Ocean Colour Scene are bastions of British Rock and Roll. Enjoying success through the early 90s and onwards, they have been around for perhaps longer than many of us need reminding of our age! This year, Split Festival has been fortunate enough to grab Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison to perform their critically lauded acoustic set and bizarrely but beautifully, the line-up has paired the folk rock feel of Ocean Colour Scene’s discography with Dizzee Rascal’s grime sound, ensuring that there really is something for everyone in Mowbray Park this August!
In preparation for this glorious spectacle, Split Festival's we caught up with Simon to pick his brains and his back catalogue:
Morning Simon, pleasure to speak to you, are you excited about playing Split?
SF: Yeah, definitely, we’ve heard some great things about Split. We haven’t done festivals for quite a while but it’s always good to play festivals and playing outdoors as well.
I’m interested to know how this ‘acoustic set’ idea came up?
SF: We started doing it probably about 12 years ago, I think it was because when Steve (Craddock) was working with Paul Weller at the time and we suddenly found that we had time on our hands and we thought ‘well we could do these songs in this format which is how they were originally written really’, so making the transition from the whole band to doing it acoustically is pretty easy.
You have said yourself Ocean Colour Scene are a ‘heritage band’, would you argue this is your way of keeping things fresh?
SF: I guess so... Yeah it’s a way for us to go and play at places Ocean Colour Scene [OCS] probably wouldn’t usually play at. So we play at more out the way places, smaller festivals that OCS [as a full band] wouldn’t play. As a band this year we are only doing, I think, one gig of OCS stuff because we did so much last year that we’re going to have a bit of a break and then we will tour early next year. So yeah, like you said, it’s a way of keeping it fresh.
And again you’ve often been noted saying you prefer the folk side rather than the rock part, would you say this acoustic set helps to bring out the real you?
I think yeah probably, I’m pretty ham fisted with an electric guitar (laughs). I’m a strummer, so it’s the way I would naturally play and perform. Whether you want to call that folk music or not, I don’t know. My early influences were Bob Dylan and Neil Young as I was learning the guitar as a child, so I sort of did what they did really.
You mentioned Neil Young and Bob Dylan – The Stone Roses helped to combine all those sounds. What was it about them that specifically inspired you?
It was contemporary, it was what was happening when we formed, the songs were great and it definitely brought a lot of the elements musically together in one place. But I guess really it was the songs.
Do you miss the Britpop era at all? There was a great few lines from Noel Gallagher who said about OCS being the second best band in Britain and then Steve Craddock [guitarist in OCS] responding by saying “It’s nice to be put behind The Beatles”.
Well it was encouraged I think because the press really got into the Blur/Oasis thing didn’t they, and really what everyone else was doing was playing the past, you know. They were playing The Beatles and The Stones and ultimately it sells records and magazines and it was having that rivalry. I mean who is going to have that rivalry now? Jake Bugg and Ed Sheeran? (Laughs) ‘I’m better looking than you’.
(Laughs) Spot on, I mean would you ever be open to doing a collaboration with Jake Bugg?
SF: Yeah I would love too! I actually like Jake Bugg a lot and Steve’s got to know a little bit about him.
When you wrote ‘Moseley Shoals’ and then the rest of your catalogue of albums, did you aim to write something better than the last or was it a case of trying something different every time?
I don’t really plan it like that, you just sit down and I would start writing songs and that’s how they are planned really...
I guess the idea behind that is that you have to cater for a large age group of people and that’s exactly why they do it. It’s always the same, look at the Glastonbury line ups for example, you’ve got a whole, I mean you’ve got everything you could want! As a festival, that’s what you should aim to be doing, and Split are doing that.
At Split Festival this year, you take to the stage immediately before Dizzee Rascal, what are your feelings on such a diverse line-up?