Alpines are shining bright on the radar once again. Between the recent release of their second album, Another River, and preparations for the accompanying tour in spring 2017, they’ve already started to write another record. “We’re always trying to be one step ahead,” is the artists’ humble explanation. We met Catherine, Bob and their cat for a conversation with this winsome trio about what is and what is to come.
Following Oasis in 2014, you just released another studio album. Did you explore new elements or different inspirations for Another River?
C: We tried to strip things back to the bare bones. Bob complemented the more honest and emotional sort of approach that I was going for. Therefore, his production style became a bit more rugged and textural in terms of the beats and instrumentations he used.
You have gained a lot of experience in the past years; touring with Florence + the Machine and Emeli Sandé, and working with many great artists. Any other names you would like to ensnare for a future collaboration?
B: We became friends with The xx. They’ve inspired and taught us a lot, so it would be great to work and tour with them. But touring is also quite brutal, and you don’t want to damage the dynamic you’ve got as friends of course.
C: There’s a guy called Two Inch Punch who we really love. I also think it would be amazing to get in the studio with someone like Sia. I’ve been listening to her music since she was in Zero 7 and I’ve been so inspired by her progression.
Is there a new collaboration coming up in the near future?
C: We’ve been in the studio with some people this year. Being in the middle of the process, we can’t say anything concrete yet, but there hopefully should be a really great collab soon on horizon…
The fashion industry seems to be crazy about Alpines. How important are style and visual elements to you?
C: I did fashion design, where I was taught how to create a collection. It starts very often with a moodboard, wherein you try to set a language. I’ve taken that visual direction into writing albums.
B: It helps me as well. When we start writing a new batch of songs, Catherine will always come with some visual influences, which really gets me to grasp the sound of what we’re going for.
What makes your music such a good match with fashion and visual aesthetics?
B: It’s partly how we project ourselves, but it mainly must come from the way we approach the music: we do it as if we’re designing a collection or something.
C: I think it also has part to do with the themes we’re discussing. They’re broad and could be quite atmospheric in their approach, which leaves room for people to create their own imagination around them. When Hannah Marshall used our song Drive for her catwalk presentation, she said that she was looking for a song which would give space for the viewer to take in the collection, but also to have a strong back-burning rhythm for the models to walk to. I suppose that is something we do a lot; there’re very strong rhythmic elements, but there is also the feeling of space.
Speaking of aesthetics: next to the album cover, we very much like the video for Heaven, one of the tracks on the new album. How did this come into being?
C: We had built up a very coherent collection of photos for the album, where the Completely video was a moving image version of. For Heaven, we wanted to break out of that. Because we had been so central upon to that point within all the imagery, it seemed important to represent lots of other people, especially because the song is very human.
If it comes to visuals, which musicians do you take as an example?
C: Solange is just on another level; she’s so elegant in her style, and that returns in her videos as well. Then, there’s FKA twigs. She’s a very inspiring artist to me, because she’s pushing boundaries all the time.
B: In general, it’s all about artists who create a coherent whole. When you see something by them you see that it’s their art. Beyoncé does that like no other with her visual album.
C: I’m really interested in how important visuals are becoming for artists nowadays. They’ve always been important, but nowadays you can’t ignore the sight of things anymore.
Alpines mixes classical instruments like guitar and piano with a soulful synthpop sound. What makes that a success combination?
B: I think any kind of art using contrasts can get to something more interesting. I never wanted to play genre-bound music, such as rock music. Next to that, we both have quite different influences. Catherine loves soul, while I like some more experimental stuff. It’s by mixing both that you push things forward and start making interesting stuff.
Any concerts you’re really looking forward to during the tour?
B: Botanique in Brussels. Seems like an amazing venue.
The perfect audience?
B: We played to thousands of people when we supported Florence + the Machine, and that was amazing. It gives a really great feeling, but I still think you get the best shows when you play for about 100 people.
C: I agree. Because then, you can look people in the eyes and see their expressions. You get that whole symbiotic thing, the feeling that you’re all in this together.
One last question. If you had the choice, Catherine: would you choose Bob or your piano? And Bob: Catherine or your instruments?
C: That is really tough! The piano has been part of my life since I was about six. It’s an extension of me. But still: I choose Bob anyway.
B: I would definitely choose Catherine. We could write songs in a cappella—would be fun! [Both laughing]