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.

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