There's a story behind the name Oceans Are Zeroes, but the local post-rock band doesn't want to tell it.
"We have where it came from and a meaning for it that we've come up with, but we really want to leave it vague," said guitarist Sam Carrier.
"I think what we like about it is just the image it puts in people's heads." added drummer Tyler Shockey.
The name puts images in the band members' heads, as well.
"It just reminds me that I can breathe and just take each day at a time," said Carrier's brother, singer-guitarist Joseph Lyle. "And sometimes, the big things are meaningless—like, 'the oceans are zeroes.' ... I hope that it does just that—makes people think in a big way."
So far, Lyle's hope seems to be coming true. Released digitally on May 5, Oceans Are Zeroes' self-titled album (self-released, 2017) has received praise for its soaring vocals, epic sweep and brooding, thunderous power. Glide Magazine, which released an exclusive stream of Oceans Are Zeroes on May 2, likened the band to Sigur Ros, Explosions in the Sky and M83, "but with a poppier songwriting sensibility and a [penchant] for crafting hypnotic, cinematic rock arrangements." Popmatters, Myspace and Impose Magazine have also featured tracks from the album.
Boise audiences will get a chance to hear Oceans Are Zeroes new album live with a release show Saturday, May 20 at Neurolux. Local electronica act Lerk and Utah-based singer-songwriter Paul Travis will open.
Originally called A Sea of Glass, the band's most recent music combines elements of its earlier work—specifically, dreamy melodies and Lyle's high, serene vocals—with a harder edge and a more melancholy mood. This change in sound was partially due to Lyle going through a breakup as the band was writing its new songs.
"I feel like when you're hurting, different stuff comes out sometimes," Carrier said. "I don't think we ever planned for that but as it morphed together, I felt like we were really excited about that direction and where things had started to go."
The path to Oceans Are Zeroes started in Ontario, Ore., where Lyle and Carrier were living and playing music and where they met violin player KJ Zimmerman.
"We started jamming together out in Ontario; we all liked the same kind of music," Lyle said. "But it wasn't working out there. We felt like we'd exhausted our resources."
After seeking greener pastures in Boise, the three musicians met Shockey and bassist Justin Gaupp and began writing material that would appear on A Sea of Glass's debut album, The Leaving (self-released, 2013).
"I often refer to it as the 'chemistry album,'" Lyle said. "It's like the dating phase where you're getting to know each other. So the songs very much had a kind of spring to their steps—we were all just pumped up to be in a band."
In Lyle's view, the spaciousness of the group's sound could stem from growing up in the rural Northwest.
"For one, there's just not a lot to do in the country," he said. "So your creative brain kicks in, and you make something out of nothing. It probably does affect the way we do music."
It took Lyle and his bandmates two years to complete Oceans Are Zeroes. They recorded part of the album at a friend's cabin in Idaho City.
"It's so easy to get distracted by the city and stress," Lyle said. "We didn't want any of that to be around. We just wanted to really bind at the beginning of the process."
Still, working at the cabin presented some challenges.
"The house had kind of weird power," Lyle said. "It kept surging, so it took longer. We had to wait for the noises to go away."
"There was a power outage one night," Carrier added, laughing. "It was epic."
Even after they moved to The Mix House recording studio in Boise, the time and work needed to finish the album raised doubts in the band members' minds. The darker mood of the new songs did, too.
"We still have our doubts," Lyle said.
"It's a three-way relationship," Carrier added. "You're in love with what you're making, but you're also in love with your audience because, truly, that's what it's about. But if they're not getting it, the relationship [with] your audience fails."
Oceans Are Zeroes will see how audiences respond soon enough. The group hopes to organize a fall tour and has already started planning another album.
Whatever people think of the new sound, Lyle's proud of what he and his bandmates have achieved on their latest LP.
"We're all growing and changing," he said. "And if the music doesn't reflect that, is it coming from within? Or is it just this idea?"