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Meet the Artist: Ember Oceans

An act of kindness at Lollapalooza was a big moment for the Chicago quartet.

Adam Shay

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Music has long brought people together, through a new album, song, or concerts. Like the time Two Door Cinema Club and Vampire Weekend played at Lollapalooza in 2013. 

“There’s this guy in a wheelchair sitting next to us,” Ember Oceans’ bassist Sean Groebe says, “and his buddies tap us and say, ‘Can you help us pick him up’ so he could see Two Door Cinema Club’s last two songs.”

Some people in the gigantic crowd noticed Groebe and Oceans’ drummer Parker Simonaitis aid their new acquaintances, parting like the red sea and allowing them to walk to the front barrier freely. In was an incredible feeling to help out someone else, Groebe said.

Once Two Door Cinema Club ended and the wait began for Groebe to see his favorite band Vampire Weekend, those two bands unknowingly brought a closer bond between Groebe and Simonaitis, evidently launching Ember Oceans’ career passed open mic nights at Lamplighters in Palatine, Illinois. 


Ember Oceans looking contemplative. (L-R) Sean Groebe, Parker Simonaitis, Joe Cox, Freddy Purcell. Photo: Mike Ando@goodvybesdaily

“At the time, I had no idea what we were about to get into,” Groebe said. “This was before we played anywhere in Chicago; we only played three or four shows and I always look back on that and think it was a sign.”

Ember Oceans is a quartet: Groebe on bass, Simonaitis on drums, Joe Cox on lead guitar, and Freddy Purcell as lead singer and keyboardist. Since their formation in 2012, the self-managed band has done well for themselves: a sold out December 2013 show at the Metro in Chicago, and opening up for Atlas Genius in September 2018 at the Chicago Bears kickoff block party to mention two highlights.  

What may be equally impressive for Ember Oceans is the amount of coverage they have on Spotify. With seven songs currently on the steaming platform, “Right Reasons,” from their 2015 self-titled EP, has racked up 19,528 plays.

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact genre for the band, considering all four members have different musical tastes, and they pick and choose certain elements to incorporate. Groebe is into punk, garage rock, and rap, far from the band’s sound.

The members all admire Young the Giant and Portugal, The Man. For the most part, the band exudes an indie-rock/pop vibe, but Groebe thinks otherwise.

“We kinda have a Young the Giant vibe, but we are going for a disco rock sound,” Groebe said. “But we don’t want to tie ourselves to a band because it puts the band in a box.” 

Aside from recording songs and playing gigs, education has been a priority for every band member, as all four of them excelled at studying. Simonaitis and Purcell went to high school together at St. Viator in Arlington Heights, Illinois, while Groebe and Cox went to high school six miles down Euclid Ave. at William Fremd High School in Palatine.

Originally, their objective was to go to University of Illinois at Chicago and live together, but realistically was not feasible, resulting in all four going to William Rainey Harper College, the community college in Palatine, Illinois, and them living together. 

One of the band’s main objectives was to have day jobs instead of solely relying on music to support them. Ember Oceans is a band full of intelligence: Cox is a tax accountant, Groebe a software engineer, Simonaitis a playground designer, and Purcell an audio engineer. 

Purcell has taken the lead role in producing their songs and the others have immense trust in Purcell’s skills. 

“Freddy builds the house and we decorate the rooms,” Groebe said. “Parker writes the lyrics, and my biggest contribution is during the live performance.”

One thing Ember Ocean enjoys just as much as writing music is creating music videos. The band’s first release of 2019 “Rare Candy” comes with a music video, making it the Ember Oceans’ fifth video. In a psychedelic crazed-candy filled video, created by XBT91 Productions, the trippy adventure shows a lighter side of the band with raw enjoyment and even partial nudity.

“I definitely love being in front of the camera,” Groebe said. “Obviously considering I pose naked during the video.” Following “Hard Candy,” Ember Oceans has released their second single “First Place” on March 15.

Ember Oceans has gone together to every Lollapalooza since 2013 and for Groebe, it is his favorite weekend of the year. Not only does he attend to hear his favorite artists and bands, but he sees Lollapalooza has a band destination.

“To be able to play at that festival, it’s hard to put into words but I think it’s a big goal for all of us,” Groebe said. “I’ve always had these made-up scenarios and as I do these things in real life, they just keep getting a little bigger.”

If you visualize it and you think it, it’s a lot easier to turn into reality. That seems to be the motto for Ember Oceans as they continue to produce music and are expecting their first full length album in 2019.

Until their goals are met, the band will continue on with their jobs, but hope there will be a day where music will be the only form of living for Ember Oceans. 

“If I could make a decent living off of music, I would do it in a heartbeat,” Groebe said, “as well as bringing a positive influence to other people’s lives.”

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Adam Shay is a graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, During his four years at EIU, he wrote for the Daily Eastern News for two and a half years, covering multiple sports, news events, and writing feature stories. He was also on the rugby club team for two years, a member of the Society of Collegiate Journalists, and finished third in applying for his commencement speech. Currently, he runs a public relations system for a bar in Palatine, Illinois, and in his free time, he is always learning about music, sports history, and American history.

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