The Ocean Blue began in the late 1980's in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Teenage friends David Schelzel, Steve Lau, and Bobby Mittan came
together for the love of new wave and college radio of the day that
simmered beneath the mainstream of popular music. The boys practiced
in each other's basements, worked on their own tunes, and made plans.
As high school graduation neared, Steve sent some of the band's
demo tapes off to local management companies, including the office
of one busyman, Peter Freedman, a recent NYC transplant from Pennsylvania.
He took the bands calls, promised them glory, and told them they
had to play out.
Shortly thereafter, Rob Minnig joined the group as drummer and,
most conveniently, recording engineer. The band spent the rest of
the year working on new demos in Rob's studio and playing out for
the first time in clubs and colleges in Pennsylvania and surrounding
states. High points: opening for Wang Chung at the Metron; playing
Hershey Park and Hershey High Prom; gigs at the all-girls Hood College
and the all-boys Georgetown Prep; the Indigo Girls as a support
band. Low points: purchasing a Sears service van that ran on oil;
collapsing ironing boards, gracing the cover of Pennsylvania Musician.
1988 was a very good year. The band landed a nice publishing deal
with EMI/SBK Publishing who, along with Peter Freedman and friends,
began shopping the group's new demos to the major record labels.
Titles: "Between Something and Nothing", "The Office
of A Busy Man", "The Circus Animals", "Drifting,
Falling", "Myron". Who wouldn't fall in Love? By
the summer of 1988, the group was being courted by nearly a dozen
labels, one of which was Sire Records, home of many of the band's
favorite artists, including the Smiths, Aztec Camera, Madonna and
Echo and the Bunnymen. After some deliberation, approx. 5 seconds,
the band accepted Sire's generous offer. High Points of 1988: sold
out shows at the Chameleon in Lancaster, PA; private show case for
Clive Davis in a New York studio (Clive came and left by limo and
never said a word); pandemonium at the 9:30 in DC; Revival in Philadelphia;
Penn, Princeton, and Penn State; RECORD DEAL! Low Points: breaking
two guitar strings at a private showcase for Clive Davis in a New
York studio (Clive came and left by limo and never said a word);
photo shot ala the Cure; out of hand fog machines.
At the suggestion of Sire's president and founder, Seymour Stein,
the band began recording their first record, The Ocean Blue, in
London in December 1988 with producer John Porter (Roxy Music, Billy
Bragg, the Smiths), and finished in early 1989 with producer Mark
Opitz (INXS, Divinyls). This record captures the youthful heights
of the band - both good and bad - and contains the group's most
masterful pop tunes. After releasing the record in late summer 1989,
the band toured North America extensively on their own and then
again with label mates, the Mighty Lemon Drops. To the surprised
delight of Warner Bros. (and the group) the band's first three singles,
"Between Something and Nothing", "Vanity Fair"
and "Drifting, Falling" were bona fide hits! on college
radio, commercial alternative and modern rock radio stations. MTV
played the band's videos on its alternative programs. High points:
being in the presence of John Porter and the amps/guitars/studio
in which he crafted "How Soon is Now?"; making a video
in New York with beautiful Swiss model; making beautiful autumn
video for "Drifting, Falling" in Hershey; "Drifting,
Falling" following "How Soon is Now?" on MTV; NPR's
morning edition; supporting Deborah Harry and all of the Talking
Heads (separately); supporting sexless Johnny Lydon and oversexed
Aimee Mann; Club MTV with New Order and Downtown Julie Brown; landing
#2 in Billboard Modern Rock between U2 and B-52s; Low Points: Club
MTV with Downtown Julie Brown; overnighters in Jimmy Hendrix's tour
bus; out of hand fog machines; changing the Pan Am 103 return flight
from London (correction, that was a high).
1991 was also a very good year. The band went north to New England
and produced a record which remains a moody classic and a favorite
of fans. Self-produced and brilliantly introspective and atmospheric,
Cerulean reflects well the state of affairs for the group after
much touring and stretched out lives. After its release in late
1991, the record spawned three singles and two videos, including
"Ballerina Out of Control". A short American tour followed,
and later a tour supporting the Psychedelic Furs.
points: Cerulean; raining flowers from fans; NPR interludes; 25K
at WHFS festival; Late Night with Allan Thicke; MTV 120 Minutes;
meeting the Bee Gees and Madonna's sister at Warner Bros.; supporting
My Bloody Valentine and the Go-Go's (on separate occasions); Dave
Matthews supporting The Ocean Blue (low point?); Low Points: breakups;
By the end of 1992, the band was back in record mode. They headed
south to Nassau, Bahamas, to make the wonderfully crafted pop record
Beneath the Rhythm and Sound. Released in the fall of 1993, the
album brought the band broad exposure on pop radio, MTV and network
television. The group did a sublime video in Iceland for their biggest
single to date, "Sublime", and toured America and overseas.
High Points: Iceland and Nassau; videos with Ballerinas and Bobby's
grandmother; Conan O'Brien; Michael Stipe on the guest list; Bob
Marley's guitar; supporting Tear For Fear; Low Points: wrong version
of Sublime; mixing in Bahamas; Loveline...
1994, ah...a year of change. Stop and blink and wonder. Sire released
the EP Peace and Light, which contained the last single for Sire,
"Peace of Mind", and the most sought after rarity of the
group's recordings - their show stopping cover of the Smiths', "There
is a Light that Never Goes Out". Shortly after returning from
a tour of Denmark, the band left Sire, Steve left the band, and
Oed joined the group. Steve left to devote himself to a full-time
career in the music business- really (Steve launced Kinetic Records).
Oed Ronne, who had been second guitar player on several of the group's
recent tours, became a new member of the band. High points: Jewel
supporting The Ocean Blue (and charming the singer); taking Denmark
ala the Beatles; arrival of the Oed; Low points: hmm, lose a record
deal and your keyboard/sax player?
By the spring of 1995 things were looking less stormy and the band
signed a new record deal with PolyGram's Mercury Records. They began
work on a new album and what proved to be the longest sessions of
the band's career. 1996's See The Ocean Blue is a distinctively
guitar-driven and soulful record. Working with producer Dennis Herring
(Throwing Muses, Sparklehorse, The Innocence Mission) and mixing
engineer Alan Winstanley (Lloyd Cole, Madness, Bush), the band crafted
a record that contains some of the band's best studio recordings,
including perhaps their two greatest singles ever, the new-wavey
"Whenever You're Around" and the classic heart stopper,
"Slide". But as fate would have it, massive changes were
afoot in the record business and at PolyGram, and the commercial
success of the record fell short of the band's previous releases.
As PolyGram was split up and bought out, the band negotiated their
way out their contract and headed for the world of the Independents.
High Points: Guitars!; "Slide" on Top 40; San Francisco;
Liv on the Cover; video treatment by Oed and Phil Harder for "Whenever
You're Around"; TOB again in London; Low Points: Nashville;
shelving Oed and Phil's video treatment; surveying the music business...
As the Century turned, the group released Davy Jones' Locker, at
first independently through the band's mailing list, and later in
2001, on the indie March/What Are Records? label. Perhaps the most
endearing record by the band, this release contains recordings done
in the band's own rehearsal/recording studio and catch the group
at its most spontaneous and transparent self. It has become many
fans very favorite Ocean Blue record. High Points: no worries. Low
Points: see high points. The group did limited shows throughout
2001 and 2002 in support of Davy Jones' Locker, including appearances
in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and
In 2004, the band released Waterworks, a 6 song EP and beautiful
precursor to the band's next full length, which is what they are
up to now.