Fresh from the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album ‘Another River’ in late 2016, Alpines sit down with Fault Magazine to discuss everything from their upcoming European Tour, Bob’s bugs and Catherine’s extreme hide and seek.
Hi Catherine, how are you doing?
C: Yeah good good! Bob is here as well.
Hey Bob, how are you?
B: Hi there, good thank you.
Long time no see since the Moth Club show, which I had the chance to attend.
C: Ah amazing! Thank you for coming.
C: Aw that’s cool, it was quite a funny day that day because we woke up to the news that Trump being announced as President; so it put us in quite a weird place in the build up to the show. But it was great; people came down and were up for it.
The vibe was strong in the room; did you feel it on stage?
C: Yeah I definitely did, it was such a nice crowd and it was lovely.
Were there lots of family and friends there?
C: Yeah quite a few friends were there, my mum, dad and my brother there too. My brother always sells the merchandise for us, or he has done for a while so it was lovely.
Couple of free drinks at the end of the night for him then?
C: Oh definitely, he always says to me “Catherine, you know the day that you made it when you no longer need me as the merch boy” [laughs] one day!
What have you guys been up to since the show?
C: So that was in December so obviously we had Christmas; I was away In Antwerp for Christmas as I have family there, and New Year; we’ve both got January birthdays so we went to the Peak District for Bob’s birthday. There were like 22 of us up there in this lovely, big house.
Well happy belated birthday guys!
C: Aw thanks, the rest of January was spent working; we had this live session where we recorded in Metropolis’ studios. We did a few of the songs off the album including making a video for the next single.
Can you announce the name of the next single?
B: Yeah, definitely.
C: Yeah, it’s going to be Motionless.
C: So yeah it’s going to be really nice so keep your eyes peeled; I think it will be coming out quite soon.
The video has been shot?
C: Well what we did is set up as a live band we also had backing vocalists and cello in this big studio. We had a film crew there and they just filmed us doing the song live basically. The main influence for that was Jamie Woon’s video for ‘Sharpness’ performed live from Konk Studios. When we watched that we felt it was so powerful just to see them as a band performing, but obviously that’s an incredible song and I just feel like now people really respond really well to live performance. So we just wanted to capture that and it sounds cool!
It’s helped to capture the raw power of both of you performing together and with the backing band?
C: Yeah exactly!
I’m sure fans will enjoy seeing the video.
C: We hope so yeah; it’s a good time for it, as we’re quite known for doing intense and elaborate music videos in a very classical way. We have never done anything quite like this so I think it shows a side to us that the live side is very important to us; we’ve put a lot of time and hours and energy into being good live performers.
When you’re about to embark on a live tour, how do you prepare for it?
C: You just have to be realistic; we’ve got a lot of rehearsals obviously in the next couple of weeks but I think you’ve just got to steady yourself and I mean particularly as a vocalist I feel the pressure of not to overdo it. I just bought some Manuka Honey that I didn’t realize quite how expensive it was, in the hope of maintaining vocal health. I’ve had a vocal coach for years and you just have to keep it real and look after yourself a bit.
Try and ground yourself a bit before having back-to-back shows?
C: Yeah exactly, and just taking it one step at a time really.
It is all you can do! Are you looking forward to the new tour though?
C: Yeah really looking forward to it and I think what is great is that we have put a lot of work into doing this album live; since the last album we’ve pretty much taken everything off the backing track in order to give people a real experience, a raw experience basically.
With a lot of emotion brought in?
C: Yeah exactly.
B: I feel like it’s brought a lot more energy to the show that was lacking; things were a bit on the rails. So yeah, it’s going to be slightly different to the record in terms of sounds and worth coming out for.
C: Yeah exactly.
Both: Yeah! If you want to come to the next London show, it is on the 6th of April and it’s at Omera, I don’t know if you’ve been to that venue before?
Not yet, but I’ve heard amazing things so far.
B: Oh it’s great!
C: My friend Ben’s space; (Ben from Mumford and Sons) it’s his baby; it’s his project. He has kind of set it all up and obviously with Mumford & Sons being an amazingly experienced touring band they’ve designed it around everything you would need as a musician. In terms of easy access to stage, a nice green room, incredible layout for the audience so it’s tiered. Even if you’re right at the back you can see the stage very easily. Great lighting too and it looks like an old school theatre; it’s really cool.
C: And amazing acoustics obviously yeah, with a great sound system.
