Little interview I conducted with the rising-to-stardom band, Ocean Park Standoff. Their music is great for a variety of genre-lovers because they personify a little bit of everything. Try them out today and listen to “Good News” and “Photos & Liquor” 🙂
I got to talk to Ethan Thompson, one-third of the sunny L.A. band Ocean Park Standoff. Their hit single “Good News” video was recently premiered on Conan O’Brien Presents: Team Coco, and the trio is getting ready to release their highly anticipated EP this March. They are also currently touring and are set to tour the nation this summer. Their eclectic, chill vibe mixed with catchy beats makes their music the perfect added edge to your day at the beach. My personal favorite, “Photos & Liquor,” was inspired by a seemingly romantic picture of Thompson kissing his ex, when in reality the photo was captured during a fight. The addictive melody about distorted memories has skyrocketed to popularity alongside “Good News” which already has over 2 million listens on Spotify. Singer/ songwriter Ethan Thompson, along with internationally famous DJ and musician Samantha Ronson and…
Music with a message. I just like to incorporate whatever I’m going through at the time, political issues, into the music. I definitely want to start doing more solo stuff, a lot of the stuff on SoundCloud is stuff I’ve done with Lyrical. But I have a lot of conscious music, and also some club music. I like to make music for everyone.
I think a lot of the criticism that rap gets today is about its lyrics and content. Do you think that’s true?
Yeah, I definitely agree. I think the image that a lot of the rappers today have is degrading towards women and certain minority groups, as far as sexuality goes, and I really feel like they like to up-play things that will get people f***** up out here [laughs]. It’s the government’s way of keeping things separate. I don’t necessarily agree with that, I make more of a message in my music for sure.
So what do you think you’re doing differently than other rappers, besides making music with a message?
Just being myself. I think I get inspiration from like Kendrick, J.Cole; people that are true to themselves with the music and you know just image-wise as well.
Yeah, what do you think about rap, modern, today, right now; what do you think about it?
I think it’s pretty embarrassing to be honest. I feel like most of it, like, if you’re not acting like a monkey on stage you don’t get really a lot of respect. A lot of who the media play, that are the largest, that you see on TV are just talking about nonsense. See T.I. is the perfect example. You know he started off making like real trap music, less conscious music just from his standpoint. You know, he grew up in a bad neighborhood so his music is set from that standpoint, but now it’s more political, more conscious on civil rights. Now that he’s coming to the conscious side of things, I definitely see him less in the spotlight of the media because he’s opening people’s minds with the music that he’s making now, and that’s not what ‘sells.’
“You know what I’m saying? It’s all about the sex image and how much weed you smoke and how many drugs you sell and how much money you have. But in reality, we should be focusing on what’s happening in the world today, you know, trying to be a positive light instead of just mucking it up even more than it already is.”
What do you think about the evolution of rap, compared to what it was in the 80s, 90s, even early 2000’s?
Honestly I think it’s devolved. I really admire people like Isaiah Rashad, J. Cole, Kendrick, because they are really speaking on what’s happening in their lives and what’s happening in society and they give solutions to those issues in their music. I feel like that’s one thing that Biggie didn’t do a lot of. Tupac definitely did, you know, he was a social activist. He had music that was more violent to suit a certain group of people, but I really think that was more of the label pushing him. I really think it’s devolved since then.
I want to talk about politics for a second, just because in one of your songs you get a little bit political. Since you’re trying to stay positive, how have you responded to the current political situation and how has it influenced your music?
Like in the song Can’t Find Love, we really just tried to open people’s minds to the ignorance that is everyday life in America. Racism is like the biggest issue I feel like in our country right now, just with political candidates, Republican and Democratic parties, that’s all they focus on is racial tension. I feel like the leaders today are trying to start a race war just for the sake of making money. It’s really sad; war is the biggest moneymaker in the world. A lot of people our age are like ‘I’m not trying to go vote because I don’t like Hillary or Trump.’ I feel like we don’t have a candidate that speaks for us. My fiancé is really into Jill Stein. I’ve been reading up on her a lot lately and even though the chances are really slim for her to win, I feel like if people got together and got behind her we could see some real change in the country. I just want to see a change in my lifetime; I want to be a voice for change and for the millennial group and younger.
How did you get started? When did you start rapping? How did you get into rap music, like what was your first experience with hip hop?
