I was lucky enough to have the privilege of interviewing Shane Ochsner, the man behind Everything In Slow Motion. Shane is a great conversationalist, and I felt like I really got to know him during our 80 minute chat. He was by far the longest phone interview I’ve ever conducted, but he was also the most personable guy. Maybe it’s because we’re both living in North Dakota, but probably because he is the most genuine, humble person I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. After all the pleasantries and North Dakota bonding, we really got down to some great aspects of his new record Phoenix and the inspiration behind some of the songs. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for offering some great questions!
IVM: This is Vince for Indie Vision Music. Today I’m talking with a man that makes North Dakota proud. The man behind Hands and now his latest project Everything In Slow Motion, and I would like to introduce to you Shane Ochsner.
Shane: Good to be here, thank you for having me.
IVM: Thanks for taking the time. I noticed your Twitter profile says you are located in North Dakota.
Shane: Everything In Slow Motion got started in Kansas City, I was living there at the time, but then we moved back to Fargo about a year ago.
IVM: Give Me Rest was a tremendous success by your previous project Hands. It was universally praised. In other publications you’ve mentioned that it was relatively easy to walk away from Hands because you felt the band had run its course. Did you fear the name change to Everything In Slow Motion, after having success with Hands, would make it difficult to replicate the success that you had?
Shane: No, I was never attempting to replicate any success. It’s never ever been about any of that for me or any of the other guys from Hands. We’ve always just done music, that’s always been our passion, just writing and playing together. Fortunately we’ve been able to work with Jason from Facedown. He put the band more in the spotlight, where we had that network to connect with more fans. That is where our success came from. When Hands was done, we were all standing there looking at each other asking, “Are we all ready to pack it in?” So yea, why not, let’s do it. After all that I wanted to keep writing. Josh, our drummer, wanted to keep writing too. We were headed in different directions and wanted to just do whatever. I know it sounds super loose and casual, it totally is. That’s the relationship we had with our band and with our label, whatever happens happens, let’s just keep it about the music and the message. Who cares if we ever land on this tour or that tour. When Hands was done, Everything In Slow Motion just happened, and I had to call it something. It didn’t seem right to keep the name Hands.
IVM: I want to ask you about the biggest change that you saw between Hands and shifting to Everything In Slow Motion. What was the biggest change?
Shane: The whole thing was different for sure. Give Me Rest was 2011. In that time my first daughter was born, we were just fresh off the road calling it quits with touring. Now I’ve got 2 little girls, I haven’t toured in a long time, and life is completely different. I’m in a completely different place, a different state of mind. With Give Me Rest I got off the road and I felt bitter, cheated, and angry about everything. That sucked, but at the same time, the album came at the perfect time for me to get that out, to put that all on the table. It’s great because a lot of other listeners were able to relate to it really well. This album is from a fresh state of mind. I’m not super angry, angry at the Christian music industry or at Christian music fans. Now I’m just living life. Over the last 2 years I’ve been able to put down all that stuff and focus on the big picture. Pulling out of the touring world has helped a lot with that. Now it’s just about recording. It’s great to put something together musically, because I love that, but lyrically where do I hit this from? Life is good right now! I can’t write an album about how much I love my wife and kids and how my job is awesome. No one is really going to want to hear that, especially over this kind of music. So I developed characters in my head, some of them relate to me in several ways and some don’t really at all, I’m just trying to think about the listener and what they might need to hear and help them. Long-winded answer, but there’s been a big change.
IVM: If you made a song about how much you love your wife, I would listen to it, no question.
Shane: Yea, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. On Give Me Rest, that Jovian song is about the birth of my daughter, and that ties in to that album in a few ways. With this one, whatever comes out comes out, it’s hard for me to force anything. If I wanted to write a song about how I love my wife, I could do that, but I don’t know if it would sit as naturally. I just try to tackle these things that come into my head right away, get them down on paper, and ultimately they all end up tying together somehow, (laughs). I just let what happens happen. Maybe the next album, or 5 years from now or 20 years from now I write a song about how much I love my wife, I don’t know. I just keep it open and cool.