Sounds like the perfect venue!
C: Yeah, I mean everyone is playing it at the moment; also it’s London Bridge so it’s pretty easy for everyone to get to.
For your raw power and your sound, it is going to be special.
C: Yeah I think so too! I think what is also great with the London show we’re going to have are backing vocalists that we’ve been working with there as well, who are brilliant. So taking things to the next level and try and get the cellist we’ve been working with too.
B: It’s going to be a pretty special one.
Extra members who you didn’t have with you at the last show at the Moth Club.
C: No, to be fair we wouldn’t be able to fit any more people on stage. It’s quite close up there!
It’s a great sweatbox.
C: Yeah, but it does have a glittery ceiling so that helps!
When you were writing this last album, did you feel any second album pressure?
C: Yeah I mean were in kind of an interesting position because we’ve had a very interesting journey and I think it was pressure in a different way for us. It’s not like we had this huge first album and we were trying to kind of keep that momentum in the second; we didn’t. For us the second album was very self-pressured as we wanted to create something great which we didn’t have necessarily a team behind us or anything like that. We had to almost in many ways scrap this album and just let the music do the talking and had nothing to lose really!
Getting back to your creative roots?
C: Yeah definitely, it was really, really intense and very hardcore; we wrote nearly a hundred songs for this album and it took a lot of narrowing down and back and forth you know, over 2 years of working on it softly. So yeah, it was intense but we’re really proud of it and it’s done good things for us.
This is only the beginning really isn’t it?
B: We hope so yeah!
C: Yeah! That’s also what’s nice, the team that we have now which is part of the independent label and all that.
At Metropolis Records?
C: Yeah exactly, it’s very much so the model that we’ve gone for; it’s not this sort of release it and expect number 1 in the first week. It’s very much so an 18-month long campaign whereby it will grow over time, which is really nice. It’s exciting and rewarding in that way, yeah.
It gets the word out there in a calmer manner so fans can reach you over a progressive period of time, which is quite nice.
C: Yeah totally.
So this second album all went to plan, without any hitches? Are you both happy with the outcome of the release?
C: Yeah, I think we definitely were; I don’t think we could have spent much more time or altered much.
B: Yeah we took our time a bit to make sure we were happy with the songs and not rushing it; and not bringing it out until we were ready. Yeah but that’s not to say that there weren’t moments where we were kind of “I’m not sure this is very good or not sure we’ve got enough songs.”
I guess that’s the creative process behind an album though?
B: Yeah it’s a big part of it, you’re going to have doubts in everything that you’re doing even if you’re the most confident person ever; there’s always going to be that self doubt there and “Yeah I don’t think this is any good”, you have to work hard to get past that.
It’s good to have the two of you bounce off each other, as one might say “I’m not too sure” and the other “No, we can do this to refine it…”
B: Yeah I think it must be really hard if you’re a solo artist dealing with those voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough; it’s so great that we’ve got each other to work with to encourage and challenge each other.
And you get along well so that helps!
C: Yeah there definitely are moments! But actually you know what is amazing is that what is part of writing so much over such a long period of time, is that you just learn; it’s quite symbiotic really. We rarely really disagree with anything that comes to writing or sonically. You know, we’re often on the same page.
Both: Yeah! Too right.
In regards to the new tour, you’ve got the likes of Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam coming up…are there any places that are special to you that you’re playing, or even an early favourite?
B: I think Bristol is quite special to us because that’s where we met.
C: Yes, that’s true yeah.
B: We love the vibe of that city, it’s got so much interesting music going on and it’s quite liberal and forward thinking; we love that! It’s also a nice size.
C: It is where I went to University so I know it really well. I lived there for like 3 or 4 years so I always love going back there.
Hopefully some of the friends might turn up and say hi?
Both: Yeah! Hopefully.
C: Yeah also excited to play Brussels as I’ve got Belgium family, and that venue is meant to be really beautiful, Its like a botanical garden.
B: It’s like being in a glass house.
C: So that will be really nice, we’re excited to play everywhere really as pretty much every venue on this tour we haven’t played before.
B: Yeah, we’ve never really toured Europe, we played one show in Paris and so that was new to us. Germany is going to be really great, we’ve got a lot of support and fans over there that we want to play to so that’s going to be great.
C: We actually release our album on our German label on Friday, it’s quite good timing.
Very good timing, hopefully the reception you’ll receive will be just as good as you had here.
