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Hey Ocean! fight for pop music purity

Vancouver indie pop group plays GLC this Saturday

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Music nerds often find themselves pining for the golden age of pop music. We're talking the days before Katy Perry, before 'N Sync, before Tiffany even.

We're talking about the days of Simon and Garfunkel. We're talking about the Beatles. We're talking

Thriller-era Michael Jackson. We're talking about songs that utilized the verse-chorus-verse song structure to evoke some deeper truth from the heart and/or soul.

What the heck happened?

The kids in Hey Ocean! have found themselves wondering the same thing, but unlike most, they refuse to make do with Ke$ha records as the latest and greatest. Instead, the kids in Hey Ocean! — Ashleigh Ball, David Beckingham and Dave Vertesi —are creating their own version of pop music, mining its past glories to recharge the future.

"I think for a long time pop became a dirty word. We just don't see it that way," Vertesi says.

"We want to write great songs. We just really do," he says. "And we want to make great recordings of those songs, and that's as simple as it is."

They blend jazz, funk and roots into a charming feast of indie pop zeal. They're a beacon of light in a world growing ever more anxious for some kind of Apocalypse — and it's totally, completely intentional.

"We want to be a positive force," he says. "We want to make positive music, we want to have a positive impact on the world around us. In that sense, yeah, it's very intentional."

Their new, as-yet-untitled album is slated for release this spring. It's the sound of a bolder, sleeker Hey Ocean! It's more like a "studio album" than anything they've done before, which Vertesi says has everything to do with the band working with an engineer for the first time.

Their previous albums, 2008's It's Easier Being Somebody Else and 2007's Stop Looking Like Music, incorporated an indie ethos out of necessity — their albums were funded out of pocket, so the producer was their engineer and their drum tech. This time around, Hey Ocean! sought out a more professional recording process to fill out their sound.

"We've had comments that it's a lot poppier. I think we embraced that. We really embraced great production," Vertesi says.

The album was finished last March and based on the strength of the finished product, they signed a record deal with Universal and signed on with Nettwerk as their management firm. They've been sitting on the album while the two conglomerates sort out the best way to push the album into the over-saturated music landscape of 2012.

"We knew with this record that we would probably see an expanded audience and we just have a really good feeling about this one," he says when asked why the album has taken so long to release.

"What makes sense now is to have a team of people working on it (the album) and working together with people. We were very particular about who we wanted to work with, and that was a process in and of itself. Once the record was done we took our time to talk to a lot of people to see who would be best to set up shop with."

Despite the considerable time gap between completion and release, Vertesi says the album is still more representative of the band than anything they've ever done. And yet, it's merely a representation of the specific moment in time that it was recorded.

"A record is a moment in time and I think people forget that sometimes. But yeah, it is," he says. "That's where we were and it's a product of four years of writing and a year and a half of recording and starting again and a whole bunch of crazy stuff that happened to make that record."

They've been playing all the songs at shows throughout 2011. Surprisingly, fans will often sing along to songs that haven't been officially released yet. Credit that to the availability of bootlegged videos on the Internet if you wish, but in truth those bootlegs wouldn't even exist if nobody wanted to watch them.

The truth is, a dedicated fan base has watched and replayed those videos and learned the songs, waiting feverishly for the day that Hey Ocean! finally unleashes their new album.

"We've worked really hard to develop that (fan base) over seven years," Vertesi says.

"We've never been a band looking for stuff to come quickly. We've always believed in hard work and making stuff happen for yourself."

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