It’s been a couple of years since Alpines – Surrey/South London duo Bob Matthews and Catherine Pockson – released their debut album Oasis. The follow-up to that first LP was launched last week and it marks a real high point for sophisticated electronic pop.
In places brooding, sometimes reflective, but above all uplifting, Another River was eagerly anticipated following two stonking lead singles in the form of Completely and Heaven, both works of beauty that combined Matthews’ slick and often understated track composition with the mesmerising, ethereal vocals of Pockson.
The combination is one that we’ve been obsessing over for a little while now, so we caught up with Bob and Catherine to find out a little more about the album’s creation…
SYNC: How long has the new album been in the making, and how did things all come together in the end?
Bob: The first songs for this record began to be written as soon as we had finished touring our first album, so that’s back in Summer 2014. We spent the whole of 2015 dedicated to writing and recording – we think we wrote in the region of 80-100 songs. That’s always been the way we’ve worked, write a lot of songs and it’s more likely that you will have an album worth of ones you really like! Although with this record, it wasn’t just about picking the ten best songs, we wanted the album to have a definite ‘feel’, and sound coherent. I think there are some great tracks that didn’t make the album too.
SYNC: The music has an ‘experimental’ feel and yet is not in any way inaccessible. Was there an underlying objective for the material on the new album or was it simply a case of trying out different ideas?
Bob: We had a strong idea at the start of the recording process, which was mainly based around the imagery. Catherine put together a mood board of her vision for the album, which really helps me with where to go with the sound. As the cliche goes, a picture paints a thousand words. It was about keeping things honest, minimal, yet striking. We always want our music to be accessible, but I am happy you have picked up an experimental feel, because I am always trying to do new things with the way I present Catherine’s songs. I think this record sounds different from our first, and the EPs that preceded it; I hope we will always keep moving forward.
SYNC: The new album seems to draw on quite a range of musical genres. What particular influences would you say have fed into the process?
Catherine: I have really gone back to my roots of what I grew up listening to, that includes soul, RnB, blues and hip hop. Bob has been influenced by very different genres to me which has created an interesting contrast of styles.
Bob: I found myself listening less to stuff that sounds similar to us, and more drawn to things like ambient music, and instrumental electronica. And at the other end of the spectrum, really commercial pop music. I like being influenced by as wide a range of stuff as possible – I feel like our music will be better and more interesting for that.
SYNC: Lyrically, the songs on the album seem quite personal – how challenging has this project been from that point of view?
Catherine: The whole aim of this album was to be as honest and up front as possible with the lyrics. I have had to do lots of healing over the past couple of years and writing this album has really helped that. It isn’t always easy facing up to feelings and it was at times a real challenge to express these emotions successfully into the music, but the process has been so rewarding. I just really hope that these words resonate with other people. Other people’s music has been a comfort to me all my life, so it brings me great happiness to know that someone else out there might feel empowered knowing they aren’t alone when they listen to these songs.
SYNC: The aesthetics seem to be a major part of what you do, with clearly so much attention to detail on the artwork and videos. How important is that aspect to you both as part of the overall creative process?
Catherine: It is very important and goes hand in hand with writing the music. When we started writing the record we built up a mood board of lots of imagery spanning across lots of different fields, including photography, fashion, architecture, painting and sculpture. We looked to imagery of the desert in particular as a symbol of the music we were writing, the desert being a landscape which is very open and exposed.
SYNC: What can fans expect on the forthcoming tour? Which songs are you each most looking forward to playing live?
Catherine: We are really excited for tour time, these songs are going to come into their own being played live. Our drummer brings so much life to the beats Bob has created and adds a whole new dimension to the songs. The fans can expect moments which are more intimate and moments which are more massive sounding. We are trying to build a set which has a range of dynamic to take the fans on a bit of a journey, which we hope will be an uplifting one. I am really looking forward to performing Stay as it is a really fun track which has a lot of energy, Bob is really looking forward to performing Take Me To The Water live.
SYNC: Beyond the tour, what does 2017 have in store for Alpines? Can we expect a few festival appearances?
Catherine: Yes hopefully we will be playing lots of festivals throughout the summer. We have also started writing the next album so maybe we will put some time aside to start thinking about that as well!
Alpines will be touring the UK in February 2017 with shows in Birmingham (14), Leeds (15), Glasgow (16), Manchester (17), Bristol (20), Oxford (21) and Brighton (22). Venues and tickets here.
Alpines – Heaven
Alpines – Completely