B: I hope so!
C: Hopefully, yeah!
Got a support act for the tour?
C: Yeah so we are doing pretty much all the tour apart from one date with an act called Tusks, and she’s amazing. She’s just a one-woman band so that will be really, really cool.
Where is she from?
C: She is from Hastings, but now based in London. She’s quite a new act, and signed to ‘One Little Indian’ Records. She is also managed by our manager so we’re part of the same team. It makes things a lot easier. I said to Jack [their manager] that I really want a woman on tour, I want another woman otherwise it’s just me and like 9 guys on a bus. It’s fine but like after 3 weeks of football statistics I get a bit like “Oh god!”
Especially European football statistics!
C: I know, exactly – but it will be nice to have a girl on tour definitely.
You’re playing quite intimate venues like the Paradiso in Amsterdam, does that mean you might change things up in terms of taking the backing band and cello player on tour with you?
C: No, we’d love to but it is just too expensive, that’s why we want to make the London show a special moment. As you say they’re more intimate so we might not have the room on stage also. It’ll just be the four of us on stage.
Have you got a craziest tour moment?
B: Craziest, hmm…
C: I think one of the weirdest moments we’ve had is probably our Paris show actually because it was at David Lynch’s club in Paris called Silencio.
It’s kind of inspired by Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive, so it was weird and crazy fun. It’s quite an exclusive place in and of itself; it’s quite weird but then the show itself we did was really weird because before we went on stage there was a mime artist. Then after, the headline act was this really famous 1970’s French icon called Arielle Dombasle, she’s a king of model and actress from the 70’s. She had this amazing operatic voice and basically got on stage and did this opera acapella with a fiddle player. Then we did our set and it was just bizarre. We had people and friends who had come down to the show like my brother who had come down from London and then his best friend who lived in Paris. It was just one of those weird nights where everything was surreal, very odd but kind of awesome.
Have you two got any phobias?
C: Its quite funny, what are my…[pause] I haven’t got any weird phobias, like I’m not scared of any buses or anything.
B: I’m not good with spiders. That’s a pretty common one.
C: Yeah Bob really hates spiders, for us in general it would have to be Bob’s bugs and in various places. It is funny because we were talking a lot about this in the Peak District during this three hour hike. Its really funny how people’s phobias come out as half of the people had fears of vertigo because we were up quite high on this peak. They were really struggling and it was like “Oh, God”. I don’t like enclosed spaces too much; I have to say I’m a bit phobic yeah. I feel like humans aren’t meant to be in closed, underground spaces. It stems from when I was little I would play hide and seek at my house and my mum and my dad couldn’t find me because I’d hidden away so well in this little cupboard, and I’d lock myself in this tiny cupboard from the inside. I couldn’t get out and had to kick my way out after half an hour because they couldn’t find me. I had to ninja my way out, and I think ever since I don’t love it. [laughs]
None of that on tour hopefully! One last question for you guys…what is your FAULT?
C: Oh I’ve got a few you know [pause], that’s why I’m pausing because I realise I’ve got many but I’m sure Bob will be like…
B: No not many, [laughs] mine is that I’m impatient, especially with technology. Slow loading screens or my computer starts to crash; that enrages me.
C: [laughs] Yeah I think my two main faults would be that I overthink a lot and that I’m very hard on myself.
You’re too self-critical?
C: Oh my God, majorly. I’m learning to try and just be less; I think when I was young it was perfectionism and being a perfectionist is a nightmare. I was very hard on myself and always put a lot of pressure on myself.
Has that pressure motivated you forward?
C: Yeah definitely, I’ve worked hard in a lot of situations where maybe I wouldn’t have naturally excelled, definitely in terms of life generally. But yeah, I think its important to have a lot of drive in music because there are a lot of times where everybody is going to be on your case. You’ve got to have a lot of self-drive and a lot of determination, but sometimes that for me that can turn quickly into self-pressure which gets too much. But you know, I think I’m learning. I’m learning to just accept that side of myself.
It’s one of life’s negatives that can turn into a positive quite quickly.
C: Yeah exactly!
Have fun on tour!
The duo embark on a UK and European tour starting in Birmingham on the 14th of February, across the channel to Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin among others; before ending in a special hometown show at Omeara in London on the 6th of April.
‘Another River’ is out now on Metropolis Recordings. Tickets for the dates can be purchased from www.alpinesmusic.com
Words: Stuart Williams