Oceans Hiding in Oceans is the latest release from acclaimed singer-songwriter Philip B. Price. The album arrives on 19 February via Signature Sounds, following his beautifully crafted 2019 LP, Bone Almanac. Written and recorded at his home studio, Oceans Hiding in Oceans finds the veteran musician grappling with the questions and anxieties of 2020 and the inevitable impact they’ll have on the future.
One can hear this in the new single, “Scarred For Life”. The song provides a sonic intersection between organic pop in the vein of Emmitt Rhodes (or McCartney II-era Macca) and the hypnotic, anxious rhythms and hooks of New Wave. All this amid a nagging, crucial question: What will the present moment teach us, and how will it shape the people we become.
Price, also known for his work the Winterpills, doesn’t provide us with easy answers but revisiting a question wrapped in fine songwriting and deft performance is inviting and comforting. Despite its inspirations, “Scarred For Life” is not a dark song but, rather, one that tries to move us out of the darkness.
Price recently spoke with PopMatters from his home in Massachusetts about the making of Oceans Hiding in Oceans, the future of streaming concerts, and the inspiration behind “Scarred For Life”.
Tell me about “Scarred For Life”.
That was one of those titles that I had written down without any lyrics or music attached to it. It just came out of my mind during all of this. I wondered, “Are we all permanently scarred by this?” The answer is, “Yes.” But how? We don’t really know yet. I was asking the question. Is this going to permanently change us? In some ways, I hope so. The question in the chorus is, “Are we all scarred for life?” The fine line is, “Life scars you for life.” How do we all deal with scars?
There are culture-wide scars and planet-wide scars. I think I was also thinking about this in the context of my little kid. How is he going to be affected by this? He’s not aware, really, of what’s going on, but he’s affected. They’re sensitive beings. They pick up on what adults are feeling. What is he sensing from that?
Were you planning on making an album in 2020, or the pandemic offer you the time you hadn’t expected?
Really, it was more of an act of desperation to keep from falling apart. I wasn’t really planning on an album last year. I’m always open to but it but my original plan for the first half of the year was to do a lot of touring on my last album, Bone Almanac. Then, during the second half of the year, maybe I’d release an album of weird B-sides that I have stashed and then do another Winterpills project. But a lot of songs started happening and I needed a project to focus on that took me out of what was going on. I tend to make lists of potential song titles, just on a piece of paper with no music in mind.
I had a whole bunch of those. When I decided that I was going to try something in order to discipline my brain, which was going pretty crazy, I began going through all my notes where I’ve collected melodies and chords. I started matching them up with lyrics. All of a sudden, songs started happening. I did the whole thing in my little studio here.
A good thing to have at this time.
Any chance I could get during the day, I’d work on the songs. Honestly, it’s a bit of a blur. I was thinking today about how little I actually remember about making the record. Usually, when you’re making a record, you have memories, you can say, “I remember doing this or this.” I don’t have any photographic evidence of this one.
When you were making the record at the beginning of the pandemic, did you find the anxiousness or the anxieties of that time come out in the lyrics?
I would say some of the songs are very direct about the pandemic state of mind and others are not quite so directly. I was trying to write about what I was going through. I was also trying to write away from it and see if I could find other things to write about. I really didn’t, I didn’t really want to make a pandemic album. I just wanted to make an album. Actually, I didn’t even want to write an album. I was just writing some songs. I didn’t know if it was going to be an EP or turn into some other project. But by the time I had 10 songs or so, it was clear what I was doing.
You’ve done a lot of online shows over the last year. Do you think this is something that might continue? I’ve heard people say, “Now we’re reaching markets we’d never go to. People in Japan or Nebraska can tune in and see us. We’d never go to those places on tour.”
I think so. A lot of people fix a lot of technical problems that plagued that way of doing things previously, a lot of people have learned from this. I don’t think it’s ever I don’t think it’s gonna replace live shows. I think we’re gonna be breaking down doors to get into the live shows, once things are really safe. But I think it’ll become a facet for sure. Our label, Signature Sounds, put on a whole mess of shows. They figured out a streaming portal and raised $120,000 for artists.
This is a legitimate income stream. This isn’t just a supplementary thing. This is like a show that might normally draw like 100 people in a small listening room now pulls in to 300 people. And it’s easy for people and it was all tips, no ticketed shows at all. And they’re happy to drop 20 bucks 30 bucks, 50 bucks. There was a little bit of a dip, toward the end of last summer when it seemed like people were getting tired. I think it’ll always be a facet.