Photo credit: The Sauce / Kane Lehanneur
Interview: Tahnee Graham
Tahnee Graham delves into what lies beneath Ocean Alley’s ‘most ambitious’ new record Lonely Diamond, writing, touring and what comes next…
If you’ve ever wondered if Ocean Alley are as chill as their music, the answer is Yes.
This Friday sees the release of their latest record ‘Lonely Diamond’ boasting an array of genre-bending tracks from 70’s tones through to instrumentals reminiscent of bands like BadBadNotGood but still entirely their own sound.
“…we knew that there weren’t going to be any tours happening right away so we wanted to give our fans the opportunity to celebrate the record with us…”Mitch Galbraith
Around The Sound’s Tahnee Graham caught up with Ocean Alley guitarist Mitch Galbraith ahead of the release and wanted to know if there was any hesitancy in releasing a record during the precarious time of COVID….
“We kinda did have reservations because we knew we couldn’t tour it right away and that is pretty important to us. The reason why we did, is because we knew that there weren’t going to be any tours happening right away so we wanted to give our fans the opportunity to celebrate the record with us. It was all finished, we didn’t want to hang onto the music we just wanted to share it with everyone and give people something to look forward to.”
A perk to getting the music out before touring will help fans become more familiar with the content and lyrics, fans will be belting out every word to the tracks by the time Ocean Alley return to the stage
“Exactly! That’s an interesting dynamic I kinda hadn’t thought about, people listening to it then they might be all over it by the time we come to play it. That means we gotta play it right. We are kind of missing out on what I like to call “The Honeymoon period” of a record, you release it and then you go and tour it nonstop and that’s when the songs really start becoming a part of you because while you are recording it sometimes can be a bit disjointed.
Once you finish record, you’re mixing and mastering but not playing them as you would when you’re on tour and we haven’t had a chance to do that. That’s what I’m most looking forward to just playing them over and over again and really having them become a part of me.”
After announcing an Australian Tour and seeing shows sell out and being prepared to do just that, belt out songs to crowds who knew every word, it all came to a sudden halt with COVID-19 bringing an end to any live music. How did Galbraith and the rest of Ocean Alley cope with this?
“It was weird and it was frustrating but we’re not too fussed about it because everyone is in the same boat and there’s not really anything we can do. We’re just gonna have to wait it out.
We have had a nice extended break so when we go back to touring we’ll be ready to hit the ground running and we’ll be ready to do the big workload that’s probably piling up but apart from that we’ve had more time to spend with our family and also just writing at home and enjoying each others company while we’re not sort of at work, on the road or in the studio.”
Spending a lot of time writing and to the benefit of fans, they could spend that time perfecting “Lonely Diamond” for its much anticipated release. How did that process pan out though?
“We always work hard to try to captivate our audience so when we’re writing individual songs we try to make them as interesting and captivating as possible. When we went to construct the album and put all of those songs together we did the same thing. There were some parts that we changed because they were, you know in short, they were boring or we didn’t like them and so if it captivates our attention then it’s probably going to captivate other people and thats sort of what we aim for.”
Considering there are 6 musicians in Ocean Alley, writing would hit any snags or if the opinion of some might outweigh the opinion of others. Here’s what Galbraith had to say;
“We haven’t done it any other way, I don’t think there’s much negative to say about the fact we have six unique and individual viewpoints when it comes to creative decision making. So as long as we can manage discussions and manage to have a democratic system that’s probably the best way to be doing it. It feels natural to us to have everyone involved, everyone gets their two cents in and we get a better product because of that I think. It is very normalised now, we just work on honing that process every time we work together.”
“Lonely Diamond” has Ocean Alley staying true to their signature sound and holds familiarities to prior releases like “Chiaroscuro”, I wanted to know what the main motive and intent behind writing the songs are and why they seemed to tie in so perfectly together…
“It’s as basic as having something sound nice and feels good to listen to. Nothing more than that, we’re never trying to write the next greatest hit we just write music.” Says Galbraith, continuing with “We try to make the next record better than the last and ‘better’ for us means different and unique to what we’ve done before. It also means honouring what we’ve done before and carrying on in a concise and structured manner.
When we came to write, the first songs we wrote in this process for “Lonely Diamond” were probably most similar to the tracks on “Chiaroscuro” but later in the process the last songs we wrote were the intro “Dahlia” and the outro “Luna” and they’re completely different to anything on “Chiaroscuro. “Dahlia” is a mishmash of a little taster of all the themes that you’re about to hear that’s how we ended up making that first track. We wanted to mash it up and present it to everyone as a little appetiser at the start and yeah wait for them to listen out for all those parts within the record.”
After listening to the album, I can’t wait to see how the public receive the record too. I asked Galbraith how he thought “Lonely Diamond” was going to stack up to previous releases
“That’s for the listeners and the critics to make their mind up, we really don’t care to be honest, if I can say that. In the best possible way we couldn’t care. That’s one of the main reasons we write music, it’s a challenge to us to try and write something. It’s an experience and a journey for us to then release that and have everyones feedback and criticism whether it’s good or bad. That’s all a part of the process for us, that’s how we can progress and write “better” songs in the future.”
Like most Australians I’ve visited Bali, but one trip in particular which saw me in a little bar in Ubud stuck with me and showed me just how small the world can be. A waiter asked me where I was from and when I told him, he raced over to his phone and asked if I had heard of this band before pressing play on Ocean Alley and spending the night talking about how much the staff there love them. How does a band from Sydney’s Northern Beaches end up on the playlist of a huge fan almost 5,000km away?
