Posted On 18 Jul 2018
Meet the Aussie psych-surf band Ocean Alley! They’re one of the bigger up-and-coming bands in Australia and live most of their lives around being able to surf and play music. Ocean Alley’s sound – which is drenched in equal parts distortion and dreaminess, paired blissfully with scuzzy riffs and intoxicating echoing vocals – creates the ultimate fusion of psychedelic reggae and laid-back surf rock. They’re coming off a string of sold out tour dates in Australia and a North America tour in May.
Hailing from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Ocean Alley – Baden Donegal (vocals), Angus Goodwin (guitar), Nic Blom (bass), Lach Galbraith (keys/vocals), Mitch Galbraith (guitar) and Tom O’Brien (drums) – have captivated audiences around their home-country with infectious melody lines and a memorable blend of psychedelic-surf-rock, amassing over 30 million streams online and more than 539,000 monthly Spotify listeners. Their acclaimed second album “Chiaroscuro” debuted at #15 on the ARIA Chart, and was awarded the coveted triple j Feature Album, with the station proclaiming “Ocean Alley have surfed their way to ‘Next Big Thing’ status.”
Learn more about Ocean Alley in the following All Access interview:
How has 2018 been treating you all?
Yeh not bad ay. We had a massive headline tour earlier this year in Australia and played some of our biggest shows yet. The responses from our home crowds were incredible and we were very stoked to be playing songs from our latest release. We also just got back from our first tour of North America where we played 28 shows in 40 days. It was a great success playing to smaller crowds than back home and seeing a lot of Canada and USA along the way. We drove 11,000 miles in the van from the west coast to the east and back again! As for the rest of it, we are back home in Australia writing and rehearsing for the next half of this year when we head to Europe in August and back to North America in November supporting Tash Sultana. No rest for the wicked they say!
What is one musical goal that you have had for this year and how close are you to reaching it?
We have always wanted to play ‘Splendour in the Grass’ festival in Byron Bay since we started playing music. It’s one of the premier festivals in Australia. It always has an awesome line up and is in an incredible location. This year we get the opportunity to play on a main stage on the Saturday night so we are super stoked! It’s really a dream come true for us. Many of our earliest fans will be at this festival so it’s amazing that we can come full circle and be playing to them on a big stage at one of the biggest festivals in Australia. This is what gives us the most pleasure for sure.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Has anything surprised you about it all so far?
We were all good friends before we started making music together so I guess it feels right to be in the group as a close team. We just enjoy making and performing music together so I don’t think we had plans to do anything else. Dreams are free but with a little hard work and perseverance they certainly can come true.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
Our hometown where we grew up together has influenced us as much as it can but I think our musical influences have defined our sounds and actions more. We grew up in a pretty laid back environment surfing , skating and hanging by the ocean a lot and this was a big factor in forming our friendships before we were musicians. Our sound can simply be attributed to this melting pot of individual character and each of our unique musical influences.
What did it feel like releasing your newest record “Chiaroscuro”? How do you think this collection shows the growth this band has gone through since your first album? What has remained the same?
Releasing Chiaroscuro is one of our biggest achievements to date. We are super proud of every track and we all agree it’s our best work so far. The response has been amazing and we are glad our fans appreciate the direction we have taken with this one. The sound of this record was not specifically deliberate, rather I think it was a normal progression from our records before. We aimed for a sense of progression while still trying to uphold the styles and techniques we are known for. It comes down to treading the line between being contemporary and also reflective of where we have come from. The writing process was not different at all from our other work but we had a lot more time in the studio to focus on the sonics and record all of the parts before mixing.
What was it like shooting the music video for your single “Knees”? How creatively involved were you with the overall process?
Shooting the Knees video was super chilled. We decided to just film ‘a day in the life’ kind of clip, showing what we get up to in our spare time. There was no story boarding and minimal planning, just a case of beer, some sandwiches and a beautiful sunny day on the boat swimming and fishing. The joyous and relaxed ‘home movie’ feel of the video juxtaposes interestingly with the more melancholic parts of the song. Together with our videographer/director Tyler Bell from The Sauce, we decided that this style of video clip would sit well amongst our other music videos and it was also a really fun day for all!
What other songs on “Chiaroscuro” are you particularly proud of?
Happy Sad was one of the first songs we wrote for the album and another personal favorite. The build up at the end is very emotive and there are parts within the song which allows each instrument to shine through. The lyrics that Baden wrote are non-specific like many other songs but still remain very relatable. Generally it’s a song about second guessing yourself and the feelings associated with love and loss.
Where did the inspiration for these songs come from? How did you all go about putting them together?
The inspiration for our songs always comes from many different sources. We write collaboratively and everyone brings an idea to the table whether it’s lyrics, a drum beat or bass hook etc. Each of us in the group write and perform our own parts. In this way each song is a complex mix of our own personal influences. Creating something unique and interesting to listen to is what inspires us the most.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
We are probably most happy on stage performing our music. It feels good entertaining people and seeing lots of faces in the crowd. You never get tired of that. We also love hanging out at the beach or fishing in the bay back home. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world and our friends and family still live there so it’s great to catch up with them when we are not on the road.
How has your current summer tour been going so far? How have you been keeping up the energy night after night?
Life on the road comes pretty easy for us. We always egg each other on to get out of bed on time or help load gear into venues so there’s a lot of encouragement amongst our selves. It’s easy for us to keep our shows energetic because we love performing so much. It also helps being good mates when you spend so much time together, usually in an uncomfortable van or sharing beds in a shitty motel somewhere in between shows. The only hard part is being away from our friends and family back home but tours don’t last forever so you always know you’ll be back to relax with them some day.
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
Playing our own music with good friends; nothing beats that really.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
Khruangbin is an awesome trio from Texas. They have this groovy psych vibe with world influences. The guitarist Mark Speer has a very interesting and rhythmic style.
Kikagaku Moyo is a psych band from Tokyo that we had the pleasure of playing with in Byron Bay about a year ago. They have a quintessential psychedelic sound and are amazing musicians in their own right. They also use a sitar in some of their songs which is awesome to see played live.
If you guys were all going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you want to take with you and why?
Probably a guitar. There are 4 guitarists in the band so that kinda makes sense. Plus it’s a pretty portable and easy to fix instrument I think. You can make a lot of different music with a guitar. We could even make a whole bunch of guitars out of coconuts and string you know. That would keep us busy for a while. Also, is there surf on this island?
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
We want our audiences to feel inspired and excited after hearing something that they hopefully find unique and relatable at the same time. We are proud that we have a catalogue of work that has a varied sound and feel. Some songs are more upbeat and others down beat and melancholic. We think it’s important to offer that and everything in between otherwise the listener and artist can get bored. It’s about being constantly entertained and constantly challenged when listening to any music and we hope that ours does just that.
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