Singer James Harrison quits Oceans Ate Alaska, shares statement: “Rejoining the band was a mistake”

Author Hernan Osuna - 1.2.2024

Singer James Harrison has announced that he has left British metalcore group Oceans Ate Alaska once again. In a personal statement posted on his social media on January 30, he explained his latest decision to leave. A co-founding member of the group, Harrison previously departed the band in 2017, later rejoining in 2021 until now.

He released the following lengthy statement on his departure, citing secretive behaviour by his other bandmates, along with allegations of misogynistic and homophobic comments made by them as well. Allegations of greed and general dysfunction were also made. Harrison’s statement reads as follows:

Rejoining Oceans Ate Alaska was a mistake…

Attention grabbing headline aside. Myself and another long time member of OAA and close friend will no longer be a part of the band, and will not be on the upcoming European tour. I’ve chosen not to include their name, in respect of their own comments, if they so wish to make their own statement.

I’ve had a couple of weeks to think this through, and the actions I’ve witnessed from the remaining members of OAA over the years just does not sit right with me.

While I respect them as talented musicians, on a friendship level this one cuts deep. Often OAA has chosen to push things under the rug, forcing silence to obscure the truth. However, as a founding member of OAA I believe the fans deserve to know the truth. After all we’d be nothing without you.

OAA has had a cacophony of issues over the years, from severing major industry ties, turning down career defining opportunities, business malpractice, unethical greed and toxic masculinity.

Let me take this time to explain my experiences.

First things first, I’ve given everything for OAA over the years. From dropping out of university, to quitting interim jobs just to tour. Sacrificing relationships and missing out on important moments in my friends and families lives. To never missing a show no matter the circumstances – almost breaking my neck and pelvis in El Paso and racking up $18,000 in medical fees. Having everything I own, including tour earnings and passports stolen in Paris. To being ‘accidentally’ left in a truck stop outside Budapest with no money at 5am in the morning for 5 hours. Being electrocuted mid show in Birmingham, to vomiting in buckets between songs while deathly ill on numerous occasions. I’d have done anything to be on that stage, to not let the fans down and put on a metal show. Over the years I’ve rolled with the punches and witnessed things you would never believe. All just to make music, a passion that literally makes me feel alive.

Coming off Warped Tour ’16 – a life long dream, I hit rock bottom. For the two years prior we had toured the world continually with the launch of our debut album. I was exhausted, without a penny to my name and mentally in the darkest place of my life. This also reflected in my actions. From the outside it may have seemed like I was having the time of my life. Honestly, I was, until I wasn’t. Where others may have turned to drugs and alcohol, I didn’t, it’s not my thing. I just regressed into my shell and wrote music, battling my demons all by myself. Where friends are supposed to gather round and support you, instead I felt like nothing more than a burden to certain members of OAA. For months not a single member reached out to me to see if I was okay. They couldn’t even muster the courage to tell me to my face, let alone over the phone. Instead our manager at the time called me and asked me to part ways.

I took this time out to work on myself, finish university and build a career path that would finally put me on the road to making music again. I’m fortunate to have built an incredible career outside of music, in the gaming industry, where I can work 100% remotely from anywhere in the world. This period in my life was the initial birth and concept of Livealie, I had the finances to fund it independently and the freedom to travel and tour.

Out of the blue one day I received a call from OAA. They were in a sticky situation with the label, in debt, and once again without a vocalist. I was initially told things that I now believe to be false and that ultimately if I didn’t rejoin it would potentially be the end of OAA as a band. I guess I should have known some things never change but sentimentality got the better of me. I thought perhaps I could help to fix things, steer the ship
back on track, but boy was I wrong.

What I returned to shocked me. OAA felt like a husk of a band I once knew. Morale was down, the dynamics between members had severely changed, greed was rife, to where two members were each on only a 2.5% split share. How can you cultivate a culture of equality and progress the bands career together when some members are forced to work multiple jobs constantly just to get by. Fair splits would provide them with the time to write music and contribute further.

