Having first made a name for themselves performing at house parties and dive bars on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, who could have predicted that Ocean Alley would so fervently captivate audiences worldwide. Almost 10 years since their formation, the band have achieved more than 250 million streams, sold out headline shows around the world, become a major festival mainstay and are continuing to reach new career highs – all on their own terms. Intuition has always guided the band’s sound, over time morphing between funk, soul, surf-rock, psychedelic rock and blues, and never adhering to the confines of one style. HI Fi Way spoke to Mitch Galbraith about the making of Lonely Diamond.
It must feel like a bit of a weird time, especially for bands at the moment.
Yeah, totally. This is probably the most that we’re doing right now. Some interviews and some live recordings, but that’s about it.
Is that really, frustrating because you got a killer album and now you have to wait to get out on tour?
Under normal circumstances, if we weren’t touring a record as soon as we released it, I feel like we would be losing momentum. To be honest everyone’s in the same position so you really have to just keep reminding yourself that it’s nothing that you can do and we can’t be doing any better than this because I think if we were allowed to play shows, we’d be playing them. We’d be in the States right now and would have finished our Australian tour. The record would have been out a month earlier. We’ve just got to keep reminding ourselves that everyone’s in this boat and use the time as best as we can.
Have you been using it to regroup and take a bit of a breather?
Yeah, we’ve had plenty of time at home. Luckily, we’re in a position now where our business can keep running even without doing these shows. Mind you, we’re not making money, we’re not losing money, but that keen to keep running in the background so we can just enjoy our time off and we’ve been playing more music together, surfing, hanging out with our family and all that sort of stuff. I think we have been using that time wisely.
Do you think, particularly families and partners will get a bit too used to you guys hanging around at home?
They already have! They already have! My girlfriend’s going, “What the fuck am I going to do when you go?” and I said, that was always going to be the case that we were going to go back on tour again. We should both consider ourselves lucky that we’ve had this forced break because we wouldn’t have had it otherwise.
With Lonely Diamond, was the second album blues something that was talked about?
Coming off the back of Chiaroscuro with tracks like Confidence and Happy Sad, that were in Hottest 100, we definitely felt pressured, but we knew that we’d just have to revert to what we normally do to get the job done. It didn’t really dawn on us too much. We would give it our best crack and we think that this record is more thoughtful, the song writing is better writing and sounds better than the previous record, but I suppose we’ll leave that up to everyone else to decide.
How do you think the sound for Ocean Alley’s changed between the albums?
I think we’ve just tried to not repeat ourselves on this record and we’ve looked at the sounds, the styles we’ve written before and tried to go somewhere else with that. The songs that we wrote early on in the process definitely had a bit more of a tie to the last record, but the later songs that we wrote were completely new. The opening and closing track we wrote in the final two days of recording the whole record. We decided we wanted an opening and closing track so we got into the studio, we wrote it in one day and recorded it the next day. That was our chance to put something very different on the record. It just goes to show how all of our heads changed so much throughout that whole process of Lonely Diamond.
Does anything in particular influence that?
Not really. I think it’s more of a subconscious thing. We all get into the room together and what comes out is what comes out kind of thing and that doesn’t bother us, or scare us, I think, that’s part of how we go about creating our unique sound, I think.
Those jam sessions must be awesome with all those ideas buzzing around?
Yeah. We’ve realised that sometimes it just takes a lot of time and a lot of experience. You have to be able to play well together as those ideas pop-up in the session, you have to be able to capitalise on them and do something with them or they’re soon to be lost to the ether.
With the album out how do you maintain the momentum?
We’ve got some live studio sessions that we’ve recently been doing. That was a lot of hard work, especially on behalf of our design team and the sound guys. We were in a studio in Sydney. We recorded that, but that’s going to come out and be announced later in the year, but definitely there’s probably some more of them to come. Yeah, who knows? Everyone’s got to change their game up, but we’re also spending a lot of time behind the scenes, making sure that when we do pick back up our live show’s ready to go and we’ve got all of our team ready and around.
Is there that extra pressure to really step-up the production with the live show with pyros, lasers and a big light show?
Yeah, we’re always asking our lighting guy for pyros and lasers and he keeps telling us that it’s coming, we’ll work something out. We just want to put on the most awesome show that we can. We take it show by show and make it be the best it can.
Can you believe the journey that you are having, you must feel like pinching with how well it keeps going?
Yeah, for sure. I can definitely speak on behalf of all the boys personally and say that it’s something that we never even dreamt of doing. It’s something that we never thought would be a reality. But it is and we couldn’t be more thrilled and that’s why I think we take it so seriously. We love it so much and that’s why we want to keep bettering ourselves because we realise the wonderful opportunity that we have.
Teaming up with The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. I love those guys. I saw them for the first time at Laneway. What a double?
That’s going to be awesome. They’re lovely. They’re lovely guys as well. We’ve had the chance of hanging out with them quite a bit and getting to know them, paying festivals in Europe. We ran into them a lot and at plenty of festivals back home. We want to bring them over east. They don’t really need the encouragement or any advice from us, they’re fantastic musicians and their music is incredible. It’s unique and it’s exactly what we want people to see before we go on stage. We want to surround ourselves with like-minded and like sounding bands and they fit the bill.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Lonely Diamond is out now…
Rescheduled 2021 Tour Dates…