2014. The band is now on tour for its eighth album, Kings and Queens/Knaves and Thieves.
The band has an extensive history, and its years of touring have culminated in a mastery of live performance. As The Ocean Blue played to a sold-out crowd at DNA Lounge, the band had a presence onstage that only three decades of experience can bring. The members might not have been the high schoolers they once were when they started, but they brought the same ‘80s and ‘90s energy and aesthetic to the venue that would make any Urban Outfitters-enthusiast jealous.
Opening with “All the Way Blue” from the band’s latest album, The Ocean Blue set the feel-good vibe for the night, its music perfect for closing your eyes and swaying to the beat. The songs the band played had that timeless quality where they would fit right into the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie or the latest trendy A24 flick.
Even when the band wasn’t playing its own songs, it kept its mellow ‘90s vibe. Covering Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and the Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” the band performed to a crowd enthusiastically singing along. Despite both bands being rooted in different decades than The Ocean Blue — Joy Division being a part of the ‘70s post-punk scene and the Smiths being an iconic fixture of the ‘80s British indie rock movement — both songs could have easily been a single on any of The Ocean Blue’s eight albums, a testament to the ageless quality and versatility of the band.
You know that manic pixie situation that only happens in indie rom-coms or young adult novels, in which an endearingly nerdy guy and quirky girl stumble upon an underground band playing at a hip secret bar, spontaneously have the night of their lives and fall in love? The Ocean Blue is exactly the band that would be playing in this dream situation. For over 30 years, the band has been an indie treasure. It has just been waiting to be discovered by a new wave of fans — and like a shore at high tide, the waves keep coming.
Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].