It’s been two years since Melbourne sextet Alpine released their debut album, the critically acclaimed A Is For Alpine. Two years filled with playing live to a growing world-wide fan-base, staring out of tour van windows, long-haul flights, saving up, moving in, breaking up, awkward dates and tipsy late nights in different parts of the world. The unexpected wonder of early twenty’s life was at the heart of the band’s debut and truly they lived every moment.
The songs on Alpine’s sophomore album Yuck see the band explore their “yuck” reactions to “first world problems”; awkward dates, a distaste for romance, lust when lust was lost, plastic vanity, foolish attraction and ego against egos.
The album’s title is lifted from a line in lead single ‘Foolish’, which in essence embodies so many of the experiences that inspired the lyrics on the record “A lot of the songs were all in response to an awkward situation; heartbreak, a gross dinner, a bad date, bad manners, fear and learning how to move on from it all so that it’s never yucky again” comments Lou James, one of the band’s two lead vocalists, when quizzed on the unusual title. “[the word Yuck] captures that feeling of disdain you have toward yourself when you make a mistake, especially a sexual mistake. Kissing the wrong person, someone you shouldn’t. It feels wrong. It’s a body quiver.” elaborates Phoebe Baker.
Musically, inspiration came from the desire to push the ‘pop’ genre to new and often weird places, “Most of the music of the songs came from a textural or harmonic idea that I was curious about. I wanted to see if certain things would work in a pop song” comments Christian O’Brien, Guitarist and first time co-producer of the album. Shared experiences and what seems to be a collective self-awakening has led to the band being more in tune with one another, allowing them to find a more collaborative way to write and record. The band wrote a lot of the material over the course of a year, giving the songs time to develop naturally, often writing songs while on tour, then revisiting them once back home ”We took our time. We grew with the album and it developed organically into the collection of the songs that we’re so completely in love with.”
One of the perks of taking their time with the songwriting process was an opportunity for the band to deliberately challenge themselves musically and experiment with their sound.
“Many times writing the initial demo’s I felt we were really going against what an alpine record should probably sound like” remarks Christian O’Brien, the member that Phoebe refers to as “Chief’ of the band, “but it does sound like us” he continues.
When the time was right, the band entered the studio once again with producer Dann Hume at the helm and O’Brien at his side.
“We were lucky to work with Dann again; he’s practically a brother from another mother.” Says Lou on working with Hume the second time around “We already formed a solid foundation with him. He knew how we individually wrote in the studio and I could tell he made sure he got the best out of each of us this time round.” He’s so open to ideas, which meant we also got to steer the ship with him. Phoebe and I got to work a lot more closely with him time around. We got to workshop lyrical ideas.
From the outside, Yuck is a progression for Alpine and sounds like the band has found the confidence to experiment without inhibition. Songs like ‘Foolish’, ‘Damn Baby’ and ‘Crunches’ bring their ethereal pop to a bolder, more radiant place, while songs like ‘Shot Fox’ and album opener ‘Come On’ drift and wind texturally, leading to a kind of blissful catharsis. Without a doubt, something special happened in the process of putting this album together.
Most notably, the lyrical content seems to be somewhat more personal on Yuck than on the band’s debut. There is an honesty and fragility to the vocals that perhaps has eluded them until now. When asked what the highlight on the record was, Lou cited ‘Jellyfish’, a song for which the lyrics touch on the subject of self-acceptance.
“Jellyfish is the last song we wrote. This song is about the pressures of physical expectations, which is so damaging to our sanity within society. It’s upsetting that we forget to look at all our perfections and imperfections and realize how fucking incredible we all we. We perceive the world with our eyes and never get to admire what others may admire about us.”
I love the lyrics at the end: “Jellyfish Jellyfish, I’m scared of Jealousy Jealousy and yet I want to swim in a sea full of ah ah ah”. It’s a beautiful line which references the film Spirited Away. Jellyfish are the all the perfect people in the sea, and by admitting our fear of jealousy we can allow ourselves to be free and exist in order to be content and selfless.”
My how they have grown.
Yuck is out June 16 on Votiv Music.
For more information, please contact Cami Opere, Mary Moyer or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000.