When Oceans Of Slumber released Winter back in 2016, the star quality of vocalist Cammie Gilbert was immediately apparent. Her powerful, soulful tones have now powered three albums by the Texan band, their sound boasting elements of prog metal, doom and southern rock.
Hammer caught up with Cammie to talk the band's upcoming fourth album, Black Lives Matter and her run-ins with cults...
You talked about opening a capybara sanctuary during the pandemic. Did you get anywhere with that?
“Ha ha ha! It didn’t work out. We were moving and there was a house on stilts. I was like, ‘This would be perfect! Old capybaras could live underneath!’ We ended up not moving there, so there went my sanctuary dreams.”
Is it true that your dad was the director of a choir?
“It’s a lot more sinister than that. He was the choir director for a cult. He did all the music directing.”
That’s wild! How did he get involved in that?
“Both of my parents were very religious. It was the 70s and 80s, and he was a musician that did a lot of drugs. He met somebody at a party or something; they got to talking about God and the universe and all this. I guess he liked what he heard. He wasn’t one of the founders but he was definitely there at the beginning.
It’s called the Institute Of Divine Metaphysical Research and he was involved until I was eight or nine. My mum’s family are Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is a much more likeable but also strict Christian order. She was seeing him and going [to cult gatherings] with him. She became a Jehovah’s Witness when I was around eight or nine, so we stopped going with him and started going with her.”
Are they still involved in these very religious groups?
“My dad passed away in 2014. He didn’t stay with it; he loved to read and explore religions, so he went on his own tangent of learning and religious education. My mum is still a strong, practising, proud Jehovah’s Witness.”
How did they react to grunge and metal becoming a part of your life?
“All my albums had to be screened. If they had cuss words and stuff, then I didn’t get to keep them. So my friends burned me albums and I’d just change the labels. It took my mum a while to get around to understanding that just because people are screaming, that doesn’t mean that they’re saying terrible things. She likes everything that I do, though, because I’m her daughter. Ha ha! But, yeah, the genre as a whole doesn’t necessarily have her vote.”
Were they strict with you socially as well?
“The way that I was allowed to dress and the peers that I was allowed to have were really restricted. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, or any major religious holidays. I wasn’t allowed to go to Christmas and birthday parties; that’s prime socialising time when you’re at school. I made up for it by reading. My parents didn’t really censor literature, so I could read about anything. I read a bunch of murder-mystery stuff and now I’m into serial killers. Ha ha!”
It’s been nearly two years since the worldwide #BlackLivesMatter protests. Do you think rock and metal has become a better place for black people in that time?
“I think so. I think everyone, especially in the music industry, has learned a lot about inclusiveness, and about the importance of history and representation of minorities. I feel like there’s so much more room for everybody to speak about their experiences, and people will listen in a way that they weren’t before.
It feels a lot easier to be at shows. That whole year brought so much to the surface. That’s what I love about music and musical people; we’re some of the most malleable on the planet. We can be a lot more compassionate to the nuances of other people’s experiences and lives. We learn quicker because music is always new and expanding your brain.”
What can you tell us about the next Oceans Of Slumber album?
“The record comes out in July. It’s called Starlight And Ash, and there’s gonna be a new single every month until the album is released. I’m giving you permission: tell the people! How much trouble do people get into with these things? Ha ha! What are they gonna do? Kick me out of the band?”
Starlight And Ash is out July 22nd via Century Media