Hailing from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Ocean Alley is the musical equivalent of a drowsy and dreamy summer night. Spellbinding and heartfelt, the six-man group can quickly switch between mellow, beachy vibes and stadium-ready anthems without ever losing their signature swagger. After forming in 2011 in a backyard shed and touring around Australia to promote their first two EPs, they released their debut album, 2016’s Lost Tropics, establishing them as a act to watch with their distinct, reggae-infused sound.
The band went from a down under favorite to global sensation thanks to their 2018 single “Confidence,” an addictingly groovy, retro track that won Triple J’s Hottest 100 and has over 20 million streams on Spotify (and counting). Soon after, Ocean Alley released Chiaroscuro, a hypnotizing 12-track exploration into heartbreak and longing.“Stained Glass,” the group’s latest single, displays an evolution in the composition of their music. Beginning as an understated jam, the song builds to a loud and raw climax before returning to its original smoothly lolling guitar work. A perfect balance of groovy detachment and organic vulnerability, the track is a good indication that Ocean Alley’s sound will continue to grow with them, both sonically and emotionally. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
We got a chance to catch up with Ocean Alley to talk about their North American tours, latest music video, and biggest musical influences. Check out the interview below, and be sure to track them on Bandsintown to see when they’re playing near you!
You spent last fall supporting Tash Sultana on their North American tour, and now you’re coming back to headline your own tour this summer. How is touring North America different than touring your native Australia?
In the states, the main difference is how many shows we get to play and the size of the venues. The USA is a bloody huge place, so we will be playing nearly every night for six weeks. Travelling around in a tour bus and playing in a different city each night is way more enjoyable than flying around Australia and only playing a handful of shows. However, back home in Australia, we have the opportunity to play some big venues. Last tour we did two shows at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney and two shows at the Forum in Melbourne. It’s always amazing playing to a room filled with over 2000 people, but in the USA these rooms will be smaller so it’s a more intimate experience for the punters. They will be the same great shows, but just in a more cosy environment. We also tend to attract a similar type of crowd wherever we perform, so there’s always a rowdy party and a lot of dancing going on.
What are you most looking forward to on the tour?
Playing to and meeting new fans is always a highlight for us. It’s a long tour and we have a lot of driving to do, but it’s definitely super exciting to be in a new city every night. We have upped the production of the shows this time around too, so we are stoked to be bringing new songs and a new light show to people that may have seen us perform before and people who have not alike.
Your music seems to pull from a ton of different genres, from surf rock to reggae–– who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Each of our influences are quite varied which allows us to draw on many styles of music for inspiration. We grew up listening to our parents music mostly, and we are still in love with the classics. Dire Straits, Bob Marley, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Bee Gees, Nile Rodgers, David Bowie, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the list goes on. This melting pot of musical influences is what we value the most when we are creating music together.
From your psychedelic sounds to a popular cover of Player’s “Baby Come Back,” the ‘70s are clearly a huge part of the band’s vibe. What about the decade inspires you the most? Do you have any favorite pieces of ‘70s pop culture?
We are of course inspired by the music which influenced so heavily the politics, society and individuals of that decade and decades that followed. The ‘70s is remembered as a decade that championed variety in music, as well as an increase in the environmentalist movement and the push for economic and political freedom for women. These are similar to the values that we as a band and as individuals also have. What’s not to love about a time when freedom, art and culture was holding fast in the face of the narrow minded views of the past?
The music video for your latest single, “Stained Glass,” is a trippy, vibrant, and geometric journey through many different patterns and landscapes––what inspired this video?
We consciously wanted to make a shift away from the style of video clips we had done previously to a more metaphoric and “story based” music video. I think stripping it back and not divulging too much context provides a kind of challenge when the viewer attempts to find meaning and connect the vision to the music. This theme is something that we will continue to explore in our upcoming work because we think it’s a bit more fun for us and the audience.
With an album title like Chiaroscuro, a song called “Happy Sad,” and many other lyrical references, you seem very devoted to exploring ideas of clash and contrast. Where did this recurring theme come from? Is this something you’ll continue to explore on the upcoming album?
We think this concept is something that people deal with constantly, whether they know it or not. It’s a simplification of life itself and a concept that exist in everything we do. We think it provides our music with a deeper meaning and hence it becomes more accessible and tangible for any audience. It’s probably going to remain a theme that we continue to explore in depth, but you’ll have to wait to find out.