Feel the breeze with Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive is the newest local band to hit Cayman’s music scene.

The band plays music in the self-proclaimed style of ‘beach rock’, and performs 90 per cent original songs.

Together for six months, Ocean Drive consists of Nico Van Zyl on acoustic guitar and lead vocals; Danny ‘Cupcake’ Kupkowski on electric lead and rhythm guitar and backing vocals; James Gibb on electric rhythm lead guitar and backing vocals; Bill Perigo on bass and backing vocals; and Tim Dilbert on drums.

The Caymanian Compass got the chance to sit down with James Gibb and ask about the band’s formation and its goals for the future.

CC: How did you guys find each other?

JG: Danny could be called the ‘original member’, and he had a group with a drummer friend of his, a bassist friend and Dario Ramano, a singer.

The drummer and bassist soon had to leave the island so I filled the bassist’s shoes and remembered my friend Tim was a drummer back in our Cayman Prep and High School days, and I had heard he had been keeping up on his playing.

Tim, Danny, Dario and I met up down at Hammerheads one night and had a chat and decided to start up a band. We were covering things like the Foot Fighters, Incubus, Greenday, Tool, Jet, Stone Temple Pilots and, of course, Jimi (you know, Mr. Hendrix). Though it was an awesome band it was short-lived, as Dario got an offer he couldn’t pass up in Canada, and we found ourselves a trio sans lead vocals – a size to which we would stick for a couple of years.

During that time we tried a couple of little projects, but every time we tried out a singer they had to leave the island a couple of months later – we were cursed!

Around May or June time of this year, Paul Holden told me that a guy he knew who had worked on island a few years back, Nico, was returning from South Africa and that he had really gotten good on the guitar. It turned out that he had written a bunch of songs that had got a fair amount of airplay on the radio stations over there as well as playing in front of the six thousand plus crowd at the Splashy Fen Outdoor Music Festival. So I was like, sure…he’ll really want to play in our grotty little band!

As it happened…he did.

Nico joined us and brought along Bill, who was pretty awesome on the bass! After initially playing some stuff with Nico I thought there was a lot of room to do some really cool things and I really wanted Bill to join us. My journey from bass to guitar wasn’t too difficult, but it was worth it nonetheless. From a three-piece instrumental band we had moved to a five-piece powerhouse. We had all played for live audiences before and we were resolved in chasing the rush it gives, so we got to work!

CC: Is there one ‘band leader’ or is it very much a group effort?

JG: Well, Nico had a pretty large bank of original lyrics and he knows what the basic melody of songs has to be, but we all write our own parts so we all get some sort of ownership towards the songs. We each have our own musical influences and when we put those different ideas together it just works.

With regards to the running of the band, I would liken us to a pirate ship. Every decision on where to go, what boats to plunder and how to spend the loot were made by the entire crew. One of the first true democracies, according to the History Channel. Bet you didn’t know that!

CC: Tell us about your music.

JG: We worked through the months until 13 September when we played our first live gig. It was at a housewarming party for Bill’s friends and we had eight original songs that were good enough to play. We played the set twice, that’s how much fun we had.

It’s tough to go down the road of learning mainly original material because one never knows how well it’s going to be received. I mean, picture a Friday night anywhere in the world. If a band playing at a busy bar gets up and covers We Will Rock You by Queen, they’ll bring the house down no matter how badly they do it. We’re hoping to find a nice balance between our original material and covers so that we can still satisfy our desire to promote our own music as well as choosing covers that takes the crowd to a place or a time that they haven’t thought about in ages.

We cover Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry and after we played that for the first time at Calico Jacks someone came up to me and said, ‘Man, that was awesome – I haven’t heard that song since the Seaview Hotel days! I miss that place, man.’

Me too, bro, me too.

CC: Definitely did not! What are the band’s goals – where do you eventually want to be?

JG: What’s every band’s goal? To be hugely famous, make lots and lots of money and keep it on a tax-free island! Well, where other bands have the money and don’t have the tax-free island, we have the tax-free island and no money – go figure.

No, to be honest we just want to make music that has something meaningful at its core. Something that people can take away from a show. We have a song called African Skies and it’s basically exploring the feelings someone gets when they first arrive in a new place. You know, that sometimes inconsolable homesickness for all the things you loved and left behind. Obviously it was written out of Nico’s experience of initially leaving South Africa to come here. But the nice thing is everyone can relate to it. They don’t have to be from Africa, it can be transposed to an experience someone may have had leaving the U.S. to live in Europe, or even just moving from one neighbourhood to another as a kid.

We want to get that sort of connection with the people who listen to us – that and lots of money, of course.

CC: Why haven’t we heard about you too much yet?

JG: After joining the Cayman Music Association, and with only a few gigs under our belt (which includes helping Royal Palms raise money for the Brac Recovery Fund and the Movember Ball), we’re brand new, baby!

CC: What can we expect from Ocean Drive in the future?

JG: Music, music and more music. Right now we’re working on getting enough songs down for a three-hour set. We’ll also be playing regular Friday gigs at Calico Jacks, plus we’re talking to Mark at Royal Palms, and we also played at Macabuca on New Year’s Eve with Charlie Goes Electric. That was a great party!


Ocean Drive next performs at Live on the Paseo at Camana Bay on 9th January 2009.

Remember to check out Ocean Drive on Facebook and MySpace (www.myspace.com/oceandrive08) for information about upcoming gigs and photos and videos.