After a roller-coaster couple of years, UK electronica band Alpines spill the beans on their current successes and what’s in store for their future at Farm Festival 2014…
They’ve collaborated with Sub Focus, they’ve supported Florence + the Machine and they’ve also worked with renowned producer Craig Silvey (The Horrors, Arcade Fire, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs). They are West London duo, Catherine Pockson and Bob Matthews, and this is what happened when ILivExtreme’s Taya Black caught up with them backstage:
Hi guys, so how are we feeling about headlining tonight at Farm Festival?
C: Yes, we’re pretty excited; this is actually our first festival this summer. We’ve done a UK tour in June when the album (Oasis – Untrue Records) came out so yeah it’s really nice for us to do this festival show today.
B: We actually went to this festival in 2009, I was playing with one of my old bands at the time, so this was before we even started Alpines.
So how did you guys meet?
C: We met when Bob was playing with his other band actually.
B: Yes I was playing a wedding, and Catherine was a guest at the event so I guess we sort of met there. Following the next few months I played her some demos that I had been working on and she sung over them and it really worked. Eventually it superseded what I was doing with my band and Catherine’s solo project that she was doing as well, and Alpines started.
You two are obviously very fashion forward and have had your work used by designers such as Hannah Marshall at LFW. I’ve heard your live shows are quite epic and showcase your love for fashion with lots of costumes, so what can the fans expect from tonight’s set?
C: (laughs) I’m not going to be wearing this outfit (monochrome festival chic) exactly but it will be my basis – there will be a bit of a jazzy jacket maybe. I always like to bring a few bits and see how I feel and see what the stage is like and the vibe, and shoes! I always get a bit carried away with shoes I think I could always just wear heels but then again…
And I guess at festivals having a stand out wardrobe is what it’s all about, have you managed to see any of the eccentric costumes people have been wearing this weekend? Some of them are pretty out there.
C&B: Yeah (laughs)
B: I’ve seen a guy in a wedding dress and another girl in a leopard skin suit…
C: …an all-in-one number, there’s also clearly some guys on a stag wearing the golfers outfits, at festivals you can all come dressed how you want, it’s good.
B: Yeah it is good.
You two have a pretty hectic year it seems, with your debut album Oasis being released earlier this year with Untrue Records, going on tour and also leaving your original big label Polydor…
B: Yes, we left Polydor and took a step back to think about what we really wanted from our debut album. We spent pretty much the whole of 2013 writing new stuff and it was really good that we did take our time. I’m really proud what’ve ended up with and I think it’s a bit more defined than what we would have ended up with a couple of years ago. We have been a band for ages and it’s just taken us this long to get to our first album and I’m glad it took some time, it’s been amazing and I cant quite believe we are finally here.
C: Yeah exactly, I mean what I think is interesting now in this day and age is that being in a band for three or four years seems quite a long time to others. When you do get signed to a label there is this expectation to release your album very, very soon after, but I think even now albums are very important to get right. I know the climate has changed in terms of how people consume music but it was very important for us to do it right. We could have released an album with Polydor but we just didn’t feel that it was right and it was quite a brave step to do it the way we have done it but it feels right.
Of course, I think it’s very important for a band to be happy with their debut album, whether it takes six months or six years isn’t really relevant as it can be classed as their signature sound. And compared to your original EP Night Drive, which is quite dark and experimental, Oasis sounds very different doesn’t it? A bit lighter and more natural perhaps?
C: Yeah, I think when we did Night Drive, it was great, but it was so early on and we had only known each other a matter of months really.
B: Yeah we were just sort of experimenting with the sound…
C: It was experimental yes…
B: Yeah it was interesting what we achieved but it wasn’t really what either of us were about and the song writing wasn’t natural. Naturally Catherine is a much more soulful singer and likes more classic song writing and what we were doing wasn’t really what we wanted to do. I don’t know, it was cool and I’m really proud of that early stuff we did but I think the album has come back to what we are really about as a duo.
And what is in store for Alpines in the future? A headliner tour? Writing more material?
B: Since the beginning of the year when we finished this record, we kind of haven’t done any writing at all, I know Catherine has done a bit but we haven’t really had time too. We’ve being doing shows and all the admin around the album, and it has just been nice to have a massive break from doing anything creative. But now were getting to the point where we are thinking about it and we’re really keen to get back in the studio and do some writing.
