INTERVIEW: Alpine Talk Bowie, Costumes and Mountain Sounds Festival

2015 was a huge year for Melbourne indie-pop sextet Alpine, with the band releasing their second album Yuck to critical acclaim, playing sold out dates around the country and touring America.

Fresh off the back of appearing at Falls Festival, the band took some time to sit down with us and discuss the influence of Bowie, how the band has developed as songwriters and who they will be seeing at Mountain Sounds Festival.

What have you been up to this week?

I’ve been getting a costume jumpsuit made, a new one because I get sick of wearing the same ones. It’ll be ready for festivals like Mountain Sounds which is pretty exciting. It’s really fun because I get to go to fabric shops and get the fabric first. Phoebe is really good at helping me with design ideas, and with Bowie passing, his influence was part of the Ziggy Stardust phase, wearing costumes and getting to be your alter ego onstage. So it’s nice just to mix it up and try different styles because you get to embody the outfit when you’re performing. You feel a bit superhuman. I couldn’t just wear jeans and a t-shirt. For Phoebe and I, the outfits are so part of Alpine and the performance.

With Bowie passing, how did it effect you guys from a musicians point of view?

I was camping and then a friend told me, and I thought it had to be a hoax. I couldn’t believe that he had died, and I think that is what hit a lot of people. I know a lot of musicians and other big iconic individuals pass away and it’s really sad, but I think it kind of struck everyone because Bowie didn’t seem human – he seemed super human. He’s just supposed to live forever, and because he did have such an impact of culture and society, it feels strange that he’s not around anymore. In saying that, the beautiful thing about creating art and being an artist is that if you pass, your art will be there forever. So he hasn’t really gone anywhere. He will continue to influence and inspire. For Alpine, we have always been inspired by the idea of glam, and musicians who create things because they want to, not because they feel they have to fit into a certain style. You think of bands like Bjork or Arcade Fire, and I don’t think they have done heaps on mainstream radio in Australia, but they are still highly successful because their art is incredible, and it’s respected and has connected with a lot of people. I don’t think Bowie wrote to be successful. He was an observer of society and used rock and roll to express his art, and he kept trying to challenge that.

When Alpine finishes up, how would you like Alpine to be remembered?

I find our songs as something that might not hit you straight away, but what we try to do is create our albums where the songs grow on you. I don’t know to be honest! I just hope that people can keep listening to the music and love it forever!

Do you ever listen back to your own tunes much? What do you think listening back to your old stuff?

It’s nostalgic remembering everything that was going on at the time. It’s like re-reading a diary entry, you think “Oh my God I was thinking this? I’ve changed so much since then!” When I listen to A Is For Alpine and then Yuck I think that it’s cool, because you watch yourself grow up and remember what you have gone through at the time, as well as what you have learnt since then. I don’t think I’ve ever cringed. The EP makes me giggle because that was so long ago and we had no idea what we were doing. We hadn’t grasped how we were going about as performers, and we were a bit lost. Then we got signed and just sort of fumbled around. Then when I look at Yuck I think of how we have come so far and we are so much more self-assured. We’re so close as a band, it’s really awesome seeing how close our bond has become as friends and as musicians. I’m really excited for the next record because we have an even stronger bond and have been through the process twice now with recording, so we have sat down and we are all on the same page how we wanna approach the process. It’s also amazing that we get to do it again. That’s really wonderful.

How is that process coming along with album number three?

We’ve started writing, and we just wanna really have more of an organic style, and we don’t wanna feel rushed. Tim the keyboardist has started getting involved with more of the writing, and he has suddenly just come really into his own as a songwriter. He was one of the forces behind Damn Baby, and also one of the ideas for Foolish, and they are two of our biggest songs. It’s interesting to see where we are going, but we all really respect each other. There are no massive egos in Alpine. We are really open to trying things, and everyone is very diplomatic and great, which is how the process should be. Then you obviously get your label people coming in, but if you can have your base sorted where you are all cool and happy, then that’s great. There is no point creating art if you’re not enjoying it. Being friends gives you the confidence to try ideas. I used to be very insecure with songwriting. I didn’t think I was good enough, and it was really terrifying because Phoebe and Christian had studied music and had a strong understanding, whereas I kind of came from nowhere and was writing melodies and ideas, but always second questioned what I was doing. There are times where I still doubt, but I know these guys are like family and so supportive, so it takes away that pressure, and they always want to hear my ideas. The best piece of advice I could give any musician is that when something feels uncomfortable at first, it usually ends up being the coolest thing in a song. It might not be, but that’s something that we have definitely figured out with our song writing.

What parts of Yuck did you have those thoughts over?

The song Standing Not Sleeping has kind of a snare drum part that has a marching sound at the beginning, and I found it really annoying at first, and it just bugged me. Now though, it’s my favourite song to perform, and I love getting into the drum part. It took me a really long time and a bit weird, but everyone thought it was great. I don’t know why. Phoebe would probably say that when she first wrote Foolish, she went “I’m gonna try to write a hilarious pop song and really take the piss.” She showed me, and I was like, “That’s awesome!” We really didn’t change much, just the instruments around it. But what Phoebe wrote was so cool, and people loved it. It’s fun and cheeky and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s a concept that people could relate to. Having the work ‘Yuck’ in a song was also really great, and that ended up being the title of the album, because we thought that it was just the best word.

Who are some bands your keen to see at Mountain Sounds?

The Jezabels for sure. We supported them a few years ago, and they really taught us about how to work hard as a band when you’re touring and not just to get drunk and party all the time. They really taught us to treat it as work, and we have really taken that with us. Besides that, I haven’t seen Delta Riggs yet, and Art vs Science because I have never seen them before and I love them. What appeals to me is that they are just super daggy and the guys are all super nice. Holy Holy, I’ve wanted to see for a while as well. It’s really hard though when you are at a festival as an artist and you want to see all these bands, depending on when your set time is and load in and press, you sometimes hardly get to see anyone.

Alpine Tour Dates

Thursday, 28th January: Australian Open, Olympic Park, Melbourne

Friday, 19th February: Estonia House, Melbourne.

Saturday, 20th February: Mountain Sounds Festival, Central Coast, NSW.

Monday, 14th March: WOMAdelaide, Botanic Park.