Photo by Tracey Lee Hayes. At the center, vocalists Phoebe (left) and Lou (right).
A is for Alpine. Say that and then repeat, because you’ll need to know that name this summer.
After infiltrating the airwaves back home, Australian band Alpine has landed stateside with their critically acclaimed debut album, A is for Alpine. And, with tours lined up across the States, they’re ready to take over. Formed in Melbourne in 2009, this inventive six-piece creates sounds that are light, bright, and irresistibly catchy, with breezy beats and the perfectly paired harmonies of front ladies Lou James and Phoebe Baker. The girls met in high school and bonded over a shared love for Led Zeppelin and all things 1960s, and over the years amassed their bandmates — guitarist Christian O’Brien, keyboardist Tim Royall, drummer Phil Tucker, and bassist Ryan Lamb.
We caught up with Lou and Phoebe — lead vocalists, fashion-lovers, and dream BFFs— to talk about their new album, the glories of rompers, and more.
Where does your name, Alpine, come from? And how did you alight on your sound?
LOU: We were originally called ‘Swiss’ for a while. We decided to change our name, and ‘Alpine’ goes hand-in-hand with ‘Swiss.’ It evokes fresh, crisp mountain air, and a beautiful space, which is a bit what you hear in our music. Also, Alpine was a name we all agreed on. It is incredibly hard to find a name you agree on when there are six of you.
PHOEBE: In the initial writing stages, we all identified with a sound we identified as ‘us,’ but couldn’t really determine what it was. It was a combination of dual voices, me and Lou, that almost create one unique sound. We try to write songs that fire up your imagination and create images — whatever they are, it’s up to you. We like to leave that space for the mind to wander.
We love the album artwork. Who did the art, and what’s the story behind it?
LOU: Tim, our keyboardist, does all the artwork for us. I remember, we caught up in a bar and he brought all these ideas of what he wanted to do, and suddenly he pulled out the one that you see on the album. It was so different and unusual, and I was like, ‘What’s the idea behind it? What are the squares and things?’ And he said each one represents a bird’s eye view of a made-up sporting field, and that each rectangle represents a song on the album. And I just fell in love with it. It’s so perfect. They were such clean, beautiful, lines, and it was strikingly visual.
PHOEBE: Everyone can take their own interpretations from it. I like that they’re made-up sports and that there’s one for each song. Writing a song is a kind of sport. There are different rules that apply when you’re creating each song. It’s kind of sweet, but they match in that way.
You guys are well-loved at home, and have been building buzz in the U.S. after SXSW and now, with your new album. What’s it like, breaking into the U.S. scene?
PHOEBE: Just amazing. It’s incredible that we have the ability to come to the States. America is just a huge, exciting, unknown, crazy adventure for us. It’s a different experience than playing at home, because people are differently curious about your music because you’re international. It’s amazing to meet new people and hear new reactions to our music. Being over here and hearing people sing our lyrics is absurd and unreal. We’ve never been to half the places we’re going — San Diego, Salt Lake City, Vancouver, Chicago — so I guess we’ll find out!
How are you guys preparing to dress for the road?
LOU: Phoebe and I love to thrift shop, so we’re going to make sure we don’t bring too much so we can go crazy. We try to thrift shop whenever we can!
Lou rocking a romper at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. Photo by Averie Harvey.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed that you ladies rock rompers more than any band we know. Are they a wardrobe fave?
LOU: It’s an Alpine thing. Phoebe started wearing them, and [then] I really wanted to.
PHOEBE: It’s got a bit of a glam influence. They’re also practical. Just one item, easy to wear, looks awesome. We often get people to make them for us. Fashion students or my mum, so we can choose our fabric or design and make it up.
LOU: The best thing about rompers is what when we’re jumping or dancing around [onstage], the romper helps. Phoebe and I both did theater in high school. Theater had this glam rock, the artiness, the flamboyancy, that vibe that Phoebe and I really liked. We try and put that into music. With the live show, we do a lot of dancing around, a lot of running around. Going onstage wearing [a romper] is like that alter-ego, that stage character, that personality of Lou is onstage. It’s like I’m Superman wearing his outfit, it’s my Wonder Woman outfit on stage. I feel like I can do anything. Well, maybe not everything!
Photo by Tracey Lee Hayes.
What’s one thing you couldn’t live without from your closet?
LOU: Jelly shoes, for sure.
PHOEBE: I’ve got a pair of black, ’60s pedal-pushers, and they’re my favorite trousers in the world. I always wear them. I feel like Marilyn Monroe on a casual day when I wear them.
How would you describe each other’s personal styles?
LOU: I would describe you as in between Grace Jones and Brigitte Bardot.
PHOEBE: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s my ideal, but it usually ends up more ‘cat lady’ than that. You’re… like a ’60s lady lost in the 1920s.
Any style icons?
LOU: I would like Vivienne Westwood to design me something. Or just hang out with me!
PHOEBE: I would like John Galliano to design me a Renaissance romper.
Well, is there anything else we might have missed in this interview?
PHOEBE: We can’t wait to get back over there. Crystal Fighters, the band we’re supporting, is amazing. So it’s gonna be a good night of fun music.
LOU: Come to our show!