Interview: Alpine portray who they are
Melbourne-based six-piece Alpine are set to return with the latest longplayer, Yuck, this June and a nationwide tour to accompany it. Courtney Dabb talks to Phoebe from the band to find out more:
Hi Phoebe! Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said. I have to begin by saying that A Is For Alpine was simply a masterpiece. It was one of those albums that just came out of nowhere with a style all onto its own. Alpine’s signature sound is one that is very hard to categorise, would you agree?
Yeah I guess so, I find it definitely hard categorising our music but that’s because we write it but I feel it might be easier from an outside perspective. We just write music we enjoy, whatever comes out, comes out.
It’s interesting mapping the trajectory of bands. I last saw you perform in Sydney at the Beach Road Hotel back in mid-2013 and you were supported by Gang of Youths who have made modest inroads to a successful career, but not to the extent of Alpine. How have you made your success and kept the Alpine juggernaut going?
Oh man I have no idea. Luck I suppose. I think one is that we enjoy the music we write and we are not trying to be anything other than ourselves. I suppose that counts for something. People seem to really vibe off that kind of joy and sincerity in our music but I don’t know how you become successful or what the tricks are to that. We are all good friends and I think that counts for something, definitely longevity, we are like brothers and sisters. The guys in the band are really great musicians and we are just really in to it, we love it.
In following you on Facebook, it is obvious by your posts that you are constantly touring and travelling. Has it become difficult to play the same material, or have the different destinations and crowds kept it as fresh as day one?
Definitely, it is always different. So much depends on your mood that day when you’re touring. When we were touring the States it was very exhausting, long days, and 14 hours in the car maybe three hours sleep and then you’re playing a show, chatting to people. You are in this crazy bizarre whirlwind as each night you might be vibing a different song more than the other, so it is always different, the crowds are always different, the venues. So many elements that change the performance, it is good, it keeps you passionate.
There was an underlying and simmering sexuality to a lot of your tracks on A is For Alpine, this seems to have continued with your new album Yuck and the single Foolish.
Oh yes we like to keep it sexual (laughs). I suppose there is, I think with Foolish, it’s a playful song. It takes the mickey a bit. It is fun to emphasise. We are singing a lot of the time about relationships, or relationships that have failed or wanting to be in one, so there is a sexuality to that dynamic. That kind of seduction where you are both trying to seduce your audience and the person you are singing about.
In thinking about how your final cuts take shape, Too Safe, which appeared on your Zurich EP is somewhat more refined on the A Is For Alpine LP, did some of the new tracks on Yuck start out life completely different to what was finally laid down on the album?
Yeah definitely, they all went through transformative processes. The demos always sound different but we had a much clearer idea of what we wanted the songs to sound like for this album. They were a little bit more steady in that way but we have demos of songs from Yuck that are on our computers that sound completely different or have different vibes but they evolve as time goes by. Being a band that works by collaboration, it naturally changes.
What does your new material say about the stage you are at in your life at the moment?
In thinking about it, it’s being more self-assured I guess. Perhaps a little bit less fear, less anxiety, a little bit more open and realising with stuff in life you have to make the most of it and take the opportunities. Being able to look after yourself maybe a bit of a heavy, frightening realisation at times but also quite empowering.
A lot of outfits tend to have one or two primary songwriters but for Alpine you all collaborate. Does this imply that you all have a very similar world view or is it a case that the sum of its parts are greater than the whole?
The funny thing is that we are all quite different, I don’t think we would or do have a similar world view. Somehow we definitely all have a lot of love between us and we have a strong sense of music we love, we all enjoy each other’s taste in music. Luckily we write music that works well between six different people and all their influences and it manages to find some common ground. I don’t know what it is, some kind of magnetism.
Do you find touring to be inspirational whereby it helps you write and create more material or are you so focused on the task at hand that writing and creating new material takes a back seat?
It’s definitely inspirational. An experience like no other. We are often very busy so it is hard to find time but it has been a big inspiration. Getting to travel, meet different people and see different places is always a bit enlightening.
Your shows are always incredibly vibrant and bristling with energy, thinking back to the days when you were punters yourselves attending gigs, were there artists that inspired you to make your live shows what they are today?
Absolutely. Not only live in person but watching old footage of Led Zeppelin and Todd Rundgren. I saw Bruce Sprinsteen at Hanging Rock and it was just phenomenal, it was about three hours long. I mean l like Bruce, but I wasn’t a huge fan before, but afterwards I became one. For three hours you were never bored and he is such a good showman. I saw Grace Jones as well and such inspiring acts keeping you wanting more, keeping you watching and make you come out of that concert just feeling enlivened.
After being on the road for so long, you must have had some memorable gigs and some strange encounters, can you share any of the highlights with us?
In America we were accidentally booked on a hardcore metal line up in Sacramento. It was definitely a highlight but so, so bizarre because apparently there is another metal band called Alpine.
Also memorable shows like when we were playing on this big pier overlooking New York and playing small bars in Boston as well as festivals like Splendour In The Grass and Groovin The Moo. We love playing Splendour.
Something I like to ask everyone is, what does music give you that nothing else does?
Ah, I’ve never heard that one before. What does it give me?… It just is such a pleasure. I love writing music so much and performing it is another world. I guess as they all say, it is just a place for expression and release. It makes you feel happy, it’s life in its purest.
In forming and sustaining a band there has to be a strong vision for what you want to achieve and how you set about doing it, is there something of a mission statement for Alpine?
Yeah, well you know what, I think with this new album we really didn’t know who we were and hadn’t thought about all that stuff before, but now we are very much more aware of the work we have to put in to it and we want to put on a good show. Put a lot of work into the visual side of Alpine as much as the listening side of Alpine. I think you can probably say that Yuck is our mission statement and hopefully… our live shows that are coming up… we are doing lots of rehearsals and wanting to put on a good show for everyone. When playing a show I am kind of a dag, I am just human and I am going on stage, I am being myself but I am also being this kind of leader with Lou (James), dressing up and posturing, being cool but we’re not really cool (laughs). Just letting everybody feel like they can do that and being a part of it as much as we are.
There are strong artistic elements to your film clips and art work, is this something you directly have a hand in or is it a case of conveying your ideas to film directors and they materialise the concepts in your mind?
In the past it has very much been the director’s fruition and, as I said before, that was when we weren’t really sure of ourselves, we were just learning and going with the flow. But now we really want to portray who we are and with our latest video Foolish we worked with an incredible director Tristan Jalleh who basically sat down with us over the course of a few months and we talked about what we wanted from the video and how we wanted to portray the song and we came up with the idea with him. It just felt awesome, it was really nice to work with someone and release something that is really you.
The tracks Shot Fox and Damn Baby are exceptional highlights on the new album and sound like they would both be really fun to play live. Will this tour focus solely on the new material?
We’ll play some oldies and all the new stuff. It will be a vocally acrobatic set, me and Lou have to get into strong vocal shape for the tour.
New album Yuck is out 12 June (AU/UK) and 16 June (USA) and is available for pre-order now from
Alpine are touring Australia later this month. Dates can be found in the above picture or by visiting their website.
Interview by Courtney Dabb.