Ocean Alley – from jamming in a backyard shed to a 32 date North American Tour – GIGsoup Interview

Hailing from the Northern beaches of Sydney, Australia Ocean Alley is a group that has begun making waves with their music. With a unique sound that blends psychedelic rock into a reggae fusion the band has a sound that is all their own. These six friends formed Ocean Alley as friends hanging out in a shed in the backyard, and are quickly becoming a fan favorite jam band.

Ocean Alley is currently finishing their final shows of a 32 date North American tour, featuring songs from their newest album ‘Chiaroscuro’ along with their recently released singles ‘Stained Glass’ and Infinity. GIGsoup’s Thomas Darro had the chance to sit down with Ocean Alley guitarist Mitch Galbraith before a sold out show at Utah’s Kilby Court.

Check out the interview below and learn Ocean Alley’s tour sing a long songs, quitting their day jobs and making the band a business, a song on the setlist that some of the band hates playing, and more.

Hi Mitch, How’s it going? How’s your day been? Are you currently on the road right now?

Mitch Galbraith: Um we’ve just arrived in Salt Lake City about an hour ago. So we are out getting a coffee around the corner from the venue, and yeah we are going to get ready to load in soon and sound check and do all of that.

So Ocean Alley is finishing up the last legs of a 32 date North American tour and you are on the last few shows, What has this tour been like?

MG: It feels like we’ve been on the road for awhile mate (laughs) it feels like we’ve been on the road for about a year. But tours been going good. We have had plenty of people showing up for the shows so like we’ve seen plenty of new fans, we have seen plenty of old fans that hung out awhile ago and yeah, no drama, it has been a complete success. We are happy that we have been received so well again.

You said that it feels like you have been on the road for about a year… I read on your last North American tour the band was doing sing alongs in the van with songs like ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’…

MG: Yeah (laughs) that’s true.

I have a question that I ask in every interview that is similar to a car sing along and it is about karaoke, does Ocean Alley ever do karaoke?

MG: We don’t, I actually don’t think we have even ever been to a karaoke bar per se. But we do always love a good sing along in the van. We love a good chant too, we were singing along to some Megadeath songs apparently last night in the front of the bus. It is a bit different this tour traveling in the bus compared to the van. I mean there is more room and all that.

Oh whoa that would be a big change, that is exciting!

MG: Yeah (laughs) fancy isn’t it? It definitely looked a bit funny this morning showing up outside of the small venue we are about to play tonight in the giant, giant tour bus but… there is eleven of us and we’ve got to get eleven people moved around.

Wow, yeah I have seen that venue and with the tour bus next to it that would be funny. And so with that karaoke question I like to ask what your go-to karaoke song or in this case tour bus sing along would be? Do you have a go-to Mitch?

MG: Anything mate, anything that has a got a good sing along vibe. We were singing ‘Boys Are Back In Town’ the other day to be honest. I can’t remember exactly where we were but yeah a year on and we are still singing ‘Boys Are Back In Town’ (laughs). It is sort of applicable too to every place that you know we go to play again, because I guess we’re back in town.

You talked about that there is eleven of you on this tour, you guys the six of you kind of started as a group of friends that just wanted to hang out together and that music became like this avenue to hanging out playing together in a shed. So tonight at Kilby Court it is kind of a small venue, it is somewhat shed like but it is a great venue and will be a great crowd. I’m especially excited to see the show tonight because I feel like Ocean Alley and your music the crowd feeds of you and you also feed off the crowd. I wanted to ask what fans can expect from an Ocean Alley live show?

MG: Um Yeah totally, I mean we do feed off the crowd because we want to have a good time just as much as them. I suppose our typical show we have a broad range of our old songs and new songs, we will be playing our latest releases ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘Infinity’ and we will have some cool lights, and some awesome sound, and it is always loud (laughs). It is funny our sound always makes sure he turns up the volume much to the venue owners dismay. But he is always ready to crank it.

And going back to starting in that small shed hanging out, when did this turn in to “Hey this could be something… lets see what it is.” and how has that changed over the last few years?

MG: Yeah it really wasn’t a specific point I guess, but as we started doing bigger and bigger shows, and we were spending our own money at the start to tour and buy equipment and stuff. Once we started making a bit more money with the band we could spend that back on things that the band needed. When it got to the point of quitting our day jobs it was kind of… I think we already each of us individually just decided that we were going to do that and pursue music in our head. So it really wasn’t too much of an intense conversation between us all when we all went to decide that this is what we are going to do and this is what we are going to put our time and effort into. But yeah, It still feels like we are the band that we were back in the shed day. Like nothing has changed really. We still write music the same, we still perform music the same. The only difference is maybe we are driving around in a tour bus, and instead of rehearsing in a back shed we are rehearsing in a living room. So that is good enough of an upgrade (laughs).

Quitting your day job to pursue this… how good of a feeling is that? Or was there also a lot of fear to go along with that?

MG: Totally heaps of fear! Because we were at university of few of us. A few of us had then gotten our trade tickets in carpentry and upholstery and so to leave a job and career that is typically secure like those ones and to go and move and put all your effort, time, and money into something that isn’t so secure of course it is scary. But I think the one thing that got us through that is because we were doing it together and we were friends, so we could easily push past any trust issues that we had with running the band as more of a business so that we could do it full time. So since we were friends and we all viewed each other as important and equal, not just in the creative side of things but in the organizational side of things making the band operate correctly. So because we were all on the same page it was all rather smooth. We’ve just been really lucky I think. There hasn’t been any major issues.

