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FYI

Five Questions With… Ocean Potion's Mike O’Brien

The Zeus member and Jason Haberman of Yukon Blonde comprise the new Toronto duo. Here he discusses their eponymous debut release, their collaborative approach, and teenage games of “Red Radio.”

Five Questions With… Ocean Potion's Mike O’Brien

By Jason Schneider

Toronto duo Ocean Potion is a collaboration between Mike O’Brien of Zeus and Jason Haberman of Yukon Blonde, whose brand new self-titled LP follows their debut single “In The Grass,” released this past August. Rounding out the band are fellow Toronto power-pop veterans Dave Azzolini (formerly of The Golden Dogs) and Jay McCarol (Brave Shores).


O’Brien and Haberman met while touring Canada with their respective other bands, and after quickly bonding, embarked on a bedroom recording project over the course of 2017. Initially, there were no songs, just extended free-form jams based around looping riffs. As these loops took shape, a creative process emerged with Haberman sending basic tracks to O’Brien who would add words and melodies.

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After amassing 10 complete songs that represented the best of what they’d created, Haberman dove into the mixing process, sifting through the many layers of synths, woozy guitars and dreamy vocals to find the purest version of each song.

Since the project is the result of a burgeoning friendship, it’s no coincidence that is a persistent theme throughout the album. The music is a reflection of the good vibes that were happening while creating it, and consequently is the ideal soundtrack for lazy days at home, or walks with headphones in the sunshine.

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How would you describe your artistic evolution so far?

This is a pretty new project, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of evolution musically, but, as a live band, we’ve had a couple of different lineups; most of the development that has taken place in that regard. Some of the songs on the album have entirely different approaches when playing them live. It's been exciting and freeing to be able to reimagine the songs to play them on stage.

What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?

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One that immediately springs to mind is “Comma What.” I think it’s because it’s on the longer side, but I really like the journey it goes on.

What's been the most significant change in your life over the past year?

I've become a parent over the last year and a half, so my life has become much more domestic. My time is much more valuable because I have more on my plate. That means that when I'm able to spend time working on music, I have a greater appreciation of it. It becomes more of a sacred thing.

What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?

In my teens, two of my best friends and I would spend Friday nights playing a game called “Red Radio.” The red radio was a little radio we had in our jam space, and we would surf the dial all night and score artists on how many plays they got. Phil Collins always won, but Elton John always gave him a run for his money.

If you could fix anything about the music industry, what would it be?

Well, the genie is sort of outta the bottle on that one. The whole landscape has changed so much, and it's impossible to go back. Since there seems to be such a tremendous amount of content out there, I think the real challenge for artists and labels is for the music to find an audience. Listeners are willing to discover new things, especially those who subscribe to music streaming services like Spotify or AppleMusic. But I think the suggestions of new music you might like don't always hit the mark, so there's a lot of room for improvement there.

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DIVINE (L) and Karan Aujla
@anmollium / Anmol Raina

DIVINE (L) and Karan Aujla

Chart Beat

Karan Aujla & DIVINE Debut in Top 25 on Billboard Canadian Albums Chart

B.C.-based Punjabi artist Karan Aujla and Indian rapper DIVINE land the No. 22 spot on this week's Canadian Albums chart with their new collaborative release, 'Street Dreams.' On the Canadian Hot 100, Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em" ascends to No. 1, while Canadian pop artist Preston Pablo makes a debut.

B.C.-based Punjabi artist Karan Aujla and Indian rapper DIVINE are making moves together on Billboard's Canadian Albums chart this week, with their collaborative project, Street Dreams, debuting in the No. 22 spot.

The seven-track album, released Feb. 16, blends harder hip-hop and smooth R&B pop, the latter shining through especially on the Jonita Gandhi-assisted "Yaad." It's not Aujla's highest spot on the Albums chart — he reached No. 5 in 2023 with Making Memories, his collaboration with Canadian Punjabi artist Ikky — but it gives him some momentum going into his upcoming performance at the Juno Awards on Mar. 24, where he's nominated for TikTok Juno fan choice and breakthrough artist.

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