Although they have been together for less than a year, Temecula band Ocean Hands is advancing to the finals in the local round of Hard Rock Rising on March 27 at the Hard Rock Cafe in San Diego.
The grand prize winner of the global battle of the bands will receive $10,000 in equipment, shoot a music video, record an album with Hard Rock Records and embark on a world tour.
“We’re anxious to win,” said 19-year-old keyboardist and percussionist Conner Jones, a Palomar College student and Temecula Valley High School alum. “After we won the first round, we feel we can really do this next round.”
It’s not the band’s first battle. In fact, Ocean Hands was formed from the remains of two high school bands that competed against one another in a local high school battle of the bands.
After his band Chelsea's Habit broke up, vocalist and guitarist Miles McCormack approached Jones with the idea of recording a rough demo. Jones asked his former 6 o' Clock Warning band members, bassist Trevor Gref and drummer Sean Gref—brothers and Chaparral High School alumni—to also join the band.
“It was like, ‘Oh, you play music. I play music. We don’t have bands. Let’s just do it,’” said McCormack, a 19-year-old MiraCosta College student and Temecula Valley High School alum.
Since Ocean Hand’s first local gig in July 2012, the band has practiced most days each week to fine tune their indie-electronic sound.
Jones’ mother, Ramona Jones, said the band members, who are all college students, performed on March 6 at the Hard Rock Cafe in San Diego, got home around 1 a.m. and had midterms the next morning.
“They’re all still in college pursuing higher education and pursuing their passions,” she said. “It’s great to see that, and it’s great for other kids to see that you can still follow your passion and get that higher education because that’s going to be your added bonus in the end. Don’t drop out of school because you want to be in a band.”
Ramona was among the band’s roughly 50 family members, friends and fans who watched Ocean Hands perform before a packed house at the Hard Rock Cafe.
“It was like I was on stage with him,” she said. “My heart was just bouncing out of my chest!”
Although they practiced for hours every day before their 30-minute set of original music, Jones said the performance was “one of the most stressful experiences” of his life because they competed against bands with musicians in their 30s and 40s that had played together much longer.
McCormack said he’s “a bit more optimistic” for the upcoming round.
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, but it was pretty fun and it was cool how we won,” McCormack said.
“You can expect a lot of energy and positive music all around [in the next round],” he added. “You’ll dance a little bit, smile and have a good time.”
Since advancing to the finals of the local round, Ocean Hands has practiced its new material at Flour Fusion in Lake Elsinore, a coffee shop the band has frequented since it first formed. Also currently recording an album, the band encouraged its local fans to come to the competition on March 27 at the Hard Rock Cafe in San Diego.
“Most of these bands are from San Diego and they have all these venues to play in. They’re local and that’s an advantage,” Jones said. “We need all the support we can get.”
The free show begins at 8 p.m. at the venue, which is located at 801 4th Ave. in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.
The winning band will move on to the worldwide online voting portion of the competition. A panel of music industry experts will select the grand prize winner from the top 10 bands.
For more information about Ocean Hands, visit Facebook.com/oceanhands.