For some, this post probably doesn’t qualify for the famous guitar gear category. To them, I say listen to Oceansize. If there was ever a band who deserved more recognition, here it was, but sadly the Manchester five-piece went their separate ways in February of 2011.
However, Oceansize still hold an enviable position in my heart, that of best Christmas cover, thus forming the tenuous link for this post’s publication date. Listen below to their crushingly heavy yet elegantly delicate rendition of Howard Blake’s Snowman classic Walking in the Air and ponder its bizarre absence from yearly Christmas compilations.
One of Oceansize’s finest traits was its onslaught of guitar tones, largely thanks to a wide assortment of pedals, not to mention three guitarists. I saw the band twice before they split, once at Cardiff’s Barfly in 2009 and again at the ill-fated Millennium Music Hall in 2010. Both were incredible moments in my concert-going life but the second, in particular, easily ranks among my top five gigs of all time. Fortunately, I managed to get some gear shots at both venues, a selection of which I will share below (just don’t expect too much).
Frontman Mike Vennart gave himself one hell of a job, not only providing lead vocals but also facing the most tap-dancing onstage. His well-stocked pedalboard (on the band’s tour for 2010’s Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up) includes a number of Electro-Harmonix effects, as well as Lovetone Big Cheese and green Big Muff clones, plus a Marshall Shredmaster and Digitech XP100 Whammy/Wah. He runs this into an Orange Retro 50 head (thanks to PL in the comments section) plus Orange 4×12 and plays a heavily modified 1985 Squier Strat, which he discusses in an interview with MusicRadar (from the Cardiff Barfly gig, funnily enough) below. The video also features information on all the other gear the band use so pay attention.
If Oceansize had a clearly definable “lead” guitarist, it would have be Steve Durose, if only based on his live solos in ‘size anthem Ornament/The Last Wrongs. His board didn’t change too much over the years, with Vox wah, Line 6 DL4 and Danelectro Tuna Melt forming some of his most-used pedals. Steve played Gibson Les Pauls into Marshall JCM800 heads and Marshall 1960 4×12 cabs.
Gambler, otherwise known as Richard Ingram, played a fairly stripped-down selection of pedals, with a particular focus on dirt with an MXR Distortion III, Big Muff clone and Danelectro Fab Tone, the latter of which was originally made famous by Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. Gambler plays a homemade Epiphone SG into a Laney G50HL head with Marshall 1960 4×12 cab.
Well, that’s it for the gear which Oceansize used and it still pains me to use the past tense here. As for what the guys are up to now, Mike plays rhythm guitar live with Biffy Clyro and, along with Gambler, is readying material from British Theatre, while Steve Durose is performing live with fellow Mancunians Amplifier. Bassist Steven Hodson and drummer Mark Heron form two-thirds of noisy rockers Kong and Steven also has a quite excellent ambient project in the form of Mild Eyes. Oceansize as a complete entity will be sorely missed and I am just thankful that they have such a comprehensive and compelling back catalogue for us to continue to enjoy, whether they make new music together or not.