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Psychedelic Sounds: Ocean Alley

Almost 10 years since its formation, popular Australian band Ocean Alley has more than 250 million streams under its recording belt, sold out headline shows around the world and become a major festival mainstay.

While their last album tour for Chiaroscuro saw the band play more than 200 shows around the world, it’s going to be quite a different experience with the release of their 2020 album Lonely Diamond on 19 June, with the COVID-19 lockdown putting paid to any chance of illustrious touring schedules.

Their home turf had already had a pretty rough year.

“Everything that has happened in the last 12 months in Australia – drugs at festivals, lockouts, bushfires, personal stuff that we had going on as a group of friends – that’s all gone into the album,” Guitarist Mitch Galbraith says.

“There are a lot of dark or heavy moments, and a lot of that comes from the unknown, but it has a shine.”

But they’re definitely keen to get back to the critical touring period.

“We’re keen to get out and play it! It’s been a very different experience to the previous record. We never realised we wouldn’t get to have that honeymoon period. We can’t tour non-stop, no live shows to get to know these songs.”

The band, which is made up of Baden Donegal, Angus Goodwin, Lach Galbraith, Mitch Galbraith, Nic Blom and Tom O’Brien, perform what’s been described as “cruisey psych, rock and reggae fusion”.

Rather than being confined to one style, they can pair lyrics with the right sound.

“We all write our own parts to our music,” Mitch says.

“So we all have input in making music together. We draw on our own experiences to put meaning into the music.”

The new release, Lonely Diamond, combines 70s guitar rock, country and western, old school funk and synth-heavy new wave.

“It’s quite dark in places, but parts where it doesn’t feel too serious,” Mitch says.

“The closing track explored a different sound, there are times in the record where Baden’s lyrics are quite dark and ominous, there’s a slow heartfelt jam in there; so there’s lots of variation, while keeping it to theme, so songs can sit next to each other.

Mitch picked up his first guitar in primary school and the band “kind of grew up together”, making their name performing at house parties and dive bars on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

“We always sort of created our music in the same sort of way, being together, showing each other the ideas we’ve come up with, building a song together, seeing what works, what doesn’t and spending time together.

“This record was much the same. We finished the last one and felt pressure to do songs that were better than the last ones, put our heads down, got into the room together and started writing songs. A theme emerged from those songs and we rolled with that.”


Melbourne’s calling

Urban therapy: Melbourne’s calling

It’s the holiday time of year. Liesl Johnstone looks at why Melbourne is hot property for your travel itinerary.


Melbourne’s calling


Almost-summer is as good a time as any for some Aussie urbanity; some Melbourne time. Wake up here, and things could definitely be worse. Straight from New Zealand, there are a couple of extra hours before the alarm, for starters.

It’s becoming a repeatable luxury that I would highly recommend…. to station myself in the midst of a bustling city a few levels up off the street (for views and interest, allowing reasonable airspace from traffic sirens) to observe life, think, walk, read, eat and drink, then sleep and repeat. Did I mention the shopping?

As someone whose cultural norm was unfailingly to ‘get away from it all’ beside the sea or into the mountains whenever possible, city breaks are a new burst of neon. Occasionally there’s something strangely comforting about being in the midst of a large bustling population. Ditto, to walk down the street at night surrounded by teeming humanity; many pedestrians; copious night-cyclists.

Parts of Melbourne’s CBD (and Sydney’s) are not dissimilar to Paris, or any city of millions. The trees and old architecture lend beauty and respectability; the street art and talented (auditioned) buskers


Melbourne’s calling


proffer whimsy and edginess. Trams are yet another reason to love it here, giving so many such ease of access; a domino to the city’s vibrancy.The State Library of Victoria seems enough proof that Melbourne has a silken lining of learning, heritage and high culture. It’s beautiful architecturally; the fourth most popular library in the world, according to the city’s official visitor guide. The La Trobe Reading Room has that hushed, grandiose feel you get from a mix of history, the patina of quality timber, big airspace and gracious balconies.

Melbourne is a true melting-pot culture and notably one with incredible menus, globally sourced. I conducted a proper scientific straw poll, questioning two local dedicated gastronomic consumers on their favoured city establishments. Checking these out online showed a plethora of Trip-Advisor back-up and hearty recommendations. In a city this size, that equals booking weeks ahead.

If a weekend ‘Spice Journey’ appeals, try booking at Maha, which bills itself as an ‘unrestricted Middle Eastern’ eatery. Duck-fat hummus, preserved lemon, charred chicken kefta, Persian cherries, smoked almonds… plus a truly global range of craft beers and inventive, other-worldly cocktails.


Melbourne’s calling


Other well-patronised, gloriously centrally-located eateries included Sezar, an Armenian establishment with a geographically extensive wine-list; Tonka, with its ‘clean, punchy flavours’ of modern India, and Taxi Kitchen with its fabulously brash marketing (announcing unequivocally that you’ve arrived) and its inventive Aussie-Asian-fusion menu. The latter is perfect for savouring local fish, meat and a flavour-kaleidoscope of dumplings.

Other favourite haunts include the Peruvian Pastuso, (particularly noteworthy for its fab spirits menu, drawn from all over the globe), and the South-East-Asian Red Spice Road with artfully presented fresh fare and mind-blowing taste hits.

The conclusion? Any cuisine in the world can be found here, lovingly crafted; likewise any fashion. Alternatively, sit riverside on the South-Wharf boardwalk and do nothing. There’s no compunction to consume. Being somewhere different and just thinking is a re-boot too.