After the success of their 3 recent EP’s, with The Comedown reaching #48 on the Hottest 100, Northern Beaches boys Ocean Alley are releasing their 2nd studio album “Chiaroscuro” on March 9.
In their Newport apartment (and the set for their music video of The Comedown) Backyard Opera had a chat with 3 of the boys Baden Donegal, Angus Goodwin and Mitch Galbraith about their past few months of hard work, and the busy year they have in store.
BYO: So, tell us a brief history / meeting story of Ocean Alley, how did this all come about?
MITCH: We were all friends before we were a band, and we were just hanging out and decided to spend our spare time just playing music behind someone’s house in the shed, and it evolved from there. We’ve been together for 6 years playing music.
BYO: Where did the name Ocean Alley come from?
ANGUS: we were listening to this song called ‘Tin Pan Alley’, Mitch liked it, we all liked it, it had 'alley' in the title and, I don't know, we tried to work out some words that fit with that, and Ocean Alley kind of stuck.
BYO: Who would you say inspires you guys the most, in your sound and your performance?
BADEN: A lot of things I reckon, we all listen to heaps of different music, most of our stuff is inspired by 60s and 70s rock and roll.
MITCH: We don’t put too much effort into trying to sound like anything, we just sorta make our music in the living room, and as it pops up we just kind of roll with the flow.
BYO: No specific bands?
BADEN: Definitely not!
MITCH: we’ve got a good foundation of the kind of classic rock –
ANGUS: Mitch listens to a lot of DMAs, he likes the new single “In The Air”.
MITCH: Big fan of the new DMA’s track in the air, I could sing a bit for you here but we’re a bit pressed for time.
BYO: Please do!
ANGUS: I kinda want him to.
MITCH: I just started learning it this arvo so I’ll need a couple more days
BYO: Fair enough, we’ll just see it at the concert maybe; as the encore track?
BYO: I’ve read that you guys have a reggae history, tell us about that?
BADEN: When we were younger we listened to a heap of reggae, and when we first started writing music it was a bit of a phase, but we quickly grew out of it. It’s still there, we still enjoy it, but we don’t pigeon-hole ourselves to writing specifically reggae songs. We just play music and if it ends up sounding that way then it does.
MITCH: Yeah, we listened to a lot of it a while ago, as you said went through a phase, but it’s such a visceral genre to listen to you can’t help but you know tap your foot and move your body and dance to reggae. It’s definitely a style of music that, I don’t know, a lot of people enjoy.
Not that we’re trying to write music that sounds reggae-ish or anything, but it’s a phase we went through and it probably rubbed off on a lot of our earlier stuff, trying to find our sound. But we’ve definitely grown out of that pure backstroke that pure Marley reggae sound and we’re exploring some other options.
BYO: Are there any specific themes or motivations in your songs? Or is it just what’s happening right now?
BADEN: It’s always changing, we always get asked these types of questions, and they’re so hard to try and give an elaborate answer to, but basically the answer is no.
It just sort of comes out as it comes out. Organic.
BYO: The new album is being released tomorrow! What will you be doing tomorrow to celebrate?
BADEN: We get pissed and people listen and buy the album
ANGUS: We don’t really know until we get there, to be honest.
MITCH: The music feeds website is streaming it live the day before its released.
BYO: What goes into releasing the album?
MITCH: We finished recording before Christmas last year. We spent some extra time mixing ‘em with our sound engineer Callum, and then, of course, there’s the getting the CDs organised.
BADEN: Yeah been getting the LPs printed and stuff. A lot of behind the scenes stuff goes on and we’ve got a small team of close people we work with that do most of the work. Then we’ve been relaxing, waiting for the album to come out.
BYO: Needed a nice holiday after all the hard work.
MITCH: Yeah all the hard work haha.
BADEN: A lot of hard work.
BYO: What was the process like in creating Chiaroscuro? What’s the creative process like?
ANGUS: We did it in segments, we wanted to have a 12 track album, and we didn’t have that material recorded from the start. So what we did, we just did it in blocks. We booked in 4 sessions in the studio and recorded 3 songs each time, so we had time between recordings to write the songs.
