Summer is almost in full swing, which means that it’s the perfect time to listen to Ocean Alley. This Australian band practically lives at the beach, and it shows through their music, which blends psych rock with reggae to craft songs that beg to be pondered under the sun. A few months ago, they released Chiaroscuro, their sophomore album; now, they’re bringing their good vibes from city to city during their first American tour.
Recently, we were able to talk to Mitch Galbraith, Ocean Alley’s rhythm guitarist, while the band was on the road. We chatted about the single “Knees,” favorite shows, and Australian beach life. Follow the conversation below.
TYF: You’re currently in the middle of your first North American tour. What are some of the most memorable things that have happened on the road so far?
Mitch Galbraith: Some of the big shows that we’ve played in Canada were very memorable. Playing at the GLC in Whistler was a lot of fun. It’s all pretty memorable, to be honest. There are a lot of “first time” things across North America, so we’re having a lot of fun. Spending a lot of time in the van, but we get to see a lot of the countryside.
TYF: Is there a certain place that’s been your favorite?
Galbraith: So far, it’s got to be Canada. Those shows down in Victoria, Vancouver, and Whistler… those have been our favorite shows by far.
TYF: Nice. How is touring around Australia different from touring around North America?
Galbraith: You drive on the other side of the road. (Laughs) We do a lot of flying these days back in Australia. But [in North America], there’s so many long drives, and more places to stop along the way. In North America, there’s more people.
TYF: You just released a music video for your single “Knees.” Can you tell us about the making of that?
Galbraith: We decided to just go out on the boat one day and take our videographer with us and video what went on. We got a couple of boxes of beer and just went out there. We normally do that most weekends. When we can, we go fishing or surfing. So we didn’t really put too much thought into it. We decided to head out for a day and have a picnic and film the result, and we’re really happy about how it turned out. The juxtaposition between the visual and the audio, I think it’s quite intriguing. ‘Cause part of the song is uplifting, and the home movie style kind of fits that, but then when you put it against those melancholy parts of the song close to the end, I think it produces a real interesting effect.
TYF: So do you guys spend a lot of time together, even when you’re not rehearsing?
Galbraith: Yeah, definitely. There’s four of us who live in the same sharehouse together, and the other two just live up the road. We were best mates before we formed the band, so we’re very close. It helps on the road, definitely, being good friends. ‘Cause everyone gets along, and there’s no differences that need to be worked out. And of course, we’re living in close quarters in a van, and motel rooms, and sometimes sharing beds and stuff, so it definitely helps. (Laughs)
TYF: In your song “Happy Sad,” you have some really interesting lyrics. Some of those are, “Well, it could have been good/It could have been great/Everybody needs someone to hate.” What do those lyrics mean to you and the band?
Galbraith: Well, Baden [Donegal (vocals/guitar)] writes all the lyrics, and he’s always said that they’re not necessarily feelings and experiences that are specific to himself. He likes to write stuff that’s general so people can dive in and divulge their own meaning from it. It’s probably a play on that adage, “Without hate, how can you love?” and that sort of thing. There’s always black and white in the world, and to know what love is, you also need to know what hate is.
TYF: Do you have any favorite lyrics from any of your songs?
Galbraith: “Knees” is probably my favorite track. I think the lyrics are outstanding in that. But specifically, no. “It’s all about confidence,” that’s a lyric that’s really got on board with the audience. It’s a very general lyric and not hard to understand the emotion behind it.
TYF: Do you remember the first concert that really made an impact on you?
Galbraith: Yeah. We played the Metro Theater, which is a big venue in the city. That was about two years ago now. That was kind of our first big show. It was about 1,200 people there. When we we sold that out and played for all these people, we knew that it was quite a special moment for us. We knew that we could keep doing this for a little longer, and keep playing for more and more people, so that was definitely a memorable show.
TYF: A lot of your music has a very beach vibe. What are your favorite things to do at the beach?
Galbraith: Surfing. Just sitting there. We go snorkeling. Anything. It just depends on what the conditions are. Back home, we live on a peninsula. We have the beach on one side and a bay on the other side. If it’s too windy, or the surf’s not good, we go out on the boat and go fishing, and if the surf’s perfect, we grab some boards, head down. We live close to the bay, so we do anything and everything there. We’re very lucky.
TYF: If you could choose any song in the world to be your personal theme song, what would it be?
Galbraith: (Laughs) Ah, you’ve put me on the spot! “The Boys Are Back in Town” by… I don’t actually know who it’s by. (Laughs) You’ll have to research that one for me. [Writer’s Note: the song is by Thin Lizzy.] We’ve been playing that in the van. Playing it in the States, which is kind of ironic because we haven’t been here before. It’s pretty funny. We like to have a singalong with that when we’re driving in the van. It’s pretty fun.
TYF: What other songs or albums do you guys like to listen to when you’re on the road?
Galbraith: We like very different types of music. We grew up listening to the classic rock stuff. Jimi Hendrix. Bob Marley was a big inspiration early on. We went through a reggae phase, listened to a lot of reggae music. We liked the aesthetic and the way the instruments sound matched with the music. Yeah, we really listen to everything and anything. We listen to a bit of disco driving. We listen to heavy music as well. We’ve all had an interest in heavy music at one stage, back when we were in high school. Our type of music has progressed, and it’s always changing.
TYF: It’s definitely hard to pick one genre–there’s so much good music out there.
Galbraith: Definitely, definitely. It’s impossible.
TYF: What advice would you give to people who want to start a band or help their band grow? What would you say to inspire or motivate them?
Galbraith: I think the most important thing… If you want your band to grow, and if you want your music to be your career or even just [to] be a semi-professional musician, the main thing to keep in mind is keeping the group dynamic strong, keeping everyone on the same page and making sure everyone’s happy. If someone decides to leave the band or something, that’s quite a bit of experience and knowledge that just goes away, and you’ll have to train someone else. I think keeping the band together is one of the most important things. Besides that, just write music that you love, and enjoy it, and that will help that cause as well.
TYF: Good advice. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers and the fans?
Galbraith: Just a big “thank you” for showing up to all the shows, and a massive “thank you” for buying all our merchandise. That helps a lot when we’re touring, helps with gas and food and stuff like that. But the response has been amazing in North America. We plan to come back as soon as possible. It’s been a great time.