Santa Monica pop/rock trio Ocean Park Standoff are the perfect example of what a little bit of hard work, collaboration and an open mind can create. With the release of their debut, self-titled EP earlier this month, the three diverse songwriters and musicians - Samantha Ronson, Pete Nappi and Ethan Thompson - stepped away from writing for other artists and focused solely on the music that they wanted to create. The end result is a hard to classify but perfect blend of pop, rock and even hip-hop.
Following the release of their debut EP, Ocean Park Standoff will be hitting the road this summer alongside Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups. We recently talked with the band about their formation, collaborating with one another and what their future might hold. Read the entire interview below and pick up the EP now HERE.
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
The three of you guys came together from a bunch of different musical backgrounds, so how did you first sort of meet and begin writing together?
Samantha Ronson: Well Pete and I met through his publisher and my manager and we just got along well. We just had fun. We had nothing to do, so we would just get together and nerd out on music, and after a couple of time doing that, Pete suggested that maybe he could bring his friend Ethan in and I said, “Brilliant!” So in came Ethan with his glorious voice and songwriting and there we were!
Do you feel that the experiences you’ve had in previous projects has helped you come together to create the music that you do as Ocean Park Standoff?
Ethan Thompson: We had all been writing and in the music industry for a while, so we all had very specific tastes of music that we were into. I think that was something that definitely aided in making Ocean Park Standoff what it was - all of our adventures we had before we came together as a band.
How do you feel you guys have learned from one another while collaborating together?
Samantha: Well Pete and Ethan are both classically trained, so I’ve definitely learned a lot about why things are the way they are, because I just taught myself. But I think our sound is all over the place because we all love so many different kinds of music and we can’t help but bring it all to the table. I just feel like, depending on the day, what vibe we’re on is kind of represented in the song.
And why limit yourselves?
Pete Nappi: For me, definitely with Samantha, there’s two things that I’ve learned from her. One is that it’s okay to use actual keyboards. I do everything inside the computer generally, and she has so many different vintage keyboards and vintage gear, so she’s definitely opened my eyes to a lot of that. And honestly, she’s a very good person, so she’s definitely taught me a lot of things like that. And Ethan, I don’t know what that kid’s taught me. He’s a lost cause.
Ethan: One of the big things from working with these two is less of music that I’ve been learning from them and more about life that I’ve been learning from them. We’re all teaching each other every day, but there have definitely been a lot of things that have changed in my mind, for the better, after being in the band with these two people.
Pete: Actually, I have another thing. Working with Ethan, because he’s such a good vocalist too, I’ve learned that - sometimes when you work with all of these different people, they don’t have a great voice, or you might have to edit it - with Ethan I don’t have to do much of that. Working with him has made me realize when to tone it back on vocals. The more we work together, the more I realize that less is more because Ethan’s voice - to me, he kills it. He’s one of the best vocalists I’ve worked with. So working with him more has taught me to do less, even with my own production.
Ethan: Thanks, bro!
"...when we went in and worked with Samantha, one of her main goals was to just write songs that we would write and not try to think about what we’d make for someone else. She was the first one in the group to say, 'You guys realize that we can do this. We don’t need write for other people - we can do this.'" - Ethan Thompson
Well that’s cool too, because when you’re making music by yourself, you don’t get that outside opinion or another way of looking at things, whereas the three of you, you get to bounce off of one another.
Ethan: Oh, we’ve all got opinions!
Samantha: Yeah, I think we all get inspired by each other and we bounce off of each other and I learned early on that you can’t mute what you haven’t recorded. That was really hard for me to learn, cause I was like, “We don’t need that, we don’t need that,” and you don’t know! Maybe you do!
Patience has been my thing to work on in my life. I just want the song done because I just want to be able to listen to it in the car. Over the years, I’ve learned that you never know what’s going to come out of an idea. You just need to sit back and wait and let everyone have a go, and you can always dial it back.
Ethan: With the three of us, there’s always one of us carrying the torch of the song. We’re like a relay team at all times. If two of us aren’t feeling it, there’s always one person who’s pulling it forward. It’s cool, cause you always get hyped about a song, then you’re not that into it, then you get back into it, but there’s always one of us pushing the music forward at all times.
