INTERVIEW: Ocean Alley

They gave Australia the number one song of the triple j hottest 100 in 2018, and with the release of their third studio album on June 19, Ocean Alley have a lot to prove and a lot of momentum to keep building. 

‘Lonely Diamond’ is a cohesive deep dive into the alternative psychedelic rock sonic that they’ve created for themselves. With a funky drive injected into their foundations, the album exceeds the expectations set by their lead singles ‘Stained Glass’, ‘Infinity’ and ‘Hot Chicken’. Taking an experimental approach ‘Way Down’ delivers an epic festival ready sound while ‘All Worn Out’ in contrast strips everything back and gives listeners a very surprising listen. 

Following the release of the album, the Northern Beach six piece will be hitting the road in February and March 2021 after their 2020 tour got rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I recently chatted to Mitch Galbraith from Ocean Alley about the cohesiveness layering their new album ‘Lonely Diamond’, discussed the creative process behind tracks ‘Dahlia’, ‘Way Down’ and ‘All Worn Out’, and explored how they want to take their live show to the next level with this album. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Ocean Alley’s third studio album ‘Lonely Diamond’ is a vibey collection of tracks that takes listeners on a sonical exploration of who you are as a band. So reflecting on these 12 tracks, how would you say you’ve grown as a band since ‘Chiaroscuro’?

MITCH GALBRAITH: I think we’ve become better at writing together and better at recording. And by better, I mean more efficient and have the ability to tick off our goals much easier. We have honed our skills over the course of a few records and we’ve had more time with this one than previously so that always helps. It feels like we are just getting better at the whole process, to be honest. 

TB: Do you think playing as many live shows as you guys have over the past couple of years helps articulate that sound and process? 

MG: Yeah, of course! I think it just comes down to experience together, whether that’s playing live, working in the studio or writing. We just understand each other more now. 

But there was a bit of a disassociation between the tours we were doing and all the recording and writing we were doing in between. We would leave the studio to go on tour and play all the old stuff, and then come back to the studio with fresh ears, and we were able to attack it that way.  

TB: Opening with the instrumental track ‘Dahlia’, you guys immediately showcase a very psychedelic  and funky sonic that is later explored throughout the eclectic range of tracks. Did you look at this song as a bit of a prologue?

MG: Yeah! So ‘Dahlia’ which is the opening track, and ‘Luna’ which is the closing track, were both the last two songs to be written in the studio for the album. They were our last attempt to stitch everything together and give the album something new too. 

We wrote them in a day and then recorded them over the next day. They were very last minute but it was really good as it was a perfect example of everything that was going on inside of our heads in those final moments of recording. 

TB: Reflecting on the creative process of the record, what song took the longest to hone the sound and production? 

MG: We spent a lot of time on ‘Way Down’ and ‘Up In There’ just re-writing sections on them. They were written earlier in the process and when we started to write the other tracks we felt like the parts that we had written in the middle of them didn’t really fit the rest of them. So those songs definitely took some extra thought and care. 

‘TB: ‘Way Down’ is actually one of my favourite songs on the album as it has a really cool live feel to it. 

MG: Yeah it’s really upbeat! That’s actually my favourite song on the album too along with ‘All Worn Out’. My favourite part of ‘Way Down’ is the last little outro where I’m playing the chords and Angus has this nice happy vibe through the riff, and it’s kinda become known between us as the “goodbye riff” as it seems really peaceful, happy and upbeat. 

TB: ’All Worn Out’ is quite a sophisticated song that evolves dramatically throughout it’s duration as it sonically kind has three lives. Can you step us through the creative process behind this song?

MG: That one was an interesting one as it was actually the one we workshopped the least. The Keyboardist Lachy brought it to the band, and he had pretty much written the whole thing and the chord progression. It was one of those songs that once Lachy had written the idea, the rest of the parts wrote themselves. 

We made sure to give it a very subtle treatment and not try to overdo it too much. It’s quite relaxed and somber. We actually have a guest Cellist that is playing on that track too, which we don’t do often. 

TB: This album has a lot of dark and reflective lyrical moments that have been inspired by what’s happening in Australia within the last 12 moments. So what would you say is the albums most personal or raw moment for you? 

MG: For me it would have to be ‘All Worn Out’. Baden writes all the lyrics while the rest of us write all of our parts, but all the parts are written at the same time while we are all in the same room. So it’s more of a reflection of what is going on inside of Baden’s head. However he does always perfectly match his lyrics to the music that we all come up with. 

TB: What was it about the track ‘Lonely Diamond’ that felt like it represented the whole album and made you want to name the album after it? 

MG: We couldn’t come up with a name for the album and we really liked the imagery of the diamond from ‘Lonely Diamond’, so we thought we could sort of play that in a way that could represent the album as a whole. 

We were tossing up whether it was okay to name an album after a track that maybe wasn’t so linked to the whole cohesiveness of the record. So that is sort of where it stood with us. We just really loved the imagery of those two words and the diamond. 

TB: Ocean Alley will be hitting the road in February 2021 for a huge national tour. So how are you envisioning this tour to look and feel? All you be aiming to play majority of the album live? 

MG: We have all this extra time now to develop the new live show and rehearse it, so we just want the shows to be bigger and better. We are scheduled to play to pretty big crowds in some pretty big venues so we want to use everything the venues have to offer and go extra big.

So yeah, they are going to be pretty much your standard Ocean Alley show but with this new material and a bigger production. 

TB: Are you planning to play most of the album live? 

MG: Yeah we will be playing most of the album live! We will be looking at doing an hour and 45 minute sets, which gives us enough time to play the album and chuck in a handful of classics too. 

TB: What track from ‘Lonely Diamond’ are you most looking forward to interpret on the live stage? 

MG: I’m definitely looking forward to playing ‘Dahlia’ as the opening of the show. We sort of worked on having a cool opener that we could play live as that’s just aesthetically pleasing to us. We wanted it to be moody and set the stage for us. 

And hopefully we will be having those guest musicians joining us on tour to play those parts in ‘All Worn Out’ too!

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions. You ready?

MG: Okay!

TB: The emoji that best describes our new album ‘Lonely Diamond’ is…

MG: The wizard emoji!

TB: The messiest member of Ocean Alley on the road would be…

MG: The drummer! Drummers are always the messiest *laughs*. 

TB: Our pre show ritual involves…

MG: Drinking beer!

TB: A TV show I’ve been binging during isolation is…

MG: Seinfeld!

TB: Pineapple on pizza is… 

MG: Not for us

‘Lonely Diamond’ is out June 19 

Ocean Alley 2021 Australian Tour

Saturday 6 February – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney *SOLD OUT*

Sunday 7 February – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 

Friday 12 February – Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane * SOLD 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