Side by side
Alpine has got it all: a killer sound, a healthy dose of stage glam, and two best-friend frontwomen who are thick as thieves.
Watching the girls from Alpine make each other laugh is the absolute best. Not because they’re so sweet, not because it’s a testament to enduring friendship, but purely because Phoebe has a snort laugh. Vocalists Lou James and Phoebe Baker front the Melbourne-based band, with Christian O’Brien (guitar), Ryan Lamb (bass), Tim Royall (keyboard) and Phil Tucker (percussion) creating the dreamy, offbeat instrumentals that underpin their harmonies. Their sound would once have lured pirate ships onto the rocks; deceptively beautiful but belying danger, they’re as hypnotic as sirens. It’s some pretty complicated pop music.
Three years after their debut album A is for Alpine, the group has released its beautiful second album Yuck and will be bringing it to the stage at Splendour in the Grass this July. Do you remember your first impression of each other? Lou: We were in year nine and we were at boarding school. Phoebe had just been living in Vanuatu for three years, so I’d met this girl and she had really long blonde hair, almost like a mermaid, and she just kept talking about “the island” and this tropical lifestyle and she was quite free-spirited and I was like, this chick is crazy. I really didn’t know how to understand her. And I think as the years have gone on, her crazy free spirit has started to merge into mine. I used to be a bit uptight, I still am a little bit; in terms of looking at things with more of an open mind, that’s definitely been one of the greatest advantages of meeting Phoebe and having her as a friend. Phoebe: Nawwww. I think we just had our Oprah moment. Lou: But it’s true, it’s hard to have such a strong friendship for so long, and we’ve had that. Phoebe: Technically, we shouldn’t really be friends anymore. We’ve spent so much time together. When did music first come into it? Lou: In year ten we started going to these activities after school where you could watch old rock ‘n’ roll music DVDs and we watched a live Led Zeppelin or a live Doors and we both were just like, “Oh my god, what is this?” Why did you call this album Yuck? Lou: Yuck comes from the ‘Foolish’ lyric, and I think it really sums up the concept of most of the songs. It’s just that initial reaction you have to a situation or a feeling where, now when I talk to friends, I keep hearing people say ‘yuck’ and I don’t think people realise that yuck is said quite a lot, it’s that reaction you have because you never want it or the thing to happen ever again. Phoebe: It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek and it kind of takes the piss out of us as well. You know, if someone doesn’t like the album… yuck. It’s just fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. We heard you two are both studying post-graduate degrees... Lou: I think we’re just trying to keep options open. Being able to do music is my number one and that’s for Phoebe as well. Phoebe: It’s just so fragile, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You want it so much but it’s hard to put your whole heart into it because it’s really scary that it might just go away. We want to be doing this when we’re 60. Lou: When I was 12 years old I wrote a letter to myself, a time capsule letter, and put it in a brick wall at my friend’s house, because there was a brick that had come out, and I was like, ‘Dear reader, by the time you read this I will be a singer or someone famous.’ Phoebe: ‘You will know my name.’ Lou: Then my friend, because their house was getting painted, was like, “Oh my god I’ve just found this”, and took a photo and sent it to me, and it was actually the night we were about to play a show at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney. It came true! What’s been your best or worst festival moment? Phoebe: We went to one called Secret Garden Party in England, and it was like the benchmark – I don’t know what was going on with that festival, but it was so magical. It was set around a lake and people were rowing. I met Noel Fielding there. I was wearing a rubbish bag because it was raining and I was so nervous and probably really drunk and tired and I just went up and just said his full name. I didn’t say ‘hi’ I just said, “Noel Fielding”. And stood there. And he was like “hi”. Lou: I was standing far away and just watching, like, ‘trainwreck!’ You guys are BFFs, want to do a compliment shout out to each other? Phoebe: I wouldn’t want to be alive if Lou wasn’t there. Oh that’s really morbid. Lou: I think Phoebe just always teaches me to be free and wild and be accepting of your fragilities. Phoebe: And Lou teaches me to be anal and restrictive. [snort]
Alpine is playing Splendour in the Grass and sideshows in July.