I grew up playing like hardcore metal; I played drums. My uncle is actually a really famous producer, he produced like Jay-Z’s first album Reasonable Doubt and I think the next two after that. He’s really the one who got me into hip-hop. I remember going to his house as a young kid and seeing all his Gold Records on the wall, like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, DMX, all those iconic artists and just being able to sit in the studio and watch him work. He really inspired me; he gave me my first set of drums. That’s why I got started. And singing in church, I have always been in the choir or playing drums with the praise team. That was really the start—the church, and a lot of artists can relate to that.
Yeah, I’ve actually heard that more than a few times. Do you find that influences your art?
Definitely, in every way. A lot of my music has that feel. You’ll hear biblical references, metaphors. What I find is that if people hear something familiar, it catches their ear even quicker. Which Chance is doing with his new album. He has a lot of biblical references in his art and I feel like it just makes it easier to catch people’s hearts, and that’s all I’m really here to do.
Another thing I noticed in your songs, like a lot of other rappers will try to maintain this image of them constantly partying and never sitting down and working on anything. But you, in some of your music, take a different approach and you talk about how hard and how much work it takes. That’s probably part of what you were saying earlier about how you just want to be real. When you push this message, are you trying to be honest or are you trying to be different?
I feel like being different is just being yourself. If you try too hard to be different, it seems fake. I just try to stay true to myself as much as possible.
As an artist, have you ever felt an ethical dilemma of having to conform to any kind of genre or needed to change your perspective or your attempt to be conscious in your writing, in order to make it easier to sell or easier to market?
Definitely. Every time I start writing a song, that’s the main thing on my mind. Depending on the mood that I get from the instrumental is really what determines that, or if I saw something on Facebook or the news that would piss me off one day, I just start writing and those are the songs that I really don’t give a f*** about, I just want marketability. I really just care about getting my feelings off my chest. Then I have songs like “Potion” that are written specifically for the radio. Everyone has that one song that you’re just trying to get on the radio that isn’t conscious; J.Cole’s was “Can’t Get Enough.” That one song that gets you in people’s ears, so they want to hear more.
Where do you think the line is? Is it just maintaining a balance so you can create something for your creative outlet and then something that’s going to be popular?
It definitely takes balance, that’s something I struggle with all the time because a lot of the ones that are really radio-friendly, I hate those songs. They’re genuine, but I never talk about stuff that is happening in my life or don’t agree with, but at the same time I want people to hear me. Sometimes I feel like people pay too much attention to the things that you hear [lyrics] in music, like ‘Ok, this dude smoke hella weed, I love to chill with him.’ I do smoke hella weed, that’s true, but at the same time there’s a reason behind it and I have a reason for everything I do. There are certain events that have happened in my life that have brought me to this point. In the music that speaks about that is what I really want you to pay attention to. You’re not getting the radio plays if you’re conscious.
“It’s all about how much drugs you do, how much money you make, how many women you got, and all of that needs to change.”
I just think it’s gotten so far from what it used to be and it could be so much better. There are definitely some artists out here legitimately trying to make a difference. It’s just mind-opening, seeing T.I. put out songs like “Peanut Butter Jelly” or “About the Money” getting millions of views, and then he puts out “Black Man” and all his other songs on his new album and they’re out for a month and have 40,000 views. People want something real but when they get it they can’t handle it [laughing]. They say ‘That’s too much, you’re saying too much,’ and ‘that’s all Black Lives Matter, I really don’t care about that,’ you know what I’m saying? People see what’s going on in the world and then they preach on Facebook how they want change but then when other people come out with music preaching that change they don’t support that music, they just want 21 Savage “I’m Flexin’ On My Ex Bitch.” You know? It’s a dope song, but at the same time it’s a shitty song, it’s just a distraction.
They don’t want to listen to something that would maybe teach them something or broaden their understanding right?
