Alpine_Lou James

Pushing the Pop Envelope With Alpine

Off the back of their sophomore release, Yuck (which we recently reviewed), Alpine are heading out on the road to introduce fans to a new suite of tracks. The six piece had a very warm reception to their debut A is for Alpine both at home and abroad, and if the buzz is anything to go by, surpass all second album expectations with their follow up. With little time to catch up on the eve of the tour, we posed some questions to the band in a Q& A to get a little bit of insight into the record and how it came together.

“We’ve really grown together as a band in terms of having a clearer sense of identity and of our musical influences. This allowed us to be fearless and take this album to the next level in terms of its sound,” writes Lou James, as she flies out for the Adelaide show, “…we really do think about pop music in quite an unusual way. There’s an almost strategy in how we write each song which makes them have their own distinct uniform.”

Lou makes up half of the honeyed and euphoric vocals you hear on the album, alongside band mate Phoebe Barker. Just from listening you can tell that there is a rich and contextual set of influences and ideas at play, and she lets us in on a few.

The music definitely sounds more refined. Like on Come On, it feels so vast, and there’s all this wonderful empty space. Were there times where you consciously pulled back or reigned it in?

Musically there wasn’t any space on our first record. It was definitely something we wanted to play with this time. In Come On, we really gave Phoebe’s voice room to breathe.

Can you tell us about your discovery of Tropicalia artists and the influence they had on the latest album?

We began listening to a lot of this on the road whilst touring in the states. 1960s/1970s South American pop artists like Caeteno Veloso and Milton Nascrimento were two of the artists we all loved listening to. Something flirtatious about their music was what we were attracted to. However, we didn’t begin jamming on it until we were back home staying in Byron Bay in a beach shack right on the ocean. Perhaps it was the sunny, summer vibes that helped us to make Foolish the tropicalia inspired track that it is on the album.

There’s a really sultry R&B sound throughout the album. Had you decided to go down that road before starting to write for the album, or was it more of an organic influence from what you were listening to at the time?

The process of writing what we wanted made the decisions for us. All of us listen to that sort of music together before shows to get us pumped up, so it was probably inevitable!

Guitarist Christian O’Brien also co-produced the album this time around. What influence did this had on the overall product?

This time having Dann and Christian work together as producers was great. They bounced ideas back and forth and it seemed neither of them wanted to be the one who signed off on a track. They both wanted to just keep pushing and pushing. Often with us the last thing to be recorded is the strongest. So it’s good to be pushed hard in the studio.

Christian was quoted saying, “I wanted to see if certain things would work in a pop song,” and as we can hear, those limits were really pushed… was the intended sound achieved, and do you have a particular favourite moment in that sense?

For the most part I think it was. A song like Come On where music was so sparce and lush and there is two grooves happening at once; one swung, one straight. We didn’t hold back on that track at all. And it’s still a pop song in the end.

Christian also said most of the songs came from a “textural or harmonic idea” that he was curious about. So with that in mind, is the music more important than the lyrical content or the theme of a song? Or is it more about how the two come together?

It’s always as important. But things take their turn. Jellyfish started as a conceptual idea and the music was made with so much care, then we have myself and Phoebe both writing to the music, responding to it. Then that response becomes as important as the music.

Your tour kicks off really soon – we especially can’t wait to see you at Splendour. You must be so excited to play some of your new stuff live there – is there one song you can’t wait to share on stage? Have you got any tricks up your sleeve?

Splendour was our first ever festival we played at. I think this will be our third Splendour and we really can’t wait! Thankfully we’ll be very warmed up after this tour. I’m actually sitting on the plane about to fly to Adelaide for our first show. I can’t reveal any secrets just yet, you’ll just have to see us! A visual treat I promise! Jellyfish is my favorite song on the album and can’t wait to perform it!

With six of you, how do you manage being in such close confines on tour for extended periods?

You become like siblings. You just learn to deal with everyone’s weird habits and respect each other’s space. It’s great fun but sometimes feels like boot camp and it can be tough so you gotta love and look after each other so you can also relish in the spontaneous adventure times!

What do you do to unwind when you come off tour?

I love going for big walks around my neighbourhood in north Fitzroy. It’s my perfect type of meditation in order to clear my head. Or go to my favorite cosy bar and enjoy a red wine and pizza with a friend.

As a group, do you create music purely that you want to create, do you think more about what your audience might want, or is it a mix of both? If so, how do you find that balance?

Yes 100% we create music we want to create. It’s never about the audience but obviously if you write music you love and pour your heart and soul into it, then you hope people will love it too.

You’ve been a band since 2009. If you could go back and give your younger self-advice, what would it be?

Get excited! You’ll still be doing this in 2015

That piece of advice may hold the key to what makes Yuck so good. On Alpine’s last release the band were starting out, rife with uncertainty, unsure of what the future might hold. This time around, their is a confidence that comes from being established and self-assured. They aren’t just ‘doing it’ in 2015, they are owning it, and we can’t wait to see what the rest of the tour offers.

You can check out all the details and get tickets here.