It’s a Friday in late March and Ocean Alley are in London. The sun is beginning to set on an unseasonably warm day and the Camden Assembly smells of beer. It sounds, even before the band starts talking, like Australia. Everyone in this pub seems to be an Aussie and everyone in here seems to have tickets to see Ocean Alley perform down the road in a couple of hours.
Consisting of lead vocalist Baden Donegal, lead guitarist Angus Goodwin, Mitch and Lach Galbraith – on guitar and keyboard/backing vocals respectively – Nic Blom on bass and Tom O’Brien on drums, Ocean Alley kicked off their UK tour in Brighton last night and admit to slightly overdoing it. They all seem well-versed in hangover management, however, with years mastering the science of rejuvenation post-overindulgence. “You need something to cut through the grease – fried chicken, KFC,” they explain. “Or just have a beer.” Having made it to 6 o’clock, we’re doing the latter now.
The chorus of Ocean Alley’s most famous song to date proclaims, “It’s all about confidence baby”. Despite the remnants of a hangover and the fact they’re on the other side of the world from home, these guys just ooze confidence. It’s clear as soon as five heads of shoulder length blonde hair saunter and smile their way into the pub. The interview starts by discussing their music and occasionally circles back to it, but, over the course of the near hour I spend talking to them, it feels far more like a conversation with some surfer dudes who are cooler than I’ll ever be.
The recently lost Shane Warne gets a toast. An ill-fated, pre-show curry years prior is looked back on less fondly. They discuss their old jobs, badgers, honey-badgers, the honey-badger, and how the band still check under bins in the UK to make sure there’s not a snake. Most of all, though, Ocean Alley laugh – more than anyone else I’ve ever interviewed, and certainly through no comic ability of my own.
For all of Ocean Alley’s confidence, there is not a shred of cockiness. Their confidence is genuine, easy. They’re easy to spot, easy to greet, easy in their own skin, easy among each other, and, it turns out, awfully easy to have a beer with.
This comfort is, at least in part, a result of how long they’ve known each other – they all grew up in the same neighbourhood on Sydney’s Northern Shores – but it also seems reflective of where Ocean Alley are in their career and their craft. A band still down to earth and in touch with their saltwater roots, but – as I soon saw for myself – equally at home on sold-out stages.
‘Deepest Darkness’ is the latest proof of Ocean Alley’s strength as songwriters. It’s a love song, thick like molasses, grand both instrumentally and lyrically. The track is largely a product of work done towards the beginning of lockdown, coming together now with the band back out on the road.
“At conception, the song was super chilled,” guitarist Mitch explains. “But it felt right as we kept adding thickness to the chorus, so we just went with it, and now it’s really captivating and powerful and has this heavy mysteriousness to it.”
“This song is about being so deeply in love with someone and realising how important their support can be to you,” frontman Baden says of the song. “You literally go through the deepest and darkest times together, and that unity makes you so much stronger. It’s from the perspective of imagining what it would feel like to go through life’s tough spots on your own, and having a huge appreciation for the support you receive.”
This latest tour is not the band’s first time in the UK, but it’s the first time since before the pandemic, during which time this tour was originally scheduled to go ahead. The band like British pubs, one of the things they concede we do well, while also appreciating the proximity of tour dates in comparison to their old, dozen-hour journeys, crammed into a car, traversing Australia.
But this is a band who belongs on the big stage and the open road. Throughout their set at The Roundhouse – which includes a pair of Pink Floyd covers with an Ocean Alley spin – the auditorium feels more like an open-air festival than it does a gig. Their sound is big and euphoric. That easy confidence that exudes off them translates into their music – never more obvious than when seeing them live.