IVM: I think that’s all you can do. During this album, Phoenix, you wrote about a lot of tough subjects. You have to write down what the Lord is laying on your heart. It just depends on what is happening at that time. When you are fully in the Spirit and you can accept what God is giving you, it’s going to come out with some cohesion to it. I think that’s what happened with Phoenix.
Shane: Yea, totally, I think so too. When I was putting this album together I had no idea how it was all going to tie together. I usually never do, and that’s what keeps things exciting. I never fully know what that album is completely about until it’s done, and I can sit back and listen to it and say, “Oh yeah, that’s awesome, I’m glad that all worked out.” (laughs). There’s not this big gigantic chalkboard in my living room that has this massive plan of how all of these subjects will tie together, and how it’s going to be this masterpiece. Whatever comes out comes out, and I just really hope that at the end everything makes sense. Same with the track listing. Putting together a track listing is interesting. Musically you want things to flow, but lyrically you want things to flow as well. Sometimes the lyrics of a good opening song are not great lyrics for the first track of an album. They’re not going to help tell a story. It’s interesting how it all ends up coming together. It’s interesting to hear people’s takes on it. Speaking of Indie Vision Music, this guy did a review, and the way that he heard the album, lyrically, musically, everything, the way he put it all together, I was reading it and I was like, “Oh, I’ve never thought of some of that stuff. That’s awesome!” I love doing this kind of stuff and hearing what people have to say about it, good or bad. That’s the Spirit at work. Using someone like myself to ultimately cast it out on the people who really need it. You don’t realize how much bigger it is than you until you can sit back and see what happens, if that makes sense.
IVM: Yes, it definitely does.
Shane: I was just telling someone about this the other day. A friend of mine came up and said, “Man, I just can’t stop listening to this album, it’s so good! It connects, it’s so deep on all these levels.” And blah blah blah. I’m sitting there like, yeah, well, thanks man I appreciate it, but I don’t know how it happened. I don’t feel like I can take credit for when these things happen. When someone comes up to me and says, “That’s brilliant, how you did this and this there,” I say, “Well no it wasn’t, it was the right time at 4 in the morning drinking a Mountain Dew at my kitchen table, I have no idea how this happened.” (laughs) I really do think it’s so far beyond us, what we can do. It’s crazy how God can take something, like you said, something so small like this and it just hits people when they need it, the right people when they need it. I can’t take credit for that stuff, because it ain’t me. (laughs)
IVM: We love your humility, that’s definitely a trait we can see in your music.
Shane: Thank you.
IVM: Everything In Slow Motion consists of just you, and your friend Josh Barber helped produce the new album. Phoenix was released this past December as your full length debut on Facedown Records. What has been the overall response to the record since its release?
Shane: The response has been incredible. I was crossing my fingers and hoping that this thing would sell at least 200 copies. I was thinking, “Come on, just 200 copies, please!” It wouldn’t have mattered either way, but when Jason puts down all this money for recording, thousands of dollars, I really hope for his sake that we sell a few copies so he can make a little money back on this. What’s funny about him is he’s just like, “It’s all good, lets just do it, it’s cool.” (laughs) The overall response has been way beyond what we thought it would be. People have been latching on to it, similar to how Give Me Rest happened. We didn’t expect it. We knew this was a cool album, we just hoped others would like it. People are really digging into this thing and it seems that it will be with them for a long time. It’s just really, really cool, very unexpected and so awesome. A big surprise for everyone involved.
IVM: In my experience with the albums from Hands and now Everything In Slow Motion, you’re doing the music an injustice if you don’t separate yourself from society for an hour or so and just listen with no distractions. Other bands can be background music, but you get honest, and your honesty gives the listener a view of the struggles you’ve had, the failures you’ve had, and your deepest thoughts. Have you ever felt, when you’re putting it down on paper and sharing it with complete strangers, intimidated or scared because you are giving a private piece of yourself to people you’ve never met?
