It’s hard not to get up and shake it while listening to the breezy female vocals of Phoebe Baker and Lou James of the Australian ensemble Alpine. Phoebe and Lou first bonded in their middle school years over a love for ‘60s music, and soon after, the six-piece indie band Alpine was formed. Since then, the sextet has played gigs with Kimbra, Sia, Matt Corby, and Grouplove, to name a few.
The dream-pop ensemble is now back with Yuck–a follow-up to their 2012 debut, A is for Alpine. This album is an exploration of all of the things in life that make you say “yuck”–awkward dates, vanity, egos, distasteful romance, lost lust, and foolish attraction. Their desire to push the pop genre to new and weird places is what truly motivated them to produce the album. From softer ballads to rock-out moments and dance-inducing tracks, there’s definitely a little bit of everything in Yuck. Set for a June 16t release, Alpine has shared an exclusive bonus track with NYLON called “Bold Digger” (listen above).
We chatted with Lou and Phoebe about the band’s inspiration behind “Bold Digger,” what it’s like to work in an Australian pub, crazy touring stories, and hilarious on-stage mishaps.
For people who aren’t familiar with Alpine, tell us your backstory. How did you meet and start making music together?
Lou: Phoebe and I met at boarding school when we were thirteen years old. It was an unusual boarding school situated halfway up a mountain. Phoebe first started a band with a group of friends called Random Order and wrote songs about wanting to be hippies. When Phoebe and I finished school, we went to live in the UK for 6 months and worked at Olympic Records studio cleaning dishes for musicians like Sinead O’Connor, The Kooks, and Kele from Block Party. When we came home, Christian asked Phoebe if she was interested in writing some music. At that stage it was just the three of us. I met Tim at University and we’d exchange CDs once a week. One night, Phoebe and I went out to our favorite bar in Melbourne and met Ryan who was backpacking. Phil grew up with Christian, and he was drumming in quite a few local bands at the time.
What can we expect from Yuck?
Lou: This album feels more self-assured. After touring and listening to so much music together on the road, there’s a stronger sense of our own identity. Yuck was influenced by 1960s -70s South American pop music, Hayao Miyazaki films and ‘90s R&B. It’s inspired by where we’re at in our late 20s. A is for Alpine looked at similar themes, but we were younger and didn’t really know how to communicate those feelings. You assume the obstacles in life will figure themselves out, but when we sat down to write, we still felt confused. Life is weird, wonderful, strange, and unpredictable. Sometimes life is YUCK! Instead of getting overwhelmed, we finally saw the humor.
People often talk about the energy of your live shows. What’s most important when playing live?
Phoebe: I guess we aim to put on a ‘show’ rather then just stand there gazing at our shoes. There’s not anything wrong with that in the slightest–it’s just that we want to play, to feel our music and perform and prance and let the energy, the ego, and the vulnerability all pour out. We want to feel that we’re on the same level as the audience, or make the audience feel they’re hanging out with us. We’re just dorks that are playing cool for fun and for love.
What is the music scene like in Melbourne?
Phoebe: Bloody excellent! So excellent that it’s easy to take it for granted. The scene is also a very supportive and friendly one. When we were starting out, it felt welcoming. Sharing your music is a very exposing position to be in.
Have you had any crazy instances where something has gone massively wrong on stage?
Phoebe: Have we ever! Wow. Yes. Let’s summarize: Falling into the drum kit mid stage twirl. Splitting my jumpsuit pants in vigorous dance three times now! One time was at the end of our Empire of the Sun support tour at the Shrine Auditorium in LA. End of tour means end of good underwear. At SXSW, our kick drum pedal failed mid-gig. Christian ran across the street to a clothing store where he saw a drum kit in the window, while me and Lou performed standup comedy for prospective label peeps.
What musicians do you admire most or draw inspiration from?
Lou: Think: St.Vincent, David Byrne, Kate Bush, Bryan Ferry, Devendra Banhart, and Radiohead. I love musicians who are completely in control of what they’re doing and comfortable enough to reveal their vulnerability to the world. That’s what makes music so raw and magical.
Do you have a pre-show, backstage routine?
Lou: It’s always important to make sure the green room has a good vibe. We sometimes try and put on a lamp to make it cozy and sultry. Pheebs and I start getting ready, which means we crank some of our favorite tracks to get pumped up. I like to have a red wine and coke, or a whiskey for some Dutch courage. No matter what though, we always make sure that before we go on stage, we do hands in and chant something. It reminds everyone that we’re all in it together.
Tell us a fact about the band that most people don’t know about.
Phoebe: We love each other. Hush now–it’s a secret. Seriously, we’re like siblings. We have our moments, but I feel very lucky to have such diverse and great people to share Alpine with.
Can you tell us the backstory of the song we’re premiering, “Bold Digger?”
Phoebe: Bold digger is about admiring the bravery in people and in yourself. It’s about taking life with a pinch of salt (yum), with a sense of lightness and an appreciation of now. It’s about those times when people are true to themselves and let go of every little perception that sways their honest feelings.
Lou: We’re not digging for money, but we’re digging for the super human that exists inside all of us. Underneath all those layers of insecurities, worries and doubt, there’s a deep yearning to feel, to have a laugh at yourself, and to exist in the moment. It reminds me of the feeling when you first fall in love–that perfect moment when you can finally let your guard down.
What inspired you to write the track?
Funny story! Pheebs and I had been watching a lot of the ‘80s TV series Moonlighting with Bruce Willis (who we both had a little crush on). In a delirious state of mind, we started playing around with lyrics and writing some kind of bizarre love song for Bruce Willis. I think the lyrics were ‘Bruce Willis makes me blush in the magic hour’ Oh my! It got too weird and sounded ridiculous. Oh well. Let’s hope he reads NYLON.