Between sharing jam sessions, beers and good times in their backyard shed in Sydney’s Northern Beaches circa 2011; to selling out both national and international headline tour dates in 2017, Ocean Alley have surfed a giant wave of momentum raising them up into their place as one of Australia’s most captivating independent bands. Inspired by the likes of Hendrix, Zeppelin and Marley, the six-piece have spread their infectious blend of psychedelic-reggae-surf-rock-infused groove across the world, touring through New Zealand, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands off the back of their debut album Lost Tropics. Not to mention sending off 2017 with massive festival sets at Bay Dreams and Falls Festival Lorne.
The guys had a killer 2018, with the release of their highly anticipated second album Chiaroscuro in March via UNIFIED Music Group, which reached the top 5 in the Australian Itunes Rock Charts. The album retains the band’s signature sound of dreamy psych riffs, soaring solos and funk-fuelled wah-wahs; whilst experimenting with the notion of its title, Chiaroscuro, which relates to the artistic technique of contrasting light and dark tones. This fundamental theme of duality is expressed through the 12 tracks from catchy crowd movers like Confidence and Overgrown to the raw and somber Knees, Rage and The Comedown which was voted at #48 in the 2018 Triple j Hottest 100. Get your hands on the album HERE and listen for yourself!
Ocean Alley just wrapped up their Australian/New Zealand tour where they unleashed the audience-commanding, dance-inducing shows that they are known and loved for and they are just about to fly out for a US tour. Before they hit the road under similar circumstances last year, we were were lucky enough to catch the rhythm guitar master himself Mitch Galbraith to share his thoughts and advice with us for this week’s Savvy Seven. Enjoy!
1) How did you get your start in the music industry?
Our first paid gig was at our local pub at the time, the Mona Vale Hotel. We landed this show after rehearsing for a couple of years and starting off in a backyard shed. We still remember how stoked we were to play to an audience in a proper venue, even though we were not getting paid very much. Playing under hot lights on stage and with a few faces staring back at us was more than enough compensation.
2) What advice do you have for someone who is about to set off on their first tour?
Setting out on your first tour is a lot like a first date; you should spend enough of your own money to make sure everything runs smoothly and everyone has a good time but don’t ever expect that you’re going to be rolling in it at the end. Perseverance pays off in both situations.
3) What has been one of the most defining moments of your career?
Our headline shows last year in capital cities around Australia, and especially our shows at the Metro in Sydney, would be defining moments for us. Playing in front of a large crowd at a festival is an amazing feeling but to sell the tickets yourself and put on a good night of entertainment is an even better feeling. It takes a lot of behind the scenes work to make a show flow properly and if we didn’t have a great crew around us we couldn’t pull things like that off. More recently, finishing our album Chiaroscuro has been the most defining moment in our career. The work we have done on this record is our best yet and we are so proud of all the tracks.
4) How has your music practice changed over time?
The underlying method of how we write hasn’t changed at all in the six years we’ve been a band. We have group writing sessions where an idea is bought to the table and we all jam it out and build off that. All the members write their own parts and I think this helps keep variation and a unique flavour to our sound. Plus its super fun to play what you want and especially something you have written yourself. The only difference to the way we make music now is the environment. We’ve upgraded from the shed to the garage and now the living room.
5) My top business tip for new artists is…
Aim for longevity. It’s rare for a band or artist to make it overnight. If you love what you do then ensure you do everything in your power to make it last as long as you can. Spend money on new equipment and instruments but skimp on travel costs and dodgy publishing deals. If you play great music for long enough and sound good too, people will be impressed.
6) The biggest barrier that I have faced in my career has been…
You can call them barriers or you could call them challenges. Either way sometimes shit is hard, and of course one might think to themselves that it’s impossible to overcome but that is how you prove yourself. If you plan to be around for a while playing music as a career, you’re gonna have to jump a few. Starting off it’s hard to afford new gear and travel costs but having a good day job is a must! We overcame these fiscal dilemmas by holding down solid day jobs – which most of us still have to this day! A lot of the time it’s all the small things that add up to what might seem like an unsolvable issue but perseverance and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family makes it easier to tackle these head on.
7) In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is…what do you think can change that?
Probably the closing of many licensed music venues. As more and more venues close for various reasons this means there’s less demand for bands to fill their nightly bills. If cities and towns were encouraged to promote and encourage live music and nightlife more than they currently do, I think it would benefit not only the musicians and their audiences but also the town or city’s economy.
Click to listen to ‘Confidence’ below