Shane: Not at all, I am an open book. I don’t see any point in hiding certain things or holding back certain things. I know where I have messed up really hard, and I know I’m far from perfect. There is someone else out there who is going through the exact same thing, or is about to make the exact same mistakes that I have. Why not have someone in their corner? Any of these people can reach out to me at any time, I’ve always enjoyed connecting with people over e-mail and messaging. With art and music, I feel you should always be as completely honest as possible. If you’re not, what are you doing? What is the goal there? I’m sure there is benefits to not laying it all out on the table, but for me it seems to make sense to write completely from the heart and be as real as possible, so people can connect and benefit from that, and be encouraged.
IVM: You can share your heart so freely, and I think that’s what makes your music so attractive to others. They can sense that honesty there.
Shane: That’s awesome, that is super cool. I just hope that people would be very encouraged by it and lifted up by the fact that, you know, hey, I claim to be a Christian, but at the same time I am really unsure about everything. Is that ok? Am I doing something wrong, am I being a total hypocrite? That happens! (laughs) I don’t listen to a ton of music in this kind of genre, I don’t know how many bands are actually putting that out for people and giving them something to relate to, but also saying hey, it’s not the end of the world, there’s hope, it gets better. We don’t ever want to be the band that tries to write a song that’s going to further us up the charts, or further us up the roster in a festival lineup, or get us on some tour, or say some line before a breakdown that would make a really cool t-shirt and sell hundreds of those things. We’ve never been that. Writing anything like that feels so cheap, and it’s the opposite of where I want to take things. I try to stay away from that as much as possible.
IVM: Shane, one of the highlight tracks on Phoenix is called Speak, and it features Christian Lindskog from Blindside. How did this collaboration come about, and what was it like to work with him?
Shane: So awesome! He is one of my lyrical, vocal, musical heroes. I love Blindside, all of my friends love Blindside. They were such a big inspiration to me and many of my friends. Vocally and lyrically he really stands out, when you hear his voice you know it’s him. He’s got that special, original thing about what he does and it was always really inspiring to me coming into the world of heavy music. We’ve joked about working with him for many years, even when we were doing some of the earlier Hands albums, we’d be sitting in the van discussing who we could get to do some vocals on the album. His name would always come up and we’d laugh and say we’d never get him. I don’t know why, he’s just a dude and he’s not so far out of reach that you’ll never be able to get a hold of him because he’s the lead singer of Blindside. It’s not that at all. I just mentioned it to Jason last year at Facedown Fest that we should try to get him. Jason is good friends with Sonny from P.O.D., they get together often and have coffee. So I just told him the next time they had coffee, ask Sonny if he still talked to Christian. Jason passed along the music video to Red and a little info to Sonny, and Sonny handed it off to an old manager of theirs, and he handed it off to Christian. It took months. We handed it off in April, and we heard back around the end of July, which was when the album was going to originally be released. He contacted me through e-mail, letting us know he loved the song and wanted to know how he could help. We had a number of FaceTime chats and talked about ideas. It was really cool, he’s super awesome and super nice, one of the most really humble cool guys that I’ve ever met. He was so willing to do this stuff. He said, “Let me know how I can help, I don’t want any payment. I believe in this song and what you guys are doing, and I want to contribute.” I sent him the track and my lyrics and told him to do his thing. He got it done. The second I listened to it I just had this crazy moment of joy and nostalgia, all sorts of stuff. When you hear your own track and all of a sudden it’s his voice, I couldn’t believe it actually happened. I think he made that song. His vocals made it really stand out. The bummer is now we have to play it live without him here. Guess who gets to try and sing his vocal parts, which is a total nightmare? (laughs)
IVM: Does this mean we could hear Shane Ochsner on the next Blindside album?
Shane: (Laughs) Well I don’t know about a Blindside album, but he is working on a new record with his side project LindForest. It’s so awesome, super cool, very unique and interesting. They are recording right now. Yea, we have talked about doing some stuff, so who knows.