BADEN: We set a goal, so like have this recording studio booked on a date to have a 'time' to have the songs ready by. Some of the time we were writing the songs the night before or in the studio - because we had to; we didn’t have anything or nothing was ready, but it ended up turning out for the better, with it being a bit spontaneous not overthinking it or anything. A lot of the songs that we did, had a bit more of a process, we sat down and rehearsed it and rearranged it and changed it.
MITCH: We set out to write an album that was a natural progression but we didn’t want to let ourselves write an album that we had already done. We didn’t want it to sound too similar.
It was spread out amongst those 4 sessions; it was different to the last album.
ANGUS: We recorded the last album in just 1 week, so we’ve spent a lot more time on it and we’ve tried to make it better.
MITCH: That’s just a product of us all having more time together and having a little bit more money to go to the studio for 4 separate sessions rather than 1 2-week session. We took a bit more time … There wasn’t any thought beforehand really, the theme emerged after we had a handful of songs already done, and then once we sort of realised that there was a theme to what we’d already written, we sort of nurtured that theme until we had the 12 tracks.
BYO: All the singles from Chiaroscuro you’ve released so far are ace, but they have a different vibe about them, especially The Comedown. Does this mark a change in the band? Or just experimenting with different sounds?
BADEN: I think it was just a progression; we didn’t want to do something that we’ve already done. We chose to make sure that our sound was a little different at least.
BYO: When you’re writing a song, is it a collaborative process or does everyone have a role to play?
BADEN: It’s different every time, it’s sometimes a group collaboration sitting down and having a jam or seeing what comes from the jam, or sometimes somebody has some chords which they bring to the group.
Lyrically I’ll sort of smash out most of the lyrics, but then I’ve got Lach that gives me a hand sometimes. We all sort of chuck in our input here and there.
Mitch: For example, Rage that we did on this new record; Baden had some melodic ideas that he’d had for a while, like almost over 12 months.
Angus: 3 years even
Mitch: You reckon?
Baden: Definitely over 12 months.
Mitch: We got a bit stuck writing that rage song, we couldn’t find a chorus to do, and then Baden drew on stuff that he was jamming on and what he was comfortable with and we sorted it out. Some ideas are fresh and some have been around for a while.
BYO: Chiaroscuro is an art/film term; what inspired you to use this as the album name?
MITCH: It was kind of just an interesting and creative way of describing the album as a sort of duality concept, of light and dark.
ANGUS: They were like the themes that we tried to cross with tones and lyrics.
BADEN: Sonically, some songs were made to sound lighter than other ones. Mitch went to art school and was familiar with the term, and it seemed like a half interesting way to describe what we were trying to do.
MITCH: It also makes a comment on the fact that a musical body of work can also make a listener create some sort of visual landscape in their head. That’s what draws the link to visual art and music, or something that you listen to.
It instils an emotive and visual landscape for people, much like a painting would.
BYO: You’ve got a massive 2018 ahead, with tours in Australia and USA and Canada. Are you guys keen?
MITCH: Not exciting at all
BADEN: Shut up!
ANGUS: It’ll be good, get us out of the house for a bit.
BADEN: This will be our biggest year of touring we’ve done, it’s pretty exciting, in and out of Australia. Some pretty big tours.
ANGUS: It’s fun to get away, see new places, meet new people, you always wanna play to new people.
MITCH: Otherwise the old people just get sick of it!
BYO: What’s life on the road like for Ocean alley? Any funny tour stories?
MITCH: It’s pretty standard!
BADEN: Most bands have similar experiences and stories, nothing too ridiculous. Missing flights, losing band members, doing the next show without all members, getting to the gigs, being removed from hotels.
MITCH: But that’s kind of what we did from the start. As in, we’ve done a lot of touring together and we’ve been on the road together, and some people think oh fuck that would be hectic, a few months away spending 24 hours with the same people. But I think we all see the bigger picture and have a ball when we’re on the road. It’s pretty fun.
BYO: Where’s your favourite place to gig?
BADEN & ANGUS: CAVE BAR?! Cave bar Newport!
MITCH: I would have to disagree with these two gentlemen; it would have to be Park Hotel.
ANGUS: Mona Vale?
MITCH: Actually nah nah, I don’t know!
ANGUS: That’s a hard one.
MITCH: I don’t want to say, Byron maybe?
ANGUS: Byron’s fun; it’s always fun to play in Sydney when there’s a good show.
MITCH: To be honest I don’t really have one; it’s pretty fun everywhere.