The Ocean Blue (their name influenced by the opening line in the poem "The History of The U.S." by Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr.), first met in junior high and cut a series of demos while in high school, with friend Scott Stouffer sitting in on drums. They managed to get two of their earliest recordings, "On Growing Up" and "Wounds Of A Friend", included on Lancaster's local Christian Radio Station WJTL's "Preliminary Hearing" cassette compilation in late 1986. The compilation also included very early work from friends and mentors of The Ocean Blue, noted local artists and alternative rock legends, The Innocence Mission. Another school friend Rob Minnig, would join as permanent drummer in 1987, and the classic line-up of Schelzel/Lau/Minnig/Mittan would continue through 1994.
The Ocean Blue's members were just teenagers and still in high school when they signed a three-album deal in 1988 with Sire Records, at the behest of Sire founder Seymour Stein. The Ocean Blue's self-titled album debuted in the fall of 1989 and many listeners were surprised to learn that the band wasn't British. The first single release was the song "Between Something and Nothing", an Echo & the Bunnymen-inspired rocker which hit the modern rock top-10 in 1989. Their busy calendar included an appearance on one of the first episodes of "Club MTV with Downtown Julie Brown". The follow-up single "Drifting, Falling" was also a top 10 hit, and featured a video of the band in various locations in and around their hometown of Hershey. The band's two videos received massive rotation on the fledgling MTV show "Post-Modern MTV". The band later joined labelmates The Mighty Lemon Drops and John Wesley Harding on the 1990 Laugh Tour and EP, to which they recorded and submitted "Renaissance Man", a cover of the 1982 hit by New Wave Christian rock band The 77's. All of this promotion helped the band sell over 150,000 units of the record.
After a lengthy tour and time in the studio, in 1991 they released the lush and dreamy sounding Cerulean. It had two hits in the modern rock platform. "Ballerina Out of Control" was a #3 hit on the Modern Rock chart, and "Mercury" followed at #27. Both featured videos that fully displayed the band's deepening atmospherics. Cerulean managed to sell 175,000 copies just as the grunge explosion of late 1991 hit and changed the music business. During this time, drummer Rob Minnig and his brother Pat Minnig began to hone their song production and mixing abilities, which would later be reflected on the next album and its b-sides, which the band chose to produce themselves.
The final Sire Records release came in 1993 with Beneath the Rhythm and Sound. This album saw the band adding more lavish sounds but still riding on the same formula that had gained it such a following. "Sublime" received top 40 airplay, with a video filmed amongst the steaming, geothermal geysers of Iceland. The album sold over 100,000 copies. There was no second single that had the charting stature of "Sublime", but the Peace and Light EP released in 1994 helped wrap up the Sire contract for the group.
Before the close of 1993, the band contributed songs to the Eric Stoltz film Naked in New York. Originally, the group was asked to cut a new song, and the band wrote and recorded "City Traffic". For reasons unknown, the song was scrapped and instead two other tracks from their third album were included instead. The song still remains in the band's vaults.
For the duration of their 1993/1994 tour in support of Beneath the Rhythm And Sound, the band toured as a five-piece with newly added second guitarist Edward 'Oed' Ronne. Westwood One Radio Networks also recorded the group's June 20, 1994 concert in Ventura, California for a promotional CD. To this day, it is the band's only official live album. After getting a spot on ABC for new bands and playing the usual late night shows such as Conan O'Brien, it seemed as if the band had made it.
During this time, keyboardist/sax player and original member Steve Lau had begun to make his intentions clear, he was becoming more interested in the music business and wanted to move from Hershey to New York City. Despite the departure of Lau, the band ended his era on a high note, with a live cover-version of The Smiths classic "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" as on the Peace & Light EP. Peace And Light would feature the only recordings of the five-piece The Ocean Blue released to the public. Steve Lau exited the band in late 1994, and Oed Ronne was brought in full time. Lau later became a record executive with a Sire records subsidiary known as Kinetic, a label specializing in indie dance music. (In the latter years, it appears that these childhood friends had somewhat buried any ill-will. Lau was spotted by many fans at the groups' October 2000 New York City Mercury Lounge concert, and in the spirit of good cheer, David Schelzel and the Ocean Blue directed accolades to Steve from the stage.)
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