Ocean Alley on mental illness, life on the road, and another Like A Version
We chat with Ocean Alley about the frightening prevalence of mental health in the arts, dream supports, and doing another Like A Version.
Ocean Alley have recently come off the back of a killer Splendour set, their most successful overseas tour, and winning triple j’s Hottest 100 in 2018. Safe to say, they’ve been riding a high.
However, it seems nobody is safe from the gruelling hardship of life on the road.
Ahead of their A Day For The Beaches show and a big part to play in this year’s Aus Music T-Shirt Day, we caught up with Mitch to chat about the prevalence of mental health issues in music, hard times on tour, and the importance of charity events.
HAPPY: Hey Mitch, you guys just came off the back of your most successful overseas tour with 22 sold out shows. Any especially memorable ones?
MITCH: The last show of the tour in Amsterdam at the Paradiso would have to be the highlight of the whole trip. There was about two and a half thousand people, it sold out and Amsterdam is one of our favourite cities to play in and just to see.
HAPPY: It’s a pretty amazing venue too, that one.
MITCH: Yeah, it’s definitely up there in the top handful of venues we’ve ever played.
HAPPY: Word on the street is you guys have been hitting the studio working on a new record. How’s it coming along?
MITCH: Yeah, it’s coming. We just got back from another session at Rockinghorse Studios in Byron Bay. We’ve just been recording demos and getting together a collection of songs that we can take to the studio and record properly to make them sound really lush and tight to hopefully come out next year sometime. Hopefully in the first third of next year.
HAPPY: I’ve heard there are some sadder ones in there. Are you trying anything new recording wise?
MITCH: Not necessarily, but there are a couple of slower ballads in there. We’ve also got a couple of upbeat ones, trying to strike that balance between dance-y and sadder songs, similar to the Chiaroscuro record. This new album will have a similar feel as I don’t think we can bring ourselves to write a dozen sad songs without having a happy song just to keep it interesting for us.
HAPPY: I love sad music, don’t get me wrong.
MITCH: Yeah of course, me too!
HAPPY: You have been doing some incredible things for the community lately. Levi’s Support Act is a great cause for supporting mental health. What inspired you to get involved?
MITCH: Well it’s the top of the day really, not only in Sydney but also in Australia in general. Mental health awareness is not prevalent enough in all of our communities. We are also involved with a really great mental health charity called One Eighty and we’re just more than happy to get on board as much as we can and do our bit to help. We also did a new t-shirt design available now and all the proceeds are going to Support Act, which is aimed at supporting mental health in the music industry.
HAPPY: And you guys designed the shirt, no? It’s one-of-a-kind.
MITCH: Yep, we designed a one-of-a-kind shirt that you can only get through Support Act, so make sure you get your mitts on one of them to support mental health and also get a cool one-off design.
HAPPY: Musicians are five times more likely to suffer from mental illness. Why do you think that is?
MITCH: I think there is a lot of time spent away from the comfort of your friends and family at home. When you’re touring on the road, sure you might not be working all day everyday but you can’t go and do the normal activities that you would in your day-to-day life. You’re either stuck on the road, stuck in a bus, stuck in a hotel room… so it can get a bit monotonous and you can get a bit lonely sometimes.
But the good thing Ocean Alley has going for them when we tour is that we’re a bunch of mates that stick together. It’s definitely a godsend when you’re on the road to have someone to talk to, some to laugh with, and someone to have around you when you might feel a bit stranded on the other side of the world in a place you might not feel that familiar with. It’s a really important aspect of our history.
HAPPY: I don’t think there are enough charity events around, so I think it’s great to see someone with success giving it back to the community and those that need it most.
MITCH: Of course, there hasn’t really been that much incentive to do it other than support charities so it’s amazing to have pulled it off… well we don’t know if we’ve pulled it off yet, but we’ll see.
HAPPY: Has anyone in the band ever come into running with mental illness or bad times?
MITCH: For sure. Everyone has a mental health. We should all be aware of our own mental health but also everybody else’s mental health. There are days when we feel mentally well and days when we feel mentally unwell. As close friends we can often pick up on the signs. On the bad days it’s definitely best to be open about it and understanding. It usually happens at the end of the tour when we’re all tired and a bit homesick but it’s just about talking it through together and trying to always be on the same page. There’s definitely techniques you can use to help yourself feel better on a mentally unwell day.
HAPPY: You’ve played some pretty amazing shows over the years. Who would be your dream support slot and where would it be?
MITCH: Dude are you kidding me! That’s so hard. Maybe we could support some big old rock band at Coachella. We love California so it would be cool to go play one of their biggest festivals. As for who we would play with, then shit! I went and saw Fleetwood Mac at Hunter Valley and that was a few years ago but definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, it would be amazing to jump up on stage with them. Nick the bass player and Obie (drummer) would probably want to get up on stage with Sabbath or something. We would all like to support different people I’d say.
HAPPY: If you guys were to go another Like A Version what would it be?
MITCH: Oh yeah, Peter Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do. We all love that track but it’s super important not to play out of your limits cause you can’t stuff it up on the day.
HAPPY: Looking forward to it! Before I go, what’s coming up next for Ocean Alley?
MITCH: We’re back home in wonderful Australia for the next few months. We have festivals in Land of Plenty, Spilt Milk, Laneway Festival as well as A Day For The Beaches. Then we will be heading to New Zealand to do some festivals in January, February. Then back in Aus and hopefully releasing some new music after that.
HAPPY: Sounds great! Cheers for the chat, Mitch.
MITCH: Cheers Luke, have a good one!
Interview by Luke Saunders
Photos by Charlie Hardy