Melbourne sextet Alpine produce a sound that can best be described as vigorous. It’s pop at heart, yet still retains an alternative streak with stabbing guitars weaving in and around the dual female vocals and harmonies of lead songbirds, Phoebe Baker and Lou James.
The band’s debut record, A is for Alpine is out now through the Mushroom Group and has already received some early accolades from major players like Pitchfork, Nylon and The Guardian on the back of their fantastic single Hands.
Their next release, Gasoline, was mixed by respected UK producer Jeremy Wheatley, a man who has twiddled the knobs for the likes of U2, the Dandy Warhols, Empire of the Sun and Goldfrapp. “I was stoked [when he came onboard] because I loved the Spice Girls and Sophie Ellis-Bextor [another two of Wheatley’s musical clients] when I was younger and then he was adding his magical touch to our record,” smiles James. “That was pretty mind-blowing!”
Musician turned producer Dann Hume (Lisa Mitchell, SURES) was brought in to record the band at Evermore’s Gisborne studio retreat and the results have paid dividends. “We had such a great rapport with Dann from the start because we’re a little bit daggy and he’s a little bit daggy,” James recalls. “The chemistry was really good straight away.”
Working off a steady diet of coffee, lollies and the occasional red wine, the group slowly pieced the record together, with the compositional skills of guitarist Christian O’Brien helping shape Tim Royal’s electric key signatures and Baker and James’ stunning harmonies into a glossy cinematic finish.
“There are three threads in the [Alpine] style coming from me, Phoebe and Christian and there’s now a flavour to our sound that we’re beginning to see more clearly,” says James. But there’s still room for development, admits the songstress, and so there should be on a debut record.
“We’re really happy to challenge ourselves and go off in different directions and write from instinct,” she says.
A is for Alpine is one of those dual-effect records that plays out just as easily as a background score as it does front and centre, much like the grace of French artists Air or Nouvelle Vague. “I think we like to play around with a lot of different emotions within the songs – it’s like if you’re writing a book or painting a picture,” says James.
Former high school “besties” from way back, both James and Baker’s parents are from England and they both grew up on Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. And they continue to be inseparable, be it through their continuing musical relationship or their long-standing friendship. As James explains, they’ve even started writing similar lyrics. “We tend to write the same ideas and themes which is bizarre and crazy, and my melodies also work to her lyrics.”
Where Baker’s vocal is tinged with a jazz influence, James taps a self-confessed “husky, breathier tone”. Together, the pair is a choral marvel. “We know each other so well that we’ll probably start to feel the same way,” laughs James.
Like twins? “Yeah, exactly! Kind of yin-yang.”
A is for Alpine is out now through Ivy League and the Mushroom Group. The band plays the Corner Hotel this Saturday September 8 (Sold Out) and Sunday September 9.