Oceans Of Slumber’s Cammie Gilbert: “Pop is like a giant tub of sh*tty candy, but metal is a filet mignon”

Cammie Gilbert
(Image credit: Taylee Photography)

Armed with their eponymous fourth album, US prog metallers Oceans Of Slumber aren’t letting the chaos of 2020 stand in the way of their next phase. We asked you lot to send us your best (and weirdest) questions to grill vocalist Cammie Gilbert, and you did not disappoint — from potential cover songs to band disputes, world peace and… gardening, Cammie bravely takes on the ultimate Hammer challenge.

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How awesome are your hobbies and inspirations? Metal food? Metal pets? Metal gardening? Metal knitting? @HellsHobbits (Twitter)

“I started gardening at the beginning of the pandemic and now I have a little garden graveyard for all the things that didn’t catch on. I’ve been really good at growing rosemary and aloe vera – it’s like an alcohol garden for garnishes for alcoholic drinks so we use rosemary for Moscow Mules. Next step: moonshine!

What are your favourite and least favourite things about Texas? Brad Millet (Facebook)

“My favourite thing is that it has many different climates and terrains – the desert, the swamp, the hill country, the coast. I’m not a super beach person but one of my favourite things is going to the coast in the fishing districts, which is a bit different from beach culture. My least favourite things are the searing heat and the Confederate people, although where we are in Houston is incredibly diverse. It’s a beautiful, big old state and I love the Southern hospitality, but you’ll melt walking to your car if you’re not careful.”

Is it hard when you’re in a couple in a band and you’ve just had a ‘domestic’ but then need to go to work? Oscar McMunn (Facebook)

“For us [Cammie and drummer Dobber Beverly are an item], this is easier than, for example, a more serious kind of job. It might be a little more difficult to work together but this is a creative realm, and such an expanding realm within a person’s internal psychology that it allows us to be interwoven tighter together. Without him being able to understand this part of me, things would be more difficult, but he understands something that’s hard to explain. I’ve been very upset with him onstage before, though; we’ve had huge blowouts at shows and I’ll turn to him at one point in the song and I’ll sing at him. We go through these motions on stage and it’s like we’re cascading and arguing and communicating. I can hear when he plays the drums differently, when he’ll play the snare super-hard or he’ll have this super-aggressive drum fill that isn’t normally there. It’s very nuanced and intimate between us, so a lot of times we have it all out onstage so we can communicate better after the show and apologise or reconcile. It’s intense and people have noted it, like, ‘When you turn and sing to him, that’s so dramatic!’ It can be tough spending that much time together, touring when you’re grumpy and crammed into a bus, you get kinda prickly but we always make up. We leave it all on the stage!”

Oceans Of Slumber

(Image credit: Century Media)

How do you manage to keep your voice in good condition? Bethan Edwards (email)

“I’m really bad about taking care of my voice, but as long as my throat doesn’t hurt then I assume I’m doing OK. There are different ideas about what your voice needs. My instrument is internal so just talking warms my voice up. To me, it’s more about being mindful that your body is in good form, that you’re not putting too much strain on your voice. I do a couple of trills to acknowledge the highs, I drink lots of water, and I avoid post-show yelling in a club because that can be damaging. It’s more about avoiding stuff than doing anything extra. I tried all the techniques before and my voice just got more tired.”

What music do you listen to outside of metal? Jess Piplow (Facebook)

“I love artists like Tracy Chapman, Tori Amos, Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Queens Of The Stone Age, old-school stuff like Luther Vandross. Anything that has a dark vibe and carries an ominous atmosphere, I’m into that.”

Is rock as dead as everyone keeps saying it is? How do we save it? Toby Dunford (email)

“People say that because the landscape of music consumption has changed. Rock and metal have this foundation on tangible exchange – you went to the concert, you bought the shirts and the album, you met the band – it’s this direct interaction. Streaming has changed that to where everything is singles-based and video-based, so the foundation of exposing people to other kinds of music or changing what they expect from their music has changed. Pop is like candy; you can have a giant tub of shitty candy, but metal is a filet mignon. It takes time, it’s cultivated, it’s this heartier meal that isn’t meant to be wholesale. I think in this landscape of overproduction and oversaturation, everybody’s making music and other genres are pumping out music so much quicker than rock and metal. There’s more to cultivate there, so it’s getting shoved out and pushed down and getting lost in this big glossy YouTube and influencer society. I don’t know how to save it other than the people who appreciate it maintaining that integrity, that they continue to share stuff and expose it to people around them.”

You’ve covered Nights In White Satin and Kashmir. You have a history of such incredible, epic covers that are so tastefully executed! What’s next? @J1sonofagun

“We have some Donny Hathaway planned, a couple of country songs, plus some personal covers that I want to do, acoustic versions of a John Legend song, for example. For Oceans Of Slumber, I think there’s more Type O Negative planned because we love them, people need to be more amped about them. There’s a long list, we love doing covers!”

Is it possible to make prog metal cool? Stephen Brooks (email)

“That’s such a messed-up question! At the prog metal festival here in the US, Prog Power, there’s a distinct subculture difference. You have the people who wear black vests with patches, then you have what I call ‘metal goth royalty’ who dress almost Colonial and they’re all vampiric, then you have prog people in khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts looking like they work in IT. You go up to them like, ‘You’re a metalhead?’ They’ll cite every album and band changeover, and you’re like, ‘Well, you look like you just left the Apple Store but OK!’ Prog metal is a catch-all for a lot of things so cool is subjective and there’s something for everyone within prog. It has the biggest spectrum of sounds within a subgenre versus more consistent ones like black metal and death metal.”

What would your dream tour be? Ricky Wilson (Facebook)

“I like to cascade things so I would love to tour with a band like Anathema or The Gathering, any band that Anneke van Giersbergen is in because she’s amazing. To have a more sensitive jams tour, because we go on tour with such heavy bands normally, I’d say 40 Watt Sun for the really moody and heavy-in-the-feels kind of show.”

Who are your musical influences? Tom George McHugh (Facebook)

“With singing, it’s a bit different to just them being my influences because you’re moved by what other people do but you’re not really trying to mimic what somebody else sings like. Luther Vandross, nobody can touch him for his prowess when it comes to performance and execution of his voice. Singers like Anita Baker for that belting and big, powerful voice. Chris Cornell for showing soul through grunge and heartfelt expression with voice. Layne Staley, who was a first love/voice crush because his voice is so raw and soulful. Tracy Chapman for the same idea – she wasn’t necessarily a phenomenal singer, but you felt so much heart from her voice. Minnie Riperton for making me wish I was a soprano. These artists show the full realm of what I aim to do and what I try to execute; they inspired me to expand my voice and give acknowledgement to every part of my voice and wanting to use it all.”

Would you slap a koala for world peace? Tony Elkington (Facebook)

“Poor chlamydia-ridden koalas already have it hard enough and I have to slap him for world peace? That’s a big trade-off and it’s like the butterfly effect; a butterfly flaps its wings and there’s a hurricane, I slap the koala and there’s world peace? I’d have to smack the koala. The koala’s going to recover and I’d immediately get medical attention for the backhand I had to give him. I’d have to apply the ice pack and smack that koala – ‘I’m sorry, you’re gonna save so many lives!’” 

Published in Metal Hammer #342