That is incredible. You talked about the fear but it is cool because you have all been in this together. I had a lot of fun reading about Ocean Alley before talking to you today Mitch, because it is cool to see that you guys started as friends and it is solely from that where it is not always that way with other bands I’ve talked to. But you guys started there and it helps with the fear and kind of like “hey we’re doing this, and we are all in this together.” So that I feel is a huge advantage, you talked about the security in jobs but you have kind of found security in each other.

MG: Yes! Exactly! And finishing up a 32 show tour in a weeks time and the great shows that we’ve played and we have sold out maybe possibly half of those shows and that that feels really good. It just spurs us on to keep doing it, and there is nothing else we would rather be doing right now.

That’s amazing! It is inspiring, I love picturing the quitting of day jobs and moving on to take a chance on yourself and this art that you create together. It is fun to hear the successes you are having in the sold out shows, upgrading to a tour bus and it is paying off. So I talked about it being an art and with you guys especially. You have this unique sound, and the sound has grown. It stems from a lot of experimentation from track to track and I know the naming of your second album ‘Chiaroscuro’ I know that part of the naming of that title was from every track having its own sound on the album. How would you describe Ocean Alley’s unique sound and how that has evolved over time?

MG: Well it all is kind of a melding of each of our personal tastes and our personal ideas. You know like we were talking about before we have always been pretty close and have always hung out together. When it comes to writing music, we don’t really try to write anything in particular it just starts off as most jam bands do and throwing ideas around in a room. So our different sound probably is a product from that and the fact that we are not trying to emulate any other kind of sound. I don’t know maybe pessimistically you can say that we don’t really care in some ways, and I think that is what gives us the ability to come up with something different that people might not have heard before, or that is a new spin on something old but we are definitely not being hyper proactive in that area, we are just playing music together I suppose.

And that shows. I think it makes it really fun. I was listening to your new single ‘Infinity’ today which I really liked and has everything a song needs to take someone to another place and

MG: Yeah! It was kind of written that way like there was that riff part that you hear at the start was written first, and I think Angus jumped on board and was playing slide guitar over the top, then the keys started, and the drums just fell in. So the song writing as well as listening to the track is a journey as well.

Yes I find that so interesting with you guys is I feel like you are just six friends having fun, and the music is fun! What would you say is the most boring thing about Ocean Alley? I just thought of this question as we spoke.

MG: Oh that’s a good question! That’s a good question, wow! The most boring thing about being in Ocean Alley… it is probably just waiting around for shows and sound check. That is pretty boring.

(Laughs) So right now? You are currently experiencing this?

MG: No right now is alright, we are sitting out in front of a coffee shop close to the venue and we are in the sun, so I mean it is not too boring right now. But sitting in dark shitty green rooms is pretty boring (laughs). I reckon that is on the other hand one of the most exciting thing about being in a touring band though is seeing all the shit dirty rooms, the shit bathrooms, and the disgusting toilets out the back of venues. I reckon that is quite romantic and quite beautiful I think (laughs).

We talked a little bit about the new releases ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘Infinity’ and playing these a lot on the road what has the reception to these been like on tour?

MG: Yeah people really enjoy them. I think ‘Stained Glass’ has been out longer so I think that it is better received and maybe we just play it well because we have been playing it for longer live. But people have been enjoying ‘Infinity’ as well and when we go into it they are all pretty stoked to hear it.

That is one of our most important missions and goals in the band is to always make sure that we have new music for our fans to listen to and always have new music coming out. That helps keep it interesting for us as well to not play the old stuff over and over again that gets a bit boring. So we write new music for the audience but we also write new music for ourselves (laughs).

That is so funny. Is there a song of yours that you know is on setlist and you kind of know it is coming and are not looking forward to it because you’ve played it so often?

MG: There is only one song that I myself think of like that, and it is not the song that we have been playing for the longest for sure. Should I tell you what song it is?

Definitely, yes yes I’m very curious (laughs).

MG: It’s ‘Holiday’ that has got to be my least favorite to play live!

Is it as a band? Or is it like your role as a guitarist on that song?

MG: I have a feeling that the rest of the band members share that same sentiment. I am actually pretty certain that the drummer hates it too (laughs).

Are we going to hear ‘Holiday’ tonight?

MG: Yeah you are! (Laughs)

Now I am even more excited (laughs) I am seeing you for the first time, and want to ask what impression does Ocean Alley want the audience to leave with after their live shows?

MG: We just want everyone to have a big party night! We want people to wake up the next morning and go “fuck that was a cool night and not just a cool show.” We want to be the prelude to everyone’s night and more so than that we want people to leave telling themselves that they are going to go the next time we are in town. Because we just want to keep playing to more and more people and the more people that can buy a ticket to a show the bigger the show we can put on. We can go to a bigger venue and up the production value. So we just want people to leave going we want to come back again next time. Next time there will probably be new music and stuff to listen to as well.

You talked about creating new music for the fans, but also creating new music for the band. What is next for Ocean Alley as this tour comes to a close?

MG: Well we are flat out with more touring. We have tours booked until the middle of next year I think. But we also have got a handful of week long blocks in the studio that have been booked so far, and there will probably be more studio time to be booked further down the track. But it is just a matter of us touring hard and playing plenty of shows but whenever we have the spare minute to come back home and work on some new ideas. Which just entails us getting together in a room and writing and when we have an idea taking it to the studio to polish up. It gets a bit daunting trying to fit all of that writing in between all the touring but we have done it before and we will just keep doing what we’re doing.

Well awesome, I am looking forward to that and would just like to thank you for your time Mitch. I’ll see you at the show tonight. Best of luck.

MG: No worries! Thanks for the call. See you tonight mate.

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