OCEAN Colour Scene released a new album earlier this year but they’re spending the festive season revisiting the halcyon days of a Britpop classic.
Back in 1997 they ousted Oasis from the top of the charts with their album Marchin’ Already.
The previous year the Birmingham band had supported their Mancunian pals at one of their massive concerts at Knebworth. Now they were genuine contenders to be the most popular band in Britain.
OCS singer Simon Fowler remembers there was friendly rivalry between the two groups.
“Noel [Gallagher, the Oasis guitarist and songwriter] sent us a plaque that said, ‘The second best band in the world’ – I don’t know where that is now. I suspect Steve’s dad [Chris], who was our manager then, has got it – but we felt really good about that.
“Our gang was Oasis and Paul [Weller]. We introduced Noel to Paul. Within a week he was wearing loafers rather than trainers. Liam would say, ‘All right, Weller fella’. It’s ironic that he’s now got clothes shops called Pretty Green [named after a song Weller wrote for The Jam]. I think he was a bit jealous.”
They were, Fowler says, “fun times”.
“I’m glad we had them when we could. I couldn’t do that now,” he adds, wryly noting now the band are middle-aged (Fowler is 48) that there’s less partying on tour.
“I said to Steve [Cradock, the OCS guitarist] this morning it’s great to wake up and not feel dreadful. I’ve had breakfast two mornings in a row – I’ve never done that on tour before.”
His memories of writing and recording Marchin’ Already are rather sketchy. “I can’t remember how much of it was written after Moseley Shoals [their 1996 hit album] came out or how much was written around the same time. It’s 16 years ago. We had quite a lot of fun at the time.”
He does, however, recall filming the video for the single Hundred Mile City. “I had to drive a Citroen DS at about midnight. We were filming at Bray Studios in Berkshire. I didn’t realise I would have to drive the car for real through the studio. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven a Citroen DS but it doesn’t resemble any car you’ve already driven, especially when you have been drinking all day.”
Sixteen years on, OCS remain a popular creative force. This year they released their tenth studio album, Painting, and guitarist Steve Cradock toured his third solo album, Travel Wild – Travel Free. Fowler is working with OCS bass player Dan Sealey on the second album by their side project, Merrymouth.
“We’re going to put it out I think possibly in March through Navigator Records. We’ll be doing some gigs around the release of that. We’ve almost finished recording it. I’ve got one vocal to do and Dan is mixing it while we’re on tour.”
One track, he reveals, will be a cover version of The Stranglers’ song Duchess. “It’s such a beautiful song, I’ve always loved it,” he says. “It reminds me of The Kinks. Take away the toccata and fugue organ style and it’s a really lovely folk song.”
As for the future of OCS, Fowler says: “We’ve no plans to knock it on the head. Next year is our 25th anniversary – we might do a couple of gigs to mark that. The plan is then to go out the following year acoustic with a string quartet, like Spinal Tap.”
After two and half decades, the band still revel in what they do. “It’s great to be able to go to so many towns,” Fowler says. “We know England inside out.”
December 17, O2 Academy Leeds, Cookridge Street, Leeds, 7pm, £25. www.ticketweb.co.uk