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David Schelzel On The Ocean Blue's 'Kings And Queens/Knaves And Thieves'


In 1986, a group of high-school kids from Hershey, Pa., got together to form a band. Their indie-pop sound fused with jangly guitars struck a chord. And, yes, the pun is intended. And the teenagers quickly signed a major record deal. More than three decades later, The Ocean Blue is still making music. Their latest album - the first full-length one in over six years - is called "Kings And Queens/Knaves And Thieves."


THE OCEAN BLUE: (Singing) So sublime, it hits you like waves that crash on your face. It knocks you like wind in a storm on the sea.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Schelzel is the lead singer and songwriter for The Ocean Blue. And he joins us now from New York.


DAVID SCHELZEL: Oh, thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell us about the title song we're listening to. The lyrics say, suddenly, I feel the world could end in a flash, can no more depend on the things I thought were to last. That's a bit bleak.

SCHELZEL: (Laughter) Yeah. So I think that song's about a lot of things, and I often don't know what a song is really about until after it's written. I sit back and kind of look at it and say, wow. Where did that come from? And, you know, we're older people now and have experienced a lot, particularly the last couple of years, I think, have been hard for us. Things just really feel like they're ripping apart. And so I think that came out in that song.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The liner notes say you could call this record a collection of love and death songs. You say the last few years have been hard for you. How so?

SCHELZEL: It's tricky, Lulu, because I've always been a really private person. But - and so I've always been kind of reluctant to get too specific about that. And the other thing is, you know, I've learned over the years to that people latch on to our songs in very personal ways. And I've talked with people who are like, wow. You know, your song means this to me. And I'm thinking in my head, that song has nothing to do with that. But because it's really personal to them, you know, I don't want to get in the way of that. And it's true for me, too - the music I could connect with. But, yeah, so for me personally, I've had a loved one with cancer. I've had...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm so sorry.

SCHELZEL: Yeah. Yeah, she's doing well now, but it was a terrible and hard journey to go through.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Well, here's a song about love - "Love Doesn't Make It Easy On Us." Let's listen.


THE OCEAN BLUE: (Singing) Love doesn't make it easy on us. Love doesn't make it easy on us. A river runs into its sea, its lightning splits open a tree. And love...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At one point, you sing, it breaks everything in our house. It blows every thought from our minds. Love doesn't make it easy on us. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, love?

SCHELZEL: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can't quite tell in this song.

SCHELZEL: You know, it's both. Love is a complicated thing, particularly in a long-term relationship. You can have deep, deep roots and connections with someone you love, and they can still drive you crazy. You navigate a lot of deep waters. And I don't think it ever gets easy.


THE OCEAN BLUE: (Singing) Love doesn't make it easy on us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have had some big breaks between full studio sessions. One was for 10 years. And as we mentioned, this one for six years in this latest collection. What's going on? Are you all off on other projects? Does it take that long to come up with new material? Or is life just happening, and that's just the tempo with which you produce music?

SCHELZEL: Probably a little of all of what you said. The 10-year break was - I went to grad school. I went to law school, became a lawyer; period...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

SCHELZEL: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You became a lawyer.

SCHELZEL: Yeah, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's amazing. Why?

SCHELZEL: Well, you know, after we had done four records in the '90s - we were on major labels. Towards the end of the '90s, the record business was falling apart. And I had always had this notion as a teenager that - and even as a 20-something - you know, when I turned 30, I was going to get out of music and do something else.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You didn't feel music was, like, a grown-up profession.

SCHELZEL: (Laughter) At least the kind of music we made felt like a young person's thing. But when I was in law school, I really realized that, you know, no, music is something I wanted - and I was just naturally continuing to do, so, yeah. Right now I do both.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You still practice law.

SCHELZEL: I do, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What kind of law do you practice?

SCHELZEL: You know, I'm an intellectual property lawyer. I work a lot with creatives...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Makes sense (laughter).

SCHELZEL: ...Book writers, musicians - yeah. And, you know, a lot of my clients like the fact that I understand the creative side of things and what it means both personally, legally, to do those kinds of things. But I also do some other things. Like, I'm a city attorney (laughter)...


SCHELZEL: ...Which is super fun. I work with a great, little city in Minnesota. It's - that's a great part of my life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so that's what this six years was about too - just doing other things.

SCHELZEL: Well, this six-year break, not so much - certainly, that 10-year break. And, you know, the way we make records now is so different than the way we made records back in the late '80s and '90s, you know, in almost every respect. I mean, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of Warner Brothers money to make records. And we would go away for three months in these wonderful studios in London and the Bahamas. Now we make records in our houses for nothing, you know? And they - in my view, they sound comparable, in some ways, better. But I think what that means is we move at a much slower pace.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's one instrumental on this album - "F Major 7" - which you say is your favorite chord. I have to ask why.

SCHELZEL: I love the major seven chord. There's something about that chord. And it's in, like, probably half the songs I've ever written. I mean, there's nothing special about F major seven per se, but it's the major seven chord that I love.



SCHELZEL: I like reverb too.


SCHELZEL: There's an awful lot of reverb on that track.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: You and Bobby Mittan, who's the bassist, are the only original band members left in The Ocean Blue. And I wonder what it's like to still be making music with someone you've been playing with since junior high school. Are you finishing each other's sentences or chords...

SCHELZEL: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Or, like, what is that like?

SCHELZEL: You know, Lulu, it's a great thing. A big part of what The Ocean Blue is for me, actually, is it's a friendship. It's camaraderie. So these guys are my dear friends. I love them deeply, and we've been through and experienced a lot together. And when we play shows together, when we make music together, there's just another level of connection. And, you know, a lot of people, I think, do music without people that they feel really close to. Many people do, of course. But I don't know that - it'd be really hard for me to make music with people I don't have that kind of personal connection with.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Schelzel of The Ocean Blue - their new album is called "Kings And Queens/Knaves And Thieves." Thank you so much.

SCHELZEL: Oh, thank you. My pleasure, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.