Yeah, it’d be nice if people wanted that, but all people want is entertainment. Sadly, knowledge isn’t always entertaining. It takes an intelligent person to appreciate music like that. That’s honestly why conscious music is not popular, because most of the world only wants a dope beat to shake their ass too and a catchy hook, and that isn’t everything. Music literally influences your everyday life. If hip hop wasn’t a thing, half of these guys selling drugs wouldn’t be doing it. That’s the suggestion that hip hop music plants in your head that causes these minority groups, along with segregation and other issues, but hip-hop music is huge. For that reason, the government actually has a hip hop task force where they go and catch rappers that rap about selling drugs, and a lot of these guys are stupid enough to be rapping about what they’re doing in their everyday life, like Bobby Shmurda. It was a dope song, but it got five of his homeboys locked up, and he’s in prison for 7 years. He’s only in for 7 years because he snitched on everybody else. Music is dangerous; it can be a very dangerous weapon used in the wrong way, and I feel like it can be just as positive used in the right way. You saw a lot of that in the sixties and seventies, with the Beatles and other iconic groups. They preached positivity and all their fans started the hippie movement, and the government was like ‘Hippies? You’re selling drugs to American teenagers,’ when in reality all they’re trying to do is promote peace with herbs that legitimately help people, like weed. By making them illegal you make it so people want to fight over those resources, you make it so people want to kill each other over those resources. It’s literally the War on Drugs that is the issue. Not to say that all drugs are good, I’m speaking out about weed specifically, because I feel like Big Pharma does more damage than weed will ever do. They’ll get you hooked on Heroin by calling it oxycodone. All of these drugs that are meant to help you at the end of the day only hurt you; they help you take away the pain momentarily, but then you want more and more and more until you’re not even hurting but you still want those drugs, and that turns people into crack heads. It’s a trap. The real trap is not drugs; it’s pharmaceutical companies.
Looking at your future, do you think you’re going to stay on this conscious track? Do you want to keep doing this? You talked a little bit about going more solo, but is there anything else that you’re looking to in the future?
I definitely want to promote the conscious image. I definitely still want to have radio bangers, something people know, just like Drake. Drake has mainstream songs and then he has super conscious music at the same time. It may not be about social change and civil change, but it’s conscious in the fact that he really talks about his life. He’s not rapping about stuff he’s not doing. I feel like really what people relate to are people who are like Bryson Tiller, who just talk about what’s going on in their everyday life, because their problems are problems that everyone has. The more you try to relate to people, the more positive it’s going to be, that’s why Chance the Rapper is where he is with no label backing him. In the future, I would like to stay independent, but I don’t have the pull that Chance the Rapper does, so eventually I’m probably going to have to end up signing. But when I do, I’d like it to be to a label like Fool’s Gold, Awful Records, TDE, conscious labels like that. You might make less money doing that, but I’d rather be doing what I love. You know? You might make more money in a 9-5 corporate job, but I’d rather make less money doing this.
Listen to a preview of Ambro$e’s latest single, “Potion”, here.
I interviewed AMG artist of the month Aniel, who manages and produces his own music at Sempra Sol.
Hi Aniel how are you?
Tell me a little a bit about your group.
I started this project after I left my previous band back in February of this year. And it’s kind of just me, like I write and kind of mange myself but I do have friends that have been interested in playing with me, and we have played together in a couple shows so that’s been fun. But mostly it’s just kind of like a “me” thing. Eventually I do want to bring in other members, but it’s sometimes hard finding people who are interested in the same kind of music you are, which in my case is electronic-indie-pop.
How do you create and produce that?
Sometimes I hear ideas in my head, and I’ve become pretty good at creating music using FL studio, for the PC, and I kind of just do everything through there for the most part. I also mix and mash up stuff myself, which isn’t too good of a quality because I don’t have professional equipment, but I have been trying to do that more professionally lately, and to do that you have to pay someone to do that who’s a professional.
Well that’s awesome that you’ve been able to create all this on the equipment that you have, how long have you been doing this?
I think I’ve been doing this for maybe four years now.
Now you mentioned something about doing a show, so have you performed for people?
Oh yeah, in my previous band we performed in many places, including in the Del Mar Fair, that was thanks to my friend AJ who’s also in a band, and he kind of helped me get there. We’ve played at the House of Blues, Soda Bar; there aren’t a lot of all-ages venues, most of them are bars.
Have you had any issue with that? Are you under 21?
I’m 23, but sometimes the band members are under 21 and they can only perform and then they can’t be there after.
Right they’d have to basically perform and then leave after.
So you said your previous band; when were you in a band before this?
I think we started early 2014, and my friend and I were in another band with my other friend and that was called Small Talk and that was more punk-grunge, and that’s great like I love punk and grunge but I kind of wasn’t feeling it so we started an indie-rock band, and that was in 2014, and that was called Hand Drawn Tree. And then I kind of wanted to do something different, you know, use more electronic instruments and music, but they wanted to stick with that so I kind of departed and started this thing on my own.
So have you every sold any of your music or performed what you’re doing now for anybody?
Yeah I’ve played… I wanna say maybe in three shows since I started Sempra Sole.