C: We’ve also been building the studio so that’s literally got up this week, we got planning permission where we live and its just going to be in the back of our garden.
B: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to getting into a new space and you know just working really hard. Yeah we have been thinking about writing but I think we will just wait and see what happens with this new studio. We don’t really know what its going to sound like yet.
C: And then we’re doing a European tour in October but just need to speak to our agency and confirm a few things…
B: We’ve never really played outside of the UK, and I think we’re going to be doing some of the major European cities, which will be great.
C: Yes it will! We’re also looking at next year for festivals, we’ve got a new agent on board in the last couple of months so there has been a bit of a change over period where we have readjusted our whole team, so it’s just taking its time booking shows. I think that if you want to end up on a certain place on the bill of a festival you have to book it six months to a year in advance so you cant really just jump in. But we will definitely be hitting the festivals next year, over here and in the States hopefully; South by Southwest (SXSW), obviously from March onwards which is great.
Are there any festivals in particular you’d really love to perform at or are aiming to get to?
C: I love the look of the big American festivals, but I mean Glastonbury of course, we did actually play Glastonbury in 2011.
B: But we played a really tiny stage so it would be nice to go back and play something a little bit bigger.
B: I’d also love to do something like Wilderness or I’ve heard Green Man is very good. I’ve heard it’s very folky and we haven’t been to them before but that would be great. End of the Road would be good too I’ve heard so many good things about all of them.
C: There’s also Iceland Airwaves and ones in other countries; I think that would be a really nice way to visit other places by playing festivals there.
Do you prefer playing tour dates or festivals?
C: I love both but it’s a very different vibe.
B: I think festivals are easier because there’s no pressure on you and everyone’s there to have a great time. Sometimes when you headline tours the pressure is on you to deliver the show, which is great as well, but I think today for example is just so easy and chilled.
Festivals are also a great way of checking out new artists, is there anyone playing Farm Festival 2014 you’ve had your eyes on?
C: We haven’t really arrived early enough to indulge in the other acts but we have been listening in and out to the stages around today and it’s all sounding really nice. Nice, chilled vibes.
B: Yes there is lots of brass at this festival, lots of fun brass bands, and I’ve been told to check out Public Service Broadcasting who headlined the night before us.
What do you think of the stages at the festival this year, they are very theatrical – there’s a Massey Ferguson combine harvester being used as a DJ set which is very fitting.
C: It’s crazy.
B: Yeah it’s really good, they’ve put in such a good effort this year with all the tents, it’s awesome.
C: Yes they have, especially compared to when we were here a few years ago it has really come on.
B: Yes it’s a step up.
Over the last couple of years you’ve gone from strength to strength in terms of supporting Florence + the Machines, collaborations with Sub Focus on Tidal Waves, working with Craig Silvey and releasing your debut album Oasis how did these things influence you and the music?
C: Supporting Florence didn’t directly influence us, we love her and touring with them was an amazing experience. We did that because she wanted us to do it so it was a really, really special show, one of our favourite shows ever really.
B: And I think the collaborations we have done really taught us a lot…
C: Yeah you learn a lot.
B: Every time you are in the studio with another producer or writer you learn something new and if you don’t you feel like you do at the time, you an always take something from it and I think that has made us a better band for doing all those collaborations we did quite early on.
C: It was also a very interesting experience with Sub Focus and getting drawn into that process of writing and trying to make a hit record. Its very interesting as there’s a lot more people involved than what we are used to. It took almost a year on and off, from when he sent the original track over to when I wrote it…
B: And then going in the studio and then he changed it, and you know there are a lot of revisions involved with a track like Tidal Waves.
And did Sub Focus approach you?
B: He was just a fan of Catherine’s voice, and said he’d like to get her singing on his record, yeah it was good.
C: Yeah I think he knew that I wrote and that was really nice. I’ve got such a vivid memory of when I wrote it, just sitting there in Bob’s studio and it just came very naturally. What he’s got is a very good ability to make these huge choruses, he’s got a very pop-sense of mentality in the way he writes and produces, and it was a great experience.
Have you got any more collaborations planned or is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with?
C&B: No …
C: We’d love too, I mean this is something we were discussing this week really and how it would be nice.
B: There’s a few things in the pipeline, it’s a bit early to say but we are definitely going to try and do another one in between now and our next record.
C: Yes it would be really nice, its just finding the right person and getting it right.
Check out more from the Alpines on their website.