For those of you who have been listening to triple j recently, you may have heard an especially spicy new tune playing. The song is “All about confidence baby,” as the lyrics describe it with smoking clarity. This new hot song – Confidence – is from a new hot album named Chiaroscuro. Which was recently recorded by a hot old band containing hot young members. I caught up with Baden Donegal – the frontman for Ocean Alley – over the phone to chat about their hot new album and the hot hot hot shows coming up.
Chiaroscuro is a word that in artistic terms describes dark and light in reference to colour. Words are really incredible in the way that they literally allow you to map out what’s going on in your mind. That’s why it’s important to take time in choosing an album name. There’s a lot in a name. It could be the deciding factor when someone picks up your record in the store. Do they buy it? Or do they put it back on the shelf? In Ocean Alley’s case, I fervently recommend to buy it because Chiaroscuro is one hell of an album.
Donegal explained how this obscure album name came about saying, “It’s basically just an idea that we had to describe the scenes of the album. So we started out writing a couple of tracks and we thought maybe make half of the songs light, half of the songs dark themed and sort of use tones as well. Like major and minor chords. Then mucking around with that. Mitch went to art school and had the term on hand. We just ran with it.”
Although musicians and the music they have created is all very important and dear to us, let’s not forget the other major players in adding to an album. Digging the past groovy EP and album artworks that compliment the groovy Ocean Alley tunes so well? They are done by none other than Jojo Lee. As Donegal reflected, “We just told him the scene and idea and he did the rest. We were pretty happy with what he came back with straight away. He’s done everything since Yellow Mellow which is our first EP. All the Ocean Alley art has been done by him. The merch too.” So make sure you strut your stuff over to the merch table at one of their upcoming shows to have a gander at the lovely artwork – and a spend if you’ve got the money to spare.
If you’ve listened to the album thousands of times now and can yell along to every lyric like you’re playing Singstar on Playstation 2 at your best mates sleepover – you best learn who these simple yet beautiful lyrics were written by – none other than Donegal himself. “Sometimes me and Michael have the chord progression and then we just build on that or Nic will have a bass riff and we just build on that. But I tend to sit alone and write the lyrics. It’s never really a before or after thing. It’s just when it’s happening.”
As beautiful as the lyrics are and the raw feeling behind each song… don’t look for too much meaning behind them as Donegal explained, “It’s just a generalisation of anyone’s situation it’s not necessarily personal for me.” So no deliciously juicy secrets? Stories of excruciating heartbreak? Cut-throat betrayal? Shakespearean drama?
“No, it can be from anyone’s point of view really not necessarily from my mine.” Yeah, I suppose we have all been on our knees again at some point. (That was a reference to the track Knees in case your brain blanked. It’s a whopper of a tune. Go listen.)
It’s public knowledge that Ocean Alley are constantly compared to inner-west band Sticky Fingers because they have that similar sexy-sounding reggae/rock vibe. I, however, don’t hear it. However, when asked if this comparison was frustrating for the band’s growth and continuous development Donegal explained, “Well they’re obviously a really good band so it’s obviously kind of a compliment but we obviously want to have our own name for ourselves. I think everything is influenced by everything these days so people are always going to find comparison in whatever you do. Nothing is completely original so what can you do.” Amen. With that being said, you kiddies out there have to be really careful not to plagiarise someone else’s work/ideas either. Not just when it comes to art forms but in any sort of job you do. There’s a fine line between being inspired and being ripped off.
It’s part of human nature to pick favourites. Which you may have experienced if you grew up with siblings. Sorry to resurface childhood trauma. Anywho there’s no denying that each track on Chiaroscuro is pretty damn special but Donegal revealed his favourite track to be Happy Sad.
“My favourite track was Happy Sad. Overall it’s some of our best songwriting and I was really stoked with how it came out. Was a bit of a longer one.” Does the title name hold some sort of value then? Short answer: No. Long answer: “We didn’t have a name for it and in the studio Cal our engineer just put ‘happy sad’ in the computer to know what the fuck we were recording and then we just left it.” Hilarious – laziness at it’s most effective.
Besides picking song names the Ocean Alley lads are absolute super troopers when it comes to practising and working hard. They will be popping their Enmore theatre cherry very soon when playing a double gig next month in April and they’re bloody keen for it. “We’ve never played the Enmore before. We’re pretty excited to play the new tunes cause we’ve been playing all of our previous stuff for like a year or two now. We’ve had the same set for a while now. So it’s exciting to play new music but we’ve obviously been practising when we can to try and make the show as amazing as possible.”
So what’s on the agenda for the future of Ocean Alley after the hot hot hot national tour? “We’ve just announced a North American tour and I’m pretty sure we’re planning on heading to Europe after that as well.” The lads are also set to play at this year’s Groovin’ The Moo Festival.
We kept the tales of touring PG-rated for the kiddies but this particular time shone out for Donegal.” We played at [a licenced venue] in Byron last year and after we played we had a bit of a kick on upstairs. One thing led to another and we were all downstairs pouring beers from the bar at like 6 or 7 in the morning. One of the guys that worked there caught us and I think he grabbed Obi around the scruff of the neck and said, ‘Guys you’ve got to be taking the piss.’ We literally were so [drunk] we thought it was pretty funny.”
Another eventful time for Dongle and the rest of the band that was much less ironic and a bit more gnarly happened at one of their all-ages gigs. Of course… The youths of today are rowdy as fuck. “We played an underage or all-ages show in Campbeltown last year so it was an alcohol-free event. We were having to pour our drinks into coke cans so that we could drink backstage.” He then went on to describe an incident involving a 15-year-old’s failed attempt at stage diving resulting in a head-on collision with the front barrier of the stage. Ouch!
“We all stopped to see if he was alright but he stood up with all kinds of cuts and bruises on his head and just raised his hands in the air like he was alright and everyone clapped him off. That was pretty outrageous.”
Please stage dive safely. It’s all about technique. Run fast, bend your knees low for the jump and don’t try to flip. Follow these instructions and you will make it over the barrier pain-free. Practice makes perfect.
Now the heat is on. Time for the staple question. When asked if Donegal could lose his virginity again (assuming he’s already done so) what song would it be to and why. Unfortunately, however, he responded, “I’m going to pass on that question”. What… I’m ashamed in you Donegal. “You’re ashamed in me?” he laughed. Luckily, Mitch Galbraith then chimed in to request the question from the top.
He interrupted mid-sentence to confidently say “DMA’s – In The Air. 100%. It’s a great song. I want to fuck to it. You can print that.”
14 April, The Tivoli, Brisbane
15 April, The Tivoli, Brisbane
18 April, The Enmore, Sydney
21 April, The Enmore Sydney
11 May, Metropolis, Fremantle
19 May, The Forum, Melbourne