Annie Ocean: A New Student Band Watched Over by Environmentally Conscious Witch

Emma Dahl

A new student band is coming to the forefront of the Whitman music scene. Composed of sophomores Henry Samson on rhythm guitar and vocals, Noah Oltman on bass, Cameron Hancock on drums and Aaron Stern on guitar, Annie Ocean has been noticed by both school and student organizations and has been gaining notoriety around campus.

Photo by Allie Felt

All of the members have histories playing with other musical groups either through school or other student bands. Oltman used to play the cello, and when he was asked to play bass for a band in high school, he lied and said he could and eventually just picked it up on his own.

Annie Ocean’s roots lie in the partnership between Stern and Samson, who were roommates in North Hall during their first year at Whitman.

“The first day, moving into the dorm, this crazy guy with a beard and a hot girlfriend walks in, carrying a guitar case, and I was just like ‘Wow, this is a lucky star,’ and we had a great year together writing songs,” said Samson of Stern.

Stern felt the same about their lucky pairing as roommates.

“Henry and I wrote about three original songs within a week of being roommates,” said Stern.

Samson and Stern were both interested in starting a band, and they accrued members in meeting Oltman through a job at Bon Appétit and by jamming with Hancock in the Hall of Music.

During the band’s early days, the only location they could use to practice was a room in the basement of the Music Building that wasn’t so soundproof. In order to avoid bothering other music students, they would only practice late at night. Samson explained that they labeled their late-night practices “the witching hour” because at those late hours, Memorial Hall’s bell would ring ominously in the dark of night.

“Now we’re more legit because we have swipe access [to the Music Building], we’re like officially sanctioned now. Annie Ocean’s credible now,” said Stern.

Photo by Allie Felt

In fact, the band’s name originated with an environmentally conscious Wiccan that one of Samson’s friends met at an environmental conference last year.

“Annie Ocean, since she’s a witch, gives a certain energy to the band, and I feel like she’s watching out for us in a lot of ways,” said Samson.

The band’s first show was in November 2012 at a Reid Coffeehouse event, and they recently opened for Tau Kappa Epsilon’s all-campus party and played at the Instant Play Festival.

As far as their songwriting process goes, Stern explained that he comes to their practices with a sort of structural skeleton of chords and melody, and as a group, the band will hash it out into a complete song. The process itself is never finished, however; the songs are in constant flux. The band continuously finds new ways to tweak songs and make them better.

“You don’t really control when you figure out the chords or when they fall into place … It’s a never-ending process of trying to make a song make sense,” said Samson.

Annie Ocean isn’t aiming for any particular sound; they simply make music that they like and hope that other people like it too.

“It’s hard for us to define what sound we’re going for because we all have really different influences,” said Oltman.

Stern agrees.

“I don’t think we consciously try and create a certain kind of sound,” said Stern. “We just write songs and things that sound good to all of us, and that’s what gives it this eclectic thing. I just think it’s rock.”

Samson agreed when it came to whether the band was making music to please an audience or themselves.

“It’s just going for music we think is good and hoping other people would enjoy,” he said.

Photo by Allie Felt

As far as future plans go, the band is hoping to hit up some Halloween gigs; they’re learning Halloween songs in preparation. They also seemed interested in recording some of their songs, but are being careful not to rush into it before they’re ready.