“I honestly don’t know how it happens, the internet is a wonderful thing. The other day we had someone from Iraq buy merchandise, someone from Jersey Channel Island who has to get their mail by boat messaged my sister who helps out with merch orders and said the shirt didn’t quite fit and was hoping he could swap it but it’s gonna take like 4 months, especially now. We relentlessly tour, it guess it’s just about being present. We like to have a presence and the internet is just incredible because all of these people in weird places end up listening to our music.”
Every band has a beginning and doesn’t just leap to having people in weird places listening to their music, some seem to find it difficult in Australia but Galbraith has other opinions;
I don’t think it’s necessarily anymore difficult in Australia, it might even be easier than places like the states and the UK/Europe as there’s way less people and way less. places to gig. So if you put the work in and write good music then people are on board with it but then if you show them you’re really devoted to what you do and really devoted to the people that like your music then the rest sort of comes.
It’s combination of everything. You have to do everything the best you can, you have to tour crazy places and play really shit shows to no one. My old man would always say to me, when we were younger rehearsing in his garage he was like “Have a good gig at the pub tonight boys” where we’d be playing to like 20 people and he would say “You never know who’s in the crowd so give it your best” and that’s a good ethos to do it. You never know who is looking at you and who is paying attention, doesn’t necessarily need to be anyone important you just need to have people paying attention and listening to you.”
How different will the world be once the restrictions are lifted and the world regains some form of normalcy, specifically within the world of a touring band? I wondered when we would expect to see them back on the road again and Galbraith had this to say:
“At the moment our Aus shows are rescheduled for the beginning of next year. It’s just all going to be gradual, we want to kick our shows off where we left off. We don’t want to compromise on anything so we’re going to do our best to make the shows the best they can be when we come back.”
OCEAN ALLEY – LONELY DIAMOND [LP]
Available now from oceanalley.com.au
Beloved Aussie songwriters Ocean Alley are stoked to release their long-awaited third album Lonely Diamond today, and have revealed it will be accompanied by a 12-track visualiser set to premiere this Sunday on YouTube (7pm AEST) with the band jumping online for a live chat.
The band also announced a new ‘cloudy’ vinyl variant to celebrate release day, which can be purchased from select indie record stores today.
ALBUM VISUALISER TO PREMIERE ON SUNDAY
VINYL VARIANT ANNOUNCED FOR SELECT INDIE RECORD STORES
The masters of groove wrote and recorded the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s Chiaroscuro over 18 months, and discussing the expectation they felt to deliver on this record, Ocean Alley shared
“The pressure was immense for the band but also for each of us individually. We had never been so exposed to critique like that before and it’s not something we ever expected to experience when we started doing this. At times we all felt a bit out of control but it was important for us to go through it together so we can back each other up.”
The band chronicled Lonely Diamond’s conception and progression with their Constructing The Diamond video series which gave a behind-the-scenes look into their studio jam sessions, featuring previously released singles ‘Stained Glass‘, ‘Infinity‘, ‘Tombstone‘ and ‘Hot Chicken‘, as well as previewing album highlights such as ‘Way Down’ and ‘All Worn Out.’ While much of Ocean Alley’s allure stems from their cruisey, laid-back swagger, the core themes of the album provide a darker snapshot of the impact that life on the road can have, exploring feelings of escapism and isolation.
“We had a pretty hectic touring schedule and spent a lot of time travelling which made us feel isolated at times. That constant pressure to perform whilst also managing things back home took a toll differently on us all. For us, music is a way to escape those feelings and doing it together has really reinforced how important it is to lean on each other when we have to. Music is our way of unwinding and helps remind ourselves to have fun and enjoy life. Music has a special way of doing that.”
They continued, “Mental health can be a touchy subject but it shouldn’t be. Because we are very open with each other, that helps dissolve strong feelings and allows us to move forward together. The first step in breaking down barriers with other people is breaking down those barriers within yourself and realising that no one is perfect and everyone has bad days. When you can love and support yourself, then you are in the perfect position to care for and support others.”
Ocean Alley are long-time supporters of community groups that advocate the importance of mental health, foster support networks and provide programs or tools that aid disadvantaged youth and people with disability. They work with and support One Eighty, Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Support Act.
Produced by long-time collaborator Callum Howell at the idyllic Grove Studios (built by INXS’ Garry Gary Beers), Lonely Diamond has been awarded triple j’s coveted Feature Album and The Music’s Album of the Week, with NME Australia praising their “most ambitious record”, describing it “a rich, expansive universe brimming with a kind of electricity that’ll make for huge on-stage moments.”
It follows the success of Ocean Alley’s acclaimed second full-length LP Chiaroscuro whichpropelled the band into national prominence and saw them sell 25,000 tickets over 15 sold out shows that year in Australia alone – culminating with their ARIA nominated, double platinum-selling single ‘Confidence’ taking out #1 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2018.
Their breakthrough year was backed-up with 30 sold out shows around the world in 2019, plus major festival appearances at Reading & Leeds Festival (UK), Splendour In The Grass (AUS), Sziget (HU), BottleRock (US) and more, with the band amassing more than 260 million streams to date.
AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2021
with Psychedelic Porn Crumpets & Dulcie
Tickets on sale now from oceanalley.com.au
Saturday 6 February – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney SOLD OUT
Sunday 7 February – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Friday 12 February – Fortitude Music Hall, BrisbaneSOLD OUT
Saturday 13 February – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane
Friday 5 March – Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth
Friday 12 March – Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Wednesday 24 March – Melbourne Arena, Melbourne
Presented by triple j, Lonely Lands Agency & UNIFIED Music Group