“I just want us to be known as Working Class Rock N’ Roll.” So says vocalist Zoli Teglas (ex-Ignite), having taken 30 years’ worth of experience in the music business to launch a project close to his heart, Ocean Hills.
Born into a working class Hungarian family, a dedicated animal rights / rescue activist, and a Hollywood actor with supporting roles in Terminator: Dark Fate and The Alienist under his belt, Teglas learned the value of hard work at a young age and the relationship music played in it. And it was always rock n’ roll. Bands like Journey, Boston, The Who and Led Zeppelin are only a few examples of the artists that laid the groundwork for Teglas’ current artistic vision: to write songs for the working-class man in the vein of acts like Shinedown, Nickelback, and Alter Bridge.
Lead-off single A Separate Peace. released in April 2020, is proof positive of the Ocean Hills no-bullshit approach to making their own brand of rock, with single Death And Liberty as the infectious follow-through. The title track Santa Monica became the third single preceding the album – this time a very positive song with an obvious Summer flair. But that’s not all: late in the songwriting sessions, a track by the name of Bound materialized, which was co-written by Bush guitarist Chris Traynor – likely the most commercial song Ocean Hills has produced so far and a perfect fourth single before finally the album drops.
“This has always been a passion for me,” says Teglas. “I’m trying to write music, for example, for the average plumber from New Jersey who comes home after a long day at work and wants to lose himself in a song, because the majority of people out there are working their butts off. I’m writing music for the 30, 40 and 50 year-olds out there; people that understand where Ocean Hills is coming from.”
Make no mistake, however; Ocean Hills is not a one-man project. Peter Lukacs (guitars), Daniel Szebenyi (keyboards, bass) and Reinder Oldenburger (guitars) share Teglas‘ vision and were instrumental in bringing it to life, and he is the first one to credit his bandmates for making the debut album, Santa Monica, the standout slab of rock that it is. A large portion of the recording was done in Hungary in Teglas‘ grandmother’s 200 year-old house – chosen for its brilliant acoustics – and during the recording sessions there were a few occasions where Teglas was forced to give up creative control for the benefit of the album.
“These guys are such good musicians that I got kicked out of my own house a couple times because I started messing with the songs too much,” Teglas explains. “I was always trying to make the songs better, and eventually the other guys kicked me out. When I came back I was still upset, but I’d listen to what they’d done while I was gone and the song would sound way better than my idea. These guys are good. This is the band I’ve always wanted to be in.”
Looking at the Ocean Hills‘ debut as a whole, Teglas sees it both as a tribute to and a return to what made music special to him at a younger age. As the kid who got KISS Alive II as his very first record, he remembers feeling as if it had been made specifically for him. That feeling dedicated him to the listening experience, made him want to hear more, which is the goal of Ocean Hills both through the album and performing live: to bring back the magic of discovering music, which Teglas feels is sorely lacking in the world these days.
“The best musicians out there are the ones, when you go to a concert, that elevate you above all your problems for the few hours you’re there,” says Teglas. “They take you to another level and make you feel better than when you got there. I miss guitar solos, I miss songs that are almost 6 minutes long, I miss musicians that can really play. This album will grow on you because there are songs on it that are completely different from each other – acoustic songs, total rock songs – and hopefully people will sit down with it and let it get into their soul.”
As for calling the band Ocean Hills, the name is a shout-out to the band members’ origins. As Teglas explains, simply put, “half the band is from the Buda side of Budapest – the hill side – and the other half is from the beaches of California. So, calling ourselves Ocean Hills made sense. We’re paying tribute to where we came from.”
Téglás in addition has a nice resume of acting in Hollywood movies (Terminator: Dark Fate (2019), The Alienist (TV series – 2020), Spectral (2016), Tyrant (TV series – 2015, 2016), Argo 2 (2015) and is known as an activist for animal rights and environmental protection for many years. He has been an activist and board member for such organizations as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Beagle Freedom Project. Zoli has his own non profit Pelican Rescue Team.