IVM: That would be really cool. Christians deal with the constant battle of addiction every day, some being overwhelmed by it. In the track called Most Days you confront it head on, admitting to your own struggles. When writing this song, what mindset were you in? Were you writing this as therapy for yourself or as a helping hand to those who hear it?
Shane: Yea, exactly, a helping hand. It’s an issue I’ve tackled a lot in everything I’ve ever written, back to being in a hardcore band in 2003. It’s something that I’ve always tackled lyrically. This time it was different, very straightforward. I like to keep the song open to where it could be any addiction, anybody struggling with anything like that could listen to this song and it would hit them. I didn’t want to make it about a specific addiction. I took my faults from the past, which was never drugs or alcohol, it was messing around with girls. I was 16, a frontman of this Christian band in Fargo, this big, heavy Christian hardcore band. I’d get on stage and say, “Alright, yea! Jesus is real and he loves you. If you want to talk about it come to the back of the room at our merch table!” I’d do all of that, then I’d go out the back door and go sleep with my girlfriend. That whole thing was just a crappy, crappy thing that I could never get out of, no matter how hard I tried. It just got worse and worse. Finally the band kicked me out. Even that wasn’t enough. It seemed like no matter what, it was never enough to wake me up from that. Eventually everything turned around between my wife coming into the picture, she was a gigantic factor of turning me around which I’m so thankful for, and lots of praying to get me out of this, finally it happened. It wasn’t an easy thing. There’s tons of people going through that same thing. It could be anything. Whatever people’s struggles are, they’re going to hear that song and they’re going to know exactly what it’s about and how it relates to them. I really hope it can help pull people out of what they’re going through, because I know what it’s like and it really sucks. It’s really hard on you.
IVM: That’s awesome. You write a song about the things that affected you because that’s what you can best talk about. If you’ve suffered from any sort of addiction you can speak to it, and that gives you authority, then you can write more fervently about it. Going back to honesty, it just draws more people in. It’s all connected.
Shane: Totally. Addictions are tough, they are called addictions for a reason. Very few people can just flip the switch and be done. A lot of people want to get out of some of the things they are doing, but they just mentally can’t get over it when faced with it. That’s where the line at the end of the song, “I can’t do this on my own” comes from. I didn’t want to use that line because to me it’s so generic. Earlier I was talking about the big font on the t-shirt that sells, and that is perfect, that’s it. Let’s print a t-shirt that says, “I can’t do this on my own”, Everything In Slow Motion on the back, and there you go! In the biggest, boldest letters you can find. There you have it! The line has been used a billion times, but you can’t do anything about it. What else can you say? As cheesy as this line sounds, I don’t know how else to say it. So I’m going to say it. When I say it I really mean it, I could not do that on my own. I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails and responses from that song from people who connected with it immediately.
IVM: You are a humble guy. Last month in an interview you did with HM Magazine, Rob Houston called you “One of the most underrated songwriters of the last 10 years.”
Shane: When I read that I just kind of laughed.
IVM: What do you feel when you hear that? Does it encourage or inspire you to keep writing, or do you just thing, “This guys ridiculous.”
Shane: A little bit of both. No, I’m just kidding. I love Rob. I just wonder where he gets that from. (Laughs) It’s an awesome compliment and I’m stoked that someone would believe in me that much. I just really enjoy writing and releasing music and that’s always been my thing. If I can encourage people that’s awesome, and that’s about it. I’ll always do that, whether someone did an interview and said he’s the worst songwriter in the last 10 years. I would still be at the table writing music at 4 in the morning. It’s who I am and what I do. Very cool and very grateful for that kind of stuff, because it is encouraging.
IVM: I have a couple of questions from our readers at Indie Vision Music. Chris would like to know what bands and genres you are influenced by and what music you are listening to right now.
