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Ocean Colour Scene getting ready for Split Festival slot

Ocean Colour Scene frontman speaks ahead of his slot, with OCS drummer Oscar Harrison, at the Split Festival this summer

(l-r) Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison from Ocean Colour Scene
(l-r) Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison from Ocean Colour Scene

Having sold millions of records and headlined stadiums around the world, Simon Fowler and Oscar Harrison from nineties Britpop anthem-makers, Ocean Colour Scene (OCS) relish the chance to take out the plugs and perform the tracks we know so well.

And it’s a fair bet that the audience at this summer’s Split Festival in Sunderland will relish the chance to tracks like The Riverboat Song, Hundred Mile High City and The Day We Caught The Train performed the way lead singer Simon originally conceived them - on an acoustic guitar.

“We started doing it probably about 12 years ago,” says Simon.

“I think it was when Steve (Craddock) was working with Paul Weller and we suddenly found that we had time on our hands, so we thought ‘well we could do these songs in this format, which is how they were originally written’.

“Making the transition from the whole band to doing it acoustically is pretty easy... also, you can hear yourself properly and also, you get to sit down, which is nice when you’re the other side of 40.”

Simon says the acoustic shows, which see Oscar playing bass or sitting at the piano rather than behind a drumkit, also offer him the chance to show off his strumming prowess, and hark back to his early influences too.

“I’m pretty ham fisted with an electric guitar,” he laughs.

“I’m a strummer, so it’s the way I would naturally play and perform.

“Whether you want to call that folk music or not, I don’t know. My early influences were Bob Dylan and Neil Young as I was learning the guitar as a child, so I sort of did what they did really.

“Also, doing these shows allows us to go to places we might not have been to for a while because (the full band) OCS maybe wouldn’t play there... playing at more maybe out of the way places and doing smaller festivals is a really nice thing to do. And it’s a more relaxed way of storytelling.

“We’ve heard some great things about Split,” he continues.

“We haven’t done festivals for quite a while but it’s always good to play festivals and playing outdoors is always nice as well.”

The stripped back sets, which are sure to go down a storm with anyone who listened to music in the nineties are the latest chapter in a remarkable career that’s seen OCS rise from Breton shirt-wearing Stone Roses disciples to one of Britpop’s biggest bands (their 1998 arena tour was the biggest by any UK group that year).

In a quarter of a century together, they’ve enjoyed five Top 10 albums, six Top 10 singles and cabinet full of awards.

And they’re still going strong.

“As a band this year we are only doing, I think, one gig of OCS stuff because we did so much last year,” says Simon, who recently released a second album with his side-project band, the three-piece folk-influenced Merrymouth.

“We (OCS) are going to have a bit of a break and then we will tour early next year, so doing this kind of helps keeps things fresh.”

:: Ocean Colour Scene’s Simon and Oscar will be playing Split Festival in Mowbray Park, Sunderland on August 9. They are also playing a slot at Kendal Calling on August 1. For more information, visit oceancolourscene.com

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