And you’re just doing that on your own? That’s impressive.
Yeah you see a lot of bands doing that nowadays, doing stuff on their own. I can tell you about the equipment I use; it’s a sampler. You know a sampler makes it easy to record your sounds and play it live, plus keyboards and a guitar, and I sing. As for drums and a bass guitar I use the computer for that and then if you have the sampler it plays when I want it to play.
Who would you say is your music idol? Kind of a hard question.
Yeah it is a hard question. I fee like I have a lot, but if I had to narrow it down I would say John Lennon. When I first started playing I think I just kinda wanted to be similar to him. He inspired a lot, and reached a lot of people with his music. Also Beethoven, and for more recent maybe like Julian Casablancas from The Strokes.
Nice. If it’s different from what you’re playing now, what’s your favorite genre of music to listen to?
Definitely indie rock, classic rock too.
Alright cool. Why do create music? You do you put time into this and energy and effort?
I create music because I think music is very powerful. It’s one of the few things that can like bring people together from around the world, no matter your race or religion or whatever. Music is music; it’s a language that everybody speaks. If I’m able to create music and be able to do that, that’s just amazing. It’s also an outlet for my creativity. Expressing myself, it’s just an enjoyable experience for me, I honestly can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.
Awesome. And with the few shows you’ve done on your own now, how does that feel when you’re able to show someone your music, perform for somebody; how does it feel having someone else share in what you’ve been creating?
It’s amazing. It’s obviously, like, sometimes when you play some shows you have some really crazy audiences that are really into it, and others are pretty chill, just a little harder to tell. And I think it’s a feeling that you can’t really get anywhere else. Especially when it’s your own music, and someone comes up after the show to tell you, ‘Oh hey I really like how you did that,’ or they give you feedback, that’s really the best that you could ask for. It’s an amazing feeling.
If someone wants to listen to your music, where can they go online to check it out?
So right now I have pretty much everything on my SoundCloud. I did have a website before that looked a little more band-y but I’m kind of working on that again.
I’m actually in the process of getting my first official single, “Breakdown,” released.
Oh really? Wow that’s exciting
It’s an exciting process, definitely. It’s something that I had already created before and now I’m just trying to get it on Spotify and iTunes.
The name is actually Latin; it stands for Always Sunny
How did you come up with that?
I guess I really like what “Sempra” stands for, like “always faithful,” and then I like the sun. I think the sun is very important, especially here in San Diego [laughing].
As I set out on the first of many transportation methods of my trip, I floated through a daze of excitement, fear, and an overall disbelief that I was embarking on this adventure. I managed to touch the ground just enough to locate my correct train and board on time. I took my allotted seat and stared out the window, frozen by anticipation and the overzealous air conditioning. The train ride up the Pacific Coast, leaving from San Jose arriving in Portland, Oregon, is a beautiful ride. The sunset reflecting off the water highlighted the palette of graffiti that painted the walls beside us into a colorful tunnel, leading to somewhere new. A perfect rainbow shone in the sky, born at the blood red horizon, layered by orange, yellow, a foggy green, teal and topped with deep blue. It was a picturesque journey. In the morning we passed a slight canyon with dips and brown hills, whose textures caught a portion of light from the rising sun. After that we rode by Mt. Shasta, a huge blue mountain sprinkled with snow. Oregon struck me as extremely green, something I’d only previously ever witnessed in Maine. The roads were closed in by trees and hills, all that same shade of bright, healthy green.
Three things I learned from the train: number one; pack a heavy sweatshirt with you if travelling over night. And socks. And maybe a blanket. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was too cold, absolutely shivering all night with no way of warming myself up. Everyone else on the train seemed to have gotten this memo, since every unknown travel companion I had was swaddled tightly in nothing thinner than a quilt. Second, I love chocolate covered pretzels with a passion and I highly recommend them as a travel snack / road to happiness. Thirdly, never leave your bags unattended! I learned this the hard way, leaving my backpack in my paid for, ticketed, reserved seat as I went to the observation deck for an hour or so. When I returned someone had stolen my seat and passed the bag up to be “claimed.” I then had to recover my bag from the snack bar as a lost item. This led to an embarrassing intercom retrieval call and an overly-thorough investigation of my personal belongings executed by the unfamiliar male snack bar guy. Not fun.
However, all in all, the train ride was scenic and educational, and when my friend picked me up in Oregon I was ready to travel to Washington!