You guys just released your debut EP a few weeks ago too! It being some of the first music that many people will hear from Ocean Park Standoff, did you have any goals in mind when you were working on it?
Samantha: I think it was mainly just tough choosing which songs we were gonna release. We have a lot of songs and it was kind of just a matter of picking which ones we thought would be great. We ended up just choosing the songs that we had been playing live, as opposed to sitting there obsessing over a theme or what it’s all about. They’re just songs.
Ethan: One of the things with Samantha that was really cool was that Pete and I had been trying to write pop songs for all of these artists - and Samantha had been too - and when we went in and worked with Samantha, one of her main goals was to just write songs that we would write and not try to think about what we’d make for someone else. She was the first one in the group to say, “You guys realize that we can do this. We don’t need write for other people - we can do this.” She was the first person to instill that kind of bravery or boldness in us which was really cool.
Samantha: Aww, that’s so sweet.
What were some of the best moments or the highlights when you were working on the EP, or moments when you just knew that it was going to work?
Ethan: Mine was when we played “We Do.” This started out as a studio project, but once we started rehearsing it - it was like the third rehearsal, we were working on “We Do” and we finally clicked as a band and that was my favorite part of the whole EP process. And then we actually went back and redid the post chorus of “We Do” after we figured out how we were playing it live because it felt so good.
“Good News” was one of the first songs you guys wrote together and released. Was there anything in particular that inspired the track? It’s a really positive one.
Samantha: You know obviously there is a lot going on the world in general. We wrote that about two years ago, so there were things going on in the world, but there were also things going on in our personal lives that were the usual… Heartbreaks or whatever it may be. We were just kind of writing a song really about that, and Ethan had said, “It’s not the news, it’s the bad news.” Because that’s what seems to be what sells and that’s what we become inundated with. We have to remember to look at the good in our lives and maybe celebrate the small things. We’re so immersed in the negativity that we forget so many great things that happen to us on a daily basis and we just have to celebrate those, and look for those while we move forward with the big picture as well.
I think it’s sort of the perfect timing for that to come out, too.
Pete: Luckily and unluckily.
Samantha: I think it’s a good time to remind people to focus on what they can do in their lives, and don’t get overwhelmed by the insanity of what’s being thrown at us when you turn on the news or you open your apps on your phone. There are good things in there, you just have to look a little deeper.
Ethan: I think at any point in my life, especially speaking to the paranoia chatter I have going on in my brain a lot, that song is something that works for me. That song is a plea for, “I just need something to hold onto, I just need something good.” There’s so much BS swirling around us, and if I could just get one good thing to hold onto, that can get me through this. That’s been something that I’ve kind of felt throughout my whole life, and especially now with the current world agenda.
On top of the EP, you guys are hitting the road with Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups - what are you looking forward to on those upcoming shows?
Samantha: I think this tour, I get to bring my dog! Fingers crossed on that one.
Ethan: We’re definitely looking forward to playing with Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups. We’re fans of both of the bands. We were shocked that we were able to get on a tour of that size this fast because we really have no idea that people are listening to our music. We’re just so stoked to be able to get on a tour, especially a tour that long. We just did a week long tour, and we had a four day gap in the middle of it and my main thing was when we got back, we were just like, “Man, we wanna play more shows!” So just looking at the lineup of shows and how frequent they are over the course of two months, it’s going to be so much fun playing together that much!
You’re just going to be going and going.
Ethan: We’re gonna be exhausted, but it’s going to be so much fun.
Samantha: That’s the good part.
Ethan: Even when we’re exhausted and we play a show, I know that instantly after we play that show, even if I wanted to be in bed the minute before we started, afterwards I’m totally buzzed off of the show for like two hours. And that’s just the show and the energy and vibes and how good it feels being on stage with everyone and singing to an audience.
Do you have any other big plans for the rest of the year after tour?
Samantha: Just keep writing, keep releasing music and keep playing together.
Ethan: We’re working on our next release now. We have no idea even remotely of when it would be out, but we’re pretty close to actually being done with it, and then we just have to go through all of the planning of what the next thing will be. I know we just released the EP, but right after it got released, it was like, “Alright, what’s next?” That’s always the driving factor.
Is there anything else you guys would like to add?
Samantha: Hopefully we get to see a bunch of people on the road this summer!