They had also lost a great manager, who I respect immensely, and a North American booking agent during my absence. My understanding was that certain members did not want to tour extensively anymore due to other commitments. For those US fans that keep asking; honestly, there wasn’t a chance in hell OAA would tour the states again, but certain members would poke the bear online knowing full well it wasn’t possible. The reasoning behind losing these key members of our backend team was also sketchy. I doubt I will ever know the truth behind this and Jakes‘ departure. Three vocalist across as many albums isn’t a good look. I suppose you have to ask yourself, why? And look beneath the surface.

Notably OAA albums have long gestation periods typically 3-5 years before the next release. This was always a massive momentum killer for the band. I would write and write but most of the time I was met with disapproval. I’m all for critique, but sometimes it was borderline controlling and placed in a box. I was also blocked from working with vocal producers – something that would have benefited me and our records greatly. Money was being pushed else where, and overall I just thought: why bother anymore? OAA might as well just be instrumental.

The shows and limited tours we did play since my return were met with extremely ‘Laddish’ chemistry while on the road behind closed doors. Certain members would constantly make misogynistic and homophobic remarks about fans, venue staff and restaurant wait staff that just didn’t fly with me. This made me feel extremely uncomfortable and when calling it out this was just played down among certain members.

This now brings me to the tactical exclusion of certain members. Three of the five members would regularly meet up to chill and write music, without even acknowledging they were doing so in the band group chat. This denied the opportunity for everyone to be present and only snowballed further – with a secret bachelor party, recording sessions with other people, and premeditated decisions that should have been collectively discussed in a fair manner between everyone. They forced another member to leave and with that I had to follow. I can’t tell you how it got to this stage, but man was it sad. I would respect a straight up convo, but proceedings were always done in a back handed way, often circling around the point rather than just being honest and upfront.

Two remarks that stuck with me were ‘it’s just business’ and ‘maximum profit for minimum effort’. At this point I had checked out. To think something I had truly loved and helped to craft was going down the drain was sickening. My understanding is after this EU tour OAA will be turning into an independent internet band.

It’s evident that plans for the EU tour and the new single were set in motion way before we had even parted ways this month. This is not how you should treat people. Period. By definition the latest album ‘disparity’ means ‘a great difference’ it’s ironic really when you come to think about it. Let me be clear, OAA is bigger than any individual and it is not defined by any one member – that is what solo projects are for.

I have tried my best to paraphrase key moments here, but I could honestly go on and on. I will continue with Livealie – we are excited to release our new 6 song story, 12 song collection ‘Living in the Static‘ throughout this year. To put things into perspective we are split across the Atlantic but our remarkable connection is so refreshing. I’ve finally found my people and they are truly beautiful beings.

Stay metal

Last week, Oceans Ate Alaska released a brief preview of their upcoming single “Endless Hollow“, where fans noticed the absence of original vocalist James Harrison, with Jay Haywood of Silent Screams taking on vocal duties instead.

Now, the UK-born outfit released “Endless Hollow” with a statement regarding the current drama. In it the band confirmed the departure of Harrison and guitarist Adam Zythiewicz. The band also announced that they have decided to part ways with their label Fearless Records.

The band shared the following:

“Most of you have already guessed it, but we would like to give @joel_heywood the biggest and warmest welcome possible! ✌🏻 Joel is a great friend of the band, an incredibly talented and hardworking vocalist, and will be joining Oceans full time from here on out! Parting ways with James, Adam, and also Fearless Records was a very tough decision to make, but we hope this change has the most positive outcome possible for past and present members. Despite what some people may think, we have nothing but love for James and Adam! We wish them both happiness, health and good luck in their future endeavours. We will always appreciate all of the hard work they put into OAA over the years!

We hope you all love the new track, and hopefully we can catch you at a show this month! Peace and love to you all.”