Joel Quartuccio oughta be in the movies. He’s not blessed with sharp cheekbones, a flowing mane of hair or any of that stuff that qualifies for “Young Hollywood” status in Vanity Fair. Yet the frontman for post-hardcore aggregate Being As An Ocean sure does cut a figure in front of a camera.
Whether he’s playing a proud father seeking retribution or an altruist scientist trying to navigate a world he inadvertently broke, Quartuccio has an everyman quality that conveys the characters we want to see: a protector, an ally, a foxhole buddy, a loyal dude.
But movie-star status can wait, as Being As An Ocean have more pressing things to do. Like bring their new album, Proxy: An A.N.I.M.O. Story, to life every night on their impending tour this coming September.
For their fifth album, the band—Quartuccio, guitarists Tyler Ross and Michael McGough and bassist Ralph Sica—have raised the stakes. Both sonically and psychically. Assisted by longtime foil Matt McClellan and next-gen producer Zakk Cervini, BAAO are taking the edict of “go big or go home” and riding that rocket with the full intention of crashing into the sky’s ceiling.
From the quicksilver production of the new album (highly appropriate, given the story line) to the epic video of “Play Pretend,” the Ocean-ic ones are invigorated, inspired and intent on creating new vistas for their fans to explore with them.
Quartuccio spoke to AP about the making of “Play Pretend,” the genesis of Proxy, the hardcore rulebook they threw in the recycling bin and whether or not a life in Hollywood beckons.
The recent videos are making some folks comment if your band want to be “the Michael Bay of hardcore. What the hell are they doing?”
JOEL QUARTUCCIO: [Laughs.] I love that!
How much fun can one have on a 14-hour video shoot?
It was actually a lot of fun. Ever since we did “Alone,” I’ve been really encouraged by the band, our team and those close to us to keep doing more with video. The video team was extremely encouraging from direction to the people behind the camera. I wouldn’t mind doing a little bit more.
The videos are pretty ambitious. It’s not like, “We’re going to get some dudes with GoPros and do this.” It’s not cheap to do these things. How do you do it? Are you aligned with a label?
I agree. [Laughs.] We have signed a partnership deal with Believe who are based in the U.K. We would not have been able to see the scope of what we’ve been able to do so far without the partnering of a label. We’re both shouldering the cost of it all, but I think it’s one of the most fair deals I’ve ever seen—and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that as well from the industry side. It’s comforting and awesome to be able to open up our ambition to rise to that challenge.
So, videos for every track on Proxy?
[Immense laughter.] We wish! That would be incredible. But unfortunately, no.
Forget streaming: We’re going to record a visual album! You can watch it while you’re driving.
Don’t do that!
Tell me your best story working with the BRUME production team.
Hmmm…getting up to go to the location and then whipping myself for 45 minutes to an hour at 8 in the morning? [Laughs.]
First scene he wanted to shoot. Sociopath.
That’s not too far off. But I was whipping myself. I’m a method actor. I have to go all the way. My girlfriend was able to be on the set every day, and it was really cool to have her there. We pulled in, and Joe [Mischo, producer/director] says, “So are you ready to whip yourself?” [Laughs.]
“Play Pretend” has a lot of intersectional ideas about the characters. It’s very open-ended so viewers could create their own storylines to a degree.
Leaving things open-ended is a big part of what we’d like to do with videos. But I am in fact the same character [from “Alone”], and I am meant to be the creator, the person who started the whole domino effect that has come to fruition in “Play Pretend.” I am the one who wrote the code for this artificial intelligence I end up facing.
I have to say this: You need to get an agent. Have you ever thought about pursuing acting? You cut a very commanding figure in the videos. You make it look like you’ve been doing this for a long time.
Thank you. That’s awesome. I didn’t really think much of [acting in videos] until we did “Alone.” We got a lot of good feedback from people saying we should keep doing more of this. I just dove into it, I don’t want to put myself under any limitations, that I’m strictly a musician, I want to be creative—whatever that means.
Who wrote the treatment for the video?
I wrote the overall concept for the album and brought it in on the first day of recording sessions last year. That was the first time any one of us had really discussed the full treatment behind the album. I passed around this booklet, discussed it for an hour or two and then we just got to work.
It was pretty much the same with “Play Pretend.” I had written treatments for previous videos with a bigger concept. Obviously, you’ve got to think big and whittle it down to what you can do, realistically. [That video] is the edited version of that big, big idea. I would bounce ideas off Joe, and then we reached out to his brother—forgive me Joe if I fuck this up—who is a lit major who had done a lot of creative writing and was a sci-fi nerd. Joe discussed it with his brother, and the two of them whittled it down to what they thought would be realistic and then brought it back to me.
So Proxy is a concept album?
We like to say that it’s the soundtrack for the worlds that we created. If it were a concept album about Star Trek, there wouldn’t be anything about Klingons, if you know what I mean.
This overarching [idea] is concerning artificial intelligence called A.N.I.M.O. that was designed and created by character in “Play Pretend” to become the last-ditch effort on humanity’s behalf to try and save the world and bring it back to a point of viability after essentially WWIII. The setting is roughly 2100-something and in bringing back to viability, the normal progression of the gray moral artificial intelligence to logically remove the majority of humanity from existence. Because we were the biggest problem.
Where we find the creator in the story is that he wakes up from a malfunctioning sleep-suspension bed, and he’s realizing the set of what he’s set into motion.
Which is why he’s whipping himself. And now he must go out into the world to see what he can fix.
Exactly. He’s dealing with the loss of his daughter and paralleling that, the loss of the things he loved about humanity that he was blind to when trying to just fix a problem. It’s a story of hubris and self-sacrifice.
And this is not the end: This is the setup for a world which we plan on expanding, looking forward to later releases. Hence the semicolon subtitle. We are tied to work on the saga scope.
There is that mindset of the insert-scene-here rulebook that wants to keep everyone down to some kind of aesthetic code but doesn’t want any kind of new consciousness to allow the culture to rise. Do you feel that BAAO have a cultural cachet that makes you impervious to such inspection?
Honestly, I think the majority of our feedback has been, “Oh, my God. This is a next-level thing.” What has spurred us on like we have been is just pushing ourselves. As a collective, it is important to each and every single one of us to be better and keep incorporating new things that we love that we want to see in all of the art we put out. And a huge part of that is the visuals.
I think a lot of it is to be able to finally be at a place in our career where we can make these calls to push ourselves and push the boundaries of what we’ve already done. We’ve come a long way: The first music video we ever shot was shot by Tyler in my living room in my small apartment in San Diego. We just want to keep growing in every aspect.
What’s the statement that Being As An Ocean want to make right now?
We are all extremely hungry for this work and to keep making things that make you think and things to make you feel. We want to share an experience. It’s what came out of us when it needed to. We’ve always been super-super tight with our fans and have shown a lot of love for them because they’ve done the same for us, pushing us and pumping us up. We won’t necessarily go where every single fan of ours wants, but we know they believe in us, as people and as artists. We feel that trust, and we would not be here without those fans who are willing to see where the ride goes.
“Play Pretend” will appear on Proxy: An A.N.I.M.O. Story, which drops Sept. 13. The band will also be hitting the road in September with dates and tickets here.
You can preorder the album here and check out the latest video below.