Music / Features
Private Eyes -
A chat with Blue Divers
Words by James Lynch
Thursday 5th November, 2020
The first LP released as part of Bedroom Suck Records’ Private Eyes series, Blue Divers' self-titled album is a collection of ambient and experimental guitar music, created in isolation by an ensemble of Thirroul-based musicians with multi-instrumentalist Alec Marshall at the helm. We got in touch with Alec to dive into the hypnotic dreamworld the group have created on their debut album.
Named after a coastal bushcare group, who in turn named themselves after the kingfishers that inhabited their local waterways, Blue Divers’ music evokes a similar atmosphere - awash with hazy tangles of delicate guitar and chiming keys that swirl into a glistening kaleidoscope of shimmering sound, the album flows with the same deliberate yet effortless lull of an ebbing creek. It’s fitting that it was created for Private Eyes - a series intended to document the music made from within isolation this year - as it’s as comfortingly pensive as it is transportive.

We spoke with Alec about Blue Divers’ origins, his music community and the new album.
TJ: Hey Alec! Firstly, would you be able to introduce us to the project a little? It sounds like Blue Divers have existed in some different forms over the past years, what does the project currently mean to you?

BD: Hello, we're based in the northern suburbs of Wollongong and have been playing sporadically since 2017. The band is myself and whatever friends I can get together. It's been fun to be loose with lineups and improvise. There's been solo shows and up to ten piece shows. People often get invited to join on the night. But before making the album Ashley Bundang and I had been playing together more regularly. We were starting to develop more of a framework, playing longform jams to yoga sessions and then turning those into a regular set. Jordan Ireland has played a lot of the shows too. I think there's a nice balance happening with the three of us at the moment, and it's mainly the three of us on the album (Carla Oliver also plays on a track.) So maybe that's what the project means to me going forward, at least right now as I write this - trying to refine the music and make the most of the way this smaller group plays together. 

The new album feels very specific to the current state of things - both seemingly inspired by what’s going on and a suitable chance to escape from it. Could you tell us a bit about the album’s creation? Do you think it could’ve been made in different circumstances?

I think things just lined up well. I was out of work temporarily, but I'd also just moved into a new house with friends and started receiving income support. It was a welcome break from regular life, which is a good headspace to make an album in. It makes sense that I'd get it together during this time and make an album, which I've never done. I've played on other people's records and made my own EPs and singles, but I haven't done that in a while either. I've gone back to making music like I did at 18 or 19, which came out of practicality with the social distancing restrictions. If I was going to deliver the album on time I had to get the basic tracks together on my own without anyone else's input. I did a few tracks a day and refined it. I got the others involved once I'd got things together enough, and their input really lifted it. It happened quickly, and it was pretty stress-free and fun. I don't think it was an escape from things while making it. Maybe it was more of a response - I was responding to everything that was going on by participating in a music community that I admire. I got involved by making something that I felt was a positive contribution. 

I read that Blue Divers was originally thought of as a solo project, but it seems like collaboration is now really important to the project. How do you approach writing music for Blue Divers?

I lived in Melbourne for a few years, and I had a band called Hot Palms that operated in a similar way to this band. That ended when I moved back up here. But friends would occasionally ask me to play a show they were putting on so we started Blue Divers as a four piece improv band - Jack Saltmiras, Steph Day, Jord and I - and I wasn't the bandleader. We played a handful of shows opening for bands. Then I was back visiting Melbourne at some point and did a ‘Blue Divers' duo show with Becky Sui Zhen. We played in a beer garden in Fitzroy to a loud group of people not really listening. Becky improvised some words and sang about how she wished she could come up and visit on the coast because the city life was making her tired. After that Blue Divers became more of a thing that I was driving. I felt I could take over because I named the band after the bush and creek around my family's house. But yea, it's all about collaboration - with the right people at the right time it's the best fun. We make it up as we go and edit it down, then try and remember it at least vaguely for the next show.

Could you tell us a bit about the music community in Thirroul? You (as well as a few of the others are part of Blue Divers) have lived in capital cities in the past, how does it compare? Do you think being away from a busier music scene has informed the music you're making?

The music community is good! It's pretty small, I like to think we're all friends. I'm probably only exposed to a small part of it really. There's lots of musicians that have moved here for a lifestyle change. Ashley says - It's interesting because conventionally, young musicians and artists feel the need to move from small towns to the big smoke, but it seems quite the opposite is happening here. People who have grown up in the area have decided to stick around. This has made a significant and important impact on the arts within the community. People like Jeb Taylor have been plugging away for years making things happen, and Aaron Curnow from Spunk is doing cool stuff. Some people have moved here and started things up too - Imogen Ramsay started a record shop that hosts instores, Amy Fairall started Society City, a really open and inclusive community space where you can put on live music. There's some good venues, a couple little bars, bowling clubs and community halls. But I think generator gigs in the bush are the future, we've been talking about it for years, it'll happen this summer. Things are pretty relaxed compared to the city I reckon. 

It seems like you've always been part of a pretty tight-knit music community - is that what led to working with Bedroom Suck? How did your involvement in Private Eyes come about?

Yea, I can't remember how I met Joe, but it was in Melbourne. He's always on the road, so when I moved back up here he was visiting kinda regularly touring with someone or other. He brought Treehouse to Thirroul, that was heaps fun. And Good Morning, Rabbit Island and others. I'd always offer to help out with those shows any way I could. And I don't know how much Joe has heard me play music in the past, but he would have seen me play with Sui Zhen a bit back in Melbourne. Anyway, it was super nice to be asked to contribute something to the series. Thanks Joey & BSR.

Speaking of shows, you launched the album this past weekend with a local show. Live gigs are still feeling pretty foreign down in Melbourne - want to tell us a bit about how it went, and what it's like playing live at the moment?

The little shed gig was cool but I think everyone else had more fun than me. It was kinda like having a birthday party but amplified because you gotta get up and play music to the guests. I'd totally do it again though, I'll just get other people to play. Ambient house shows rule. My six year old housemate passed around little fruit platters while Low Flung played. 

Are there any further plans on the horizon for Blue Divers, or just a game wait and see for now?

Yea we'll play more over summer. There's a few venue options around the coast that are pretty suitable for what we're doing - small things. A friend just got a generator, I think, so that's going to be the next big thing I reckon! You can have larger gatherings in the great outdoors, so we'll go full DIY bush doofs. 

Blue Divers is out now through Bedroom Suck Records, as part of their ongoing Private Eyes series - head to to purchase the album on limited vinyl.
Header photo by Annabel Blackman
Polaroids by Anna Wales and Christa Thorborn