Featuring the dual vocals of front women Phoebe Baker and Lou James with Christian O’Brien on guitar, Ryan Lamb on bass, Tim Royall on keys and Phil Tucker on drums, the Australian 6-piece known as Alpine make bold, twinkling, sexy and sophisticated pop music fusing synths with honeyed harmonies, hypnotic rhythms and bright beats. Alpine first appeared on the scene in 2009 with a set of demos that quickly caught the attention of music lovers across Australia.
After signing with Sydney’s Ivy League Records, 2010 saw the release of their debut EP Zurich as well as tours alongside the likes of Sia, Cloud Control, The Naked and Famous, Jinja Safari and Tim and Jean. In 2011 the band toured with Sparkadia, The Jezabels and graced festivals across the country including Splendour In The Grass, Southbound and Falls Festival. 2012 proved yet another eventful year for Alpine, including performing 10 shows in 3 days at SXSW in Austin, Texas. After performing at SXSW as relative unknowns, Alpine have since scored a record deal with Votiv (USA), which will saw their debut album A is For Alpine released in May of this year.
Back in Australia, the band supported Matt Corby on his ‘The Winter’ national tour, sold out their own national album tour and were main support for Lisa Mitchell‘s Bless this Mess album tour. Their “Villages” clip also passed the 1 million YouTube views milestone, sparking further international interest. Originally released in Australia in August 2012 Alpine released A is For Alpine, the boldly artistic debut album features diverse themes, ideas and sounds, yet never quite taken too seriously. A week before its original release the album was Triple J‘s feature album, with 9 tracks previewed nationally over the week to much acclaim.
Recorded out of Melbourne in the gentle bush surrounds of rural Gisborne, with producer Dann Hume (Lisa Mitchell and Sures), it has already spawned three glorious singles including the tremendously successful “Hands” and iridescent single “Gasoline” and new single “Seeing Red”. Both were mixed by UK’s Jeremy Wheatley (U2, Empire of the Sun, Goldfrapp).
QTA caught up with Phoebe and Lou during a stop in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the band’s current stint through the US.
QTA: I understand you have been friends since high school
Lou James: Yeah since we were like 17 but we are all best friends.
Phoebe Baker: We are like old ladies; we know everything about each other, all our secrets, all our annoying talk, like an old married couple but friends
QTA: Christian was one of your early collaborators as well as one of your teachers when you started out in high school, was it ever awkward having someone who was your teacher working with you in band?
LJ: Yeah absolutely. I mean when straight out of school and sort of met him and met him again, he was like do you want to write music with me. I was so nervous and shy back then and he was like this really old man. He wasn’t actually that old but he seemed old. He was definitely old to us at first.
QTA: You’re in a really unique position now where you’ve only been together as an actual band for a relatively short amount of time, releasing your debut album internationally and really getting a lot of great coverage. You’ve also preformed a fair bit here in the United states by now. Did you ever imagine when you were putting this all together back in the day that you would be where you are now?
PB: Definitely not. When we first started out it was just like a hobby. It is a really positive direction for us and we are incredibly thankful to everyone who helped get us this far. We couldn’t have done it without that support.
QTA: When you were recording the album was there a particular direction you wanted to go or did the album evolve more organically?
PB: I remember not having a final sound or anything here in mind. The album itself was a combination of old songs we wrote probably you know like ’07. I think there was a lot of improvising done and a lot of editing. We had all the material we loved and we like felt like it was ready to produce the whole package for the album. We didn’t have any idea how it would be all tied in together.
QTA: Each city has its own kind of different vibe in the music scene, what is the music scene like in Melbourne where you guys are from and how did that particular vibe effect the development of your specific sound?
LJ: Melbourne is a very, very arty city. It’s so much about museums and art galleries, so many music venues. You can walk down the street any night of the week and walk into a venue and there will be someone maybe playing all sorts of styles of music. Anything goes when it comes to good music. I think you know as for all us coming together, we’re quite an eclectic bunch of weirdos in Alpine and we all have very different backgrounds and very different influences. That’s what’s really good about Melbourne. If you live in our city it is really encouraged to be like that and to have that open-mindedness. So, I think when it came to the song writing there was no limits where we had to abide by certain rules or follow certain trends. We all came together through Pop music, but then you add in all the influences that we had whether it was jazz or hip hop.
QTA: You do have a really eclectic group of sounds on the album. How do you translate that kind of morphing sound on the album to your live show?
PB: The live show is obviously a whole different package and comes in performance, you know. We like to put on a full on show. We really work hard to let everything out. I’ve had a lot of people say that it is a lot like the album when they come hear us. But I think it kind of has just that vibe that is what you want from a live performance. Our shows are quite aesthetically interesting and also interesting to watch I hope. We appreciate the difference between the two, there’s something nice to be had with an album and there’s something awesome to be had with a live show.
QTA: Have you noticed much difference in your audiences from Australia versus the audiences in the United States?
LJ: Yeah, we’ve had that questions quite a few times. I hadn’t really thought about it until we got asked when we came to the States. I think in Australia they are always going to be more enthusiastic, but I’ve noticed that they are so much more open. I find that Australians are very happy to see us and love coming to have a blast. They are always jumping around and singing all the lyrics. But here in the U.S. they haven’t seen us from the very beginning as we’ve been learning and trying and creating a life of promise. So I think coming to the U.S. we are quite a tight, polished act now and I think that the crowds over here, people have said they’ve driven like hours to come to see where we are playing or have known us since the very beginning and finally got to come see us play. Phoebe & I, we hang out and meet people after the show and have never had nothing but really positive words. It’s amazing. People are standing still, kind of watching and I think they are trying to understand what it is that we are throwing at them, cause it is quite unusual. Then, by like the third song, everyone is just all in to the performance and dancing around with us. So that’s been really cool. The people that have never seen the show or heard of us, that has been the biggest highlight for every city we’ve been playing.