Following the release of Alpines second album Another River late last year, the band are embarking on a UK headline tour this month. The London duo of Catherine Pockson and Bob Matthews will be at King Tut’s on the 16th February. They’ve been worked in their home studio to craft a distinctive sound that combines towering vocal harmonies and a sly bass groove. We called them for a chat before their journey to Glasgow.
What’s a typical Alpines’ day at the moment? Are you guys rehearsing? Are you recording?
Catherine: Yeah, we are about to start rehearsal this week for the tour. We just got a new drummer in so we have got a lot of rehearsal to do but he’s pretty good so I think we should things together quick . When we get the time we’ve been trying out some new stuff because we know that once we start touring, we’re not going to get much time for recording.
In terms of working with a drummer or working with any additional musicians, what kind of lead to you take in terms of giving them direction or how much is that working with them in partnership?
Catherine: We like to definitely make sure they can bring their own ideas, bring their own approach.
Bob: On the road our live show had a lot on the backing track and now we’ve added another musician and a keyboardist so there’s less backing track and the drummer plays more real drums. Just let them play the beats how they imagine it should be played rather than trying to recreate what’s on the record which brings a bit more energy.
How do think your live show has progressed?
Catherine: We can play a real concept vision this time around. We can make everything much more loud. We really decided that it was important to give people more of a fun live experience.
Bob: I think we were too worried about sounding like the record whereas I think it can actually be quite exciting to give people something slightly different from what they’re going to hear at home. It makes the shows a lot more interesting for us because we can improvise and I think that translates to a better show for the audience.
How did you start working together?
Catherine: Well, we met when Bob was in a band and I was doing solo stuff and working with producers. Then Bob was also doing production stuff on the side and we just did a few sessions together. He presented to me some bits and pieces that he’d written and I wrote over the top of them, it just created mass synergy and it was really interesting from those early days of writing together, we got the sound a lot quicker.
Is it an exciting time to be a band in London?
Catherine: You know, I feel like the music scene in London is a really interesting one because you can be any kind of artist in London, whether a DJ, whether in a band, you can find a place to do your music.
Bob: I think it’s easier to feel a part of something in a smaller city.
Catherine: We actually live in Southwest London which is not really where all the bands and artists are living. They’re mostly in Northeast. We grew up around here and we chose to stay here because we quite like being away from the kind of intense, pressure cooker all the scene and all the trendy stuff that’s going on. I think some people actually love being surrounded by that but for us, we didn’t want to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and we’d rather focus on what we want to do.
Bob: But also we wanted to build a studio space and there’s no way we could have afforded to have done it in Northeast London that had become so expensive and so we decided that we could stay in Kingston which is where we live. We could buy a flat with a garden entry and we could build a studio and become self contained. One of the things I’m looking forward to about this tour is going to other cities and trying to get a feel for the scene
Why was the studio so important to you?
Bob: We wanted the freedom to be able to go into the studio any day and play something. We did a lot of our first records just in a spare room at my parents house and it just made such a difference when we were able to move out and having our own space and the freedom to experiment and not feel like we were on the clock.
Which track is a good point to start from, if someone is not familiar with your music?
Catherine: I think with this album, it’s a complete record, there’s quite the range of instruments on the new tracks. I think the best song to start with from the new album would be Heaven. It’s just a bit more immediate. I think within the first minute, people get the idea about our sound more than some of the other tracks.
So after the tour will you be planning to continue to write and release more new tracks?
Bob: Yes, I remember watched this little documentary video about Rick Rubin and someone was saying that being a writer is about keeping a well-oiled machine. Don’t go stagnant for a year. By writing constantly, you’re evolving, you’re figuring out everything. So we’re going to try to write and work on things as much as possible.
You’re playing King Tut’s which is one of the finest small venues in the country. There’s also an element that visiting bands have to prove themselves and win over the audience to a certain extent when they are on their early tours. How will you handle that?
Bob: That’s going to be interesting. We really haven’t done that much touring around the UK, never done a headline show in Glasgow. It’s going to be a real challenge, and I’m sure there’s going to be some shows that it’s more difficult to win people over or if we don’t quite get the crowd on our side.
Catherine: I think, the thing is, those people bought tickets to be there. There’s obviously something in them, an open mind that they’re willing to be in that experience. What I’ve learned about doing live music is that the crowd, they want to be there with you, they are on the side. You just have to give a great performance, you have to just do the best you can and hopefully they’ll like it. If they don’t, that’s the way it is and it’s okay.
Bob: The way that Catherine performs, I think that people really do feel like they’re part of the performance with her, part of the experience with her. She’s great at that, without saying much, she kind of opens up the experience around the room.
Catherine: Yeah, you know the songs, they’re very emotional, they come from a very honest place for me. I feel like a big part of why I’ve done this record, why I’ve written the words I have, is because it’s for other people. I feel like music has always helped me and I just feel like hopefully it will reach some people and make sense to some people and that’s why we do it.
ALPINES TOUR DATES
Feb 14, Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
Feb 15, Leeds, Headrow House
Feb 16, Glasgow, King Tuts
Feb 17, Manchester, Soup Kitchen
Feb 20, Bristol, The Louisana
Feb 21, Oxford, The Cellar
Feb 22, Brighton, The Prince Albert