A run as a 4ZZZ ‘Album of the Week’ shows just what a happy place experimental pop outfit On Diamond is in at the moment. Their self-titled debut album follows on from Lisa Salvo’s 2014 I Could Have Been a Castle, as a more collaborative project shaped. We chat to Lisa.
Hey Lisa, let’s start off with a little about yourself. You’re the lead singer of On Diamond. How did the band come together? What was the driving force?
It started as a solo project in around 2013, when I put together a band to record my first album. After releasing that album, it developed into a more expressive and wilder vibe. I got some improvising players involved and we worked on the sound for a couple of years until we got to where were are today. I think the songs called for a more elaborate arrangement, and having other players to bounce off and react to is really important for On Diamond’s music.
What inspired your band’s name?
Well… my solo album was called I Could Have Been a Castle, and that was actually taken from one morning when I was walking to work in Fitzroy. There was a huge pile of sand that had the words I could’ve been a castle spray painted onto it. I thought that was really beautiful and sad… and how I felt about my life in terms of my upbringing not being ideal – I could’ve been a castle but I’m just a pile of sand. It took me a long time to get to where I am now, standing on my own two feet. And then the name On Diamond came partly through Online Bandname Generator…strangely! It made sense, because I realised I was starting again on a stronger foundation, and the new brain pathways and life I was creating were built on something solid and true and rare. That’s where On Diamond came from.
Your debut album features a versatile range of songs. Some sound quite serene, others have more of a rock feel. Do you consider On Diamond a certain genre?
I call On Diamond experimental pop because I think they are pop songs, and that’s the style I enjoy writing. But the experimental part is having the freedom to do whatever you like with pop music and make it your own, rather than trying to adhere to a uniform industry approach, or what you think is going to be a hit. And then a huge inspiration I guess is improvised music, outside of pop. There are a lot of amazing improvisers in Melbourne and they just play whatever they like. They get together and play in different groups and they develop their own language – then it’s whatever comes out and whatever they’re feeling at the time. So we try and marry the two.
One song from the album really stood out to me, ‘The Purple Palace’. To me it touches on the notion of home and what home truly means. Can you describe the meaning for you behind it?
It is actually about the literal house where most of the album was written, which I moved out of in November. But before that, Scott, our guitarist, and I were there for three and a half years. I guess it was the first house where I felt I could really stretch out, and it was my first time not living in a share house. There was a lot of exploration I could do creatively, and also, I had been in therapy for a while, so it refers to a literal house plus the way that my inner world and inner house was developing: learning to embrace the positivity coming about through that.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a singer? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
I don’t think I ever really had specific career aspirations. I’ve been into music since I was young, but now that I’m playing music I have to find other ways to support myself and that lifestyle. Well, it’s not a lifestyle, but for many there’s little financial gain. I like kids, so at some point I was considering studies in that area, but I never pursued it. I teach performance a little, and I work in a shop.
I’ve heard you write all the songs… where do you get the inspiration?
On this album, it’s sort of like every song is a different theme in my mental progress over the past few years: revelations that I’ve had or lessons I’ve learnt along the way. I think lyrically that’s where all of the songs come from.
What are you most excited about regarding this album launch?
In Melbourne I’m really excited about Music Yared playing. They’re a beautiful band with two East-African songwriters who are the core of the band, and Soft Rubbish who play kind of psych pop/rock. It’ll be really fun to share the night with them and celebrate what we’ve achieved with this album as a band. We’re also playing a Castlemaine show with Jaala which will be wonderful – she’s playing solo.
Catch On Diamond’s album launch with Music Yared and Soft Rubbish on 30 May at The Gasometer, Collingwood, or with Jaala on 17 May at The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine.
Written by Naseem Radmehr
Photo by Kira Piru