Low Altitude Living

Low Altitude Living

“Low-altitude living is what we’ve done our whole lives,” Ocean Alley guitarist Mitch Galbraith tells Apple Music. “Growing up near the beach, low altitude by the seaside. But it also describes how laidback we are about our music-making process.” Despite having that process interrupted by intermittent COVID lockdowns, creating Ocean Alley’s fourth album appears to have been a typically stress-free endeavour. With vocalist/guitarist Baden Donegal writing and demoing songs in his bedroom, as the lockdowns were lifted the six-piece—which formed on Sydney’s Northern Beaches in 2011—took several trips along the east coast of Australia to flesh out the ideas. “That’s one of the joys we have with this whole music thing, we love to get away and devote our time to making our art,” says Galbraith. “It was exactly what we needed.” While the songs are rich in the sextet’s trademark mix of laidback grooves and cruisy, organic instrumentation, for the first time in Ocean Alley’s career they also dabbled in drum loops (“Lapwing”), while “Deepest Darkness” brings their distortion pedals to the fore. Here, Galbraith goes into more detail on each of the tracks on Low Altitude Living. “Home” “It just felt like a classic opening track for us. Happy, upbeat. That was one of the first ones we did, and I think it surprised us all. It was a confidence booster for sure.” “Double Vision” “It’s one of my favourite tracks. It’s got this sultry groove and it seduces you a bit. It’s a feel-good track about a very loose moment and having double vision. Baden wrote it early in 2020, demoed it in his bedroom, and it was rewritten months later with different music that Nic [Blom, bass] wrote. Nic works quite closely with Tom [O’Brien, drums], and you just go with them. Once they’ve got some direction you just jump on board and give it a whirl.” “Touch Back Down” “It’s about getting back to your roots and touching back down to earth and becoming grounded. Realising how lucky you are for the good things in your life, and realising how lucky you are for the bad things in your life as they’re opportunities for you to grow and learn.” “Perfume” “There are themes of love and romantic moments. This is a song that Angus [Goodwin, lead guitar] pretty much entirely wrote. He came up with the chord progression, and it didn’t really change that much. Baden laid his lyrics over the top. That one was pretty straightforward.” “Drinks and Cigars” “It’s about ego and changing for the worse. I guess it’s a bit of a yang to some of the other yins on the record. It’s a bit introspective, a bit darker. It was something Baden wrote pretty much start to finish before he showed us. Baden was listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner and trying to channel Alex’s songwriting, the delivery as well as the lyricism.” “Simple Pleasures” “This was one of the first ones we wrote. Once we figured out the groove was cool enough, it just fell into place. The song was called ‘Yesterday’ after one of the hooks in the song. I was happy with ‘Yesterday’ but the other guys said, ‘“Yesterday”’s too boring, so we called it “Simple Pleasures”.’ I guess it’s about simple pleasures.” “Parking Fines” “Betrayal, heartbreak and love lost—a bit of a darker one. It came about at the beginning of lockdown. Baden was listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys, and he felt like that had a big influence on the way the song sounds. He had some GarageBand recordings before we even heard it, and when he played it to us, it was pretty much easy to follow along and finish off.” “Changes” “‘Changes’ is about getting old and time moving on and us becoming old men. I’ve got sore wrists now for no reason. We’re losing our hair. Baden took the lyrics of something he’d written for another song he never finished and he jumped on our sound guy Callum’s 12-string guitar, which was just hanging around the studio. He started noodling with this old lick, and it sounds quite Led Zeppelin-ish. We were so stoked we’d come up with something like that, and I’m pretty sure we still don’t know how it came about. I’m sure if we had the recipe written down, we would have a few Led Zeppelin-like songs.” “Deepest Darkness” “It’s the heaviest moment on the record. The lyrics are about realising how appreciated you are and realising there are people who care about what you do and support you. It’s one Baden wrote in lockdown.” “West Coast” “We named it after the West Coast synth sound. It’s about lies and break-ups and cheating and getting caught, that kind of stuff. It started out as a bit of a joke to be honest, the kind of West Coast R&B vibe, and I remember Tom jokingly playing around with the drums. We were laughing out loud in the room going, ‘This is crazy! Can you imagine if we wrote a song like this?’ And we just stayed with it!” “Snake Eyes” “It’s about things not going your way, referring to the common assumption that if you roll double ones that’s snake eyes. It’s bad. It was another one Baden wrote in his room, and he says it’s a story of a relationship that went bad and feeling like things never end up going your way. And I think it’s also in that delivery for Baden of that Arctic Monkeys sort of Alex Turner vibe, similar to ‘Parking Fines’ and ‘Drinks and Cigars’. It’s a bit of a slower ballady-type one. Less boppy.” “Lapwing” “It’s named after a lapwing plover, which is a bird. They’re the birds that swoop you and have spikes on their wings, and they have this really strange call. If you listen carefully there are some bird calls from the lapwing plover at the start of the track. The bird it’s named after doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics. Baden’s themes are lust and strong sexual connection and desire. We had a little drum loop we recorded; we’d never done that before. Tom recorded all his parts and then we messed it up in the studio and it plays on top of his natural drumming for the whole song. We wanted to experiment and take our music in a different direction.”

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