Shane: That question is really tough. I listen to a ton of stuff. If I had to say what was in my car right now, I’d have to say Jimmy Eat World. They are my favorite band of all time. This really awesome band from the 90’s called Hum, out of Illinois. A friend showed me these guys one time and they just blew my mind, I’ve been inspired by them so much. Also I really enjoy Keith Urban. I have pretty much every Keith Urban album in my car right now, they are on rotation daily. The album currently in my CD player is Lorde’s new album, it’s super good. With all that different kind of stuff I pull melodies, and I’m inspired by how they create some of those songs and moods. You’ll see me rolling down the street, listening to some Lorde, drinking a Mountain Dew.
IVM: Daniel wants to know about the Phoenix artwork.
Shane: That was Dave Quiggle, he did Give Me Rest as well. He is the go to guy for awesome artwork. With Dave it’s pretty similar to working with Christian. I just told him here’s what it’s all about, do your thing. I never had a whole lot of direction for him. Dave is great at what he does, so I just let him do his thing and I stay out of the way. He knows I’m really into spacey stuff, and the second he throws a rocket ship on their I get all googly-eyed.
IVM: I fell in love with the artwork for Give Me Rest.
Shane: Me too. When I first saw that, I knew it couldn’t be any better. The cool thing is some of that art, the little eyeball logo has made it’s way onto all of the Everything In Slow Motion artwork. There is a tie between the Give Me Rest artwork and the Everything In Slow Motion artwork.
IVM: Daniel also wondered why Red and Exosphere were left off of Phoenix.
Shane: When those 2 songs were recorded I thought they were good enough. For me to put them on the new album I would have to rerecord them. If I’m recording something I want it all to be together, during the same time period. That’s reason number 2. Reason number 1 is I feel like it’s kind of a copout releasing an album with 10 new songs, I mean 8 new songs and 2 you’ve already heard. Ultimately I really liked the idea of that 7” to have those two songs and that’s it.
IVM: Bryce was wondering if Everything In Slow Motion would continue to be a solo project, or if you’ve ever considered adding some more musicians to the writing and recording process.
Shane: That is a great question, because nobody ever asks that. I’ve definitely thought about it. Part of the writing experience for me is not necessarily getting into a room with a bunch of dudes and getting creative, even though that is cool. With this particular project I also really enjoy being by myself, just putting on headphones and writing. Whatever is in my head I can make it real. It’s tough to find the right people that really can connect on that level. Josh, our drummer from Hands, him and I had that kind of relationship. We were always one step ahead of each other. We just knew exactly what we wanted to do, and we loved it all. Josh, my producer/engineer friend, just knows what I want when he’s producing the album. Those are the kind of people I can totally see writing with. Our drummer now, Trevor, is right on the same page too. You never know, but I don’t know. I never want to complicate things, causing people to feel like they need to invest in a band. That’s a really tough question because I don’t know.
IVM: What is next for Everything In Slow Motion? I know you’ll be at Facedown Fest 2014, is there anything else you’ll be doing?
Shane: We’ve got Facedown Fest which will be awesome. There’s always potential for a few other summer festivals. We’ll probably play a few shows on the side. I have some awesome people with me right now for the live side of things. My friend Trevor plays drums, he’s been in this thing for over a year and he is so awesome and a great friend. Josh Barber plays guitar and one of my other good friends from another Facedown band called Colossus plays bass. His name is Jim. We’re putting everything together. You never know what could happen, we could be playing just about anything. We for sure won’t be doing any extensive touring because of the family side of things and jobs. To all of you that are still in a van and traveling and playing for 50 people a night in random towns and sleeping in Walmart parking lots, keep going. If you have kids, maybe you should come home for a while.
IVM: Sage advice from Shane Ochsner.
Shane: There ya go, there it is. There’s always something going on.
IVM: You can keep us updated via Facebook and Twitter?
Shane: Yea totally. Facebook for sure. Twitter I don’t get on there too much. Facebook is hard for me too because I feel so stupid coming up with a post just for the sake of posting. I do my best and try to connect with people once a week. You can always send a message to the Everything In Slow Motion Facebook page to connect.
IVM: Shane, we appreciate the time today. I’ve been really enjoying the album.
Shane: Thanks man, I appreciate it.