Alpine: Oh Ew! | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Oh Ew!

Jun 05, 2015
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Lou James will tell you just about anything. It’s her band Alpine—from their revealing lyrics to social media presence—where anyone and everyone who asks will get an answer. But today, clad in an oversized black sweater and clutching a coffee cup, the Australian has chilling out and chatting in mind. Save for the stock of shocking pink hair, it would be almost impossible to pick the perennially glam frontwoman out from a crowd of Melbourne, Australia’s 20-something population. It’s a physical transformation, emblematic of a conflict, she says, that often informs her and co-frontwoman Phoebe Baker’s lyrics.

“We love glam and we love to dress up,” she notes. “Obviously when you’re a girl, you like to look pretty! But sometimes, I can’t be bothered. I just want to look gross. I want to feel gross. It’s dealing with that…I love to look good, but I hate to look good. I’m really insecure, but I’m totally owning it. I felt like this album was definitely a lot of back and forth. Not knowing how to react to those things.”

A gauzy collection of electropop tunes on the surface, Yuck’s inherit tension reveals itself with multiple spins—a study in contrasts. The meld of acoustic guitars with ones and zeros. The sunny pop hooks redefined with a sense of icy attachment. James and Baker’s jazzy slurs twisting into each other as they ruminate on love, sex, life, and the ambiguity that lays in between it all. Confessional? Yes. James will be the first to admit that songs can double as mini diary entries. But it’s also an unabashedly glam outing. That aspect, says James, can be traced right back to a very specific parental influence.

“My dad had this epic vinyl collection,” she recounts. “He had a lot of things like Todd Rundgren and Roxy Music. Whenever he came home from work, I got to choose a record. I probably picked it just based on the art. Like that Roxy Music album [their fourth, Country Life] that had the two Amazonian women looking quite Playboy—you can see parts of breasts. At such a young age, I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. It was so wild! My dad’s collection framed my taste in music.”

After a whirlwind few weeks of recording that produced the band’s debut effort, A is For Alpine, this time the clutch of musicians (which also include Christian O’Brien, Ryan Lamb, Tim Royall, Phil Tucker) were given almost a year of studio time. James remembers the few minute bike ride from her house to work with a grin, and also notes that the expanded work time resulted in a much tighter, accessible song-cycle. But there were also heartaches. Ends of relationships. Family drama. Illness. Heartbreak. And so, the album became known as Yuck.

“When I was younger, I had this idea that life is difficult and confusing and uncomfortable” James notes, laughing lightly at the memory. “But when you get in your late 20s, it’s fine. Time had passed after we wrote the first album, and we realized that we’re still dealing with a lot of similar themes, but we recognized that we were a bit older and we were a little bit wiser. We were able to laugh at it. Oh my God, it still sucks! It’s still really gross! It’s still really hard!…The word ‘yuck,’ which is in the lyrics for “Foolish” was this perfect reaction. But it was also us having a laugh. Yuck is such a playful, bratty word. When you say the word yuck, you really mean it. It’s real reaction against something that you never want to happen again. Or you can’t believe that it happened. Like when you smell something really gross and you’re just like, ‘Yuck!’ It’s that reaction. It’s sort of surreal, it’s funny.”

Funny, says James, because she’s finally starting to gain a bit of perspective.

“I feel like I’m really understanding myself a lot more at the moment,” she continues.

At this reveal, she grins and takes another swig of her coffee. “I’m valuing myself more. I’m a good person. I’ve always been quite hard on myself. At the moment, just grooving my vibe. Which is really uplifting. It doesn’t happen a lot, especially when you’re a girl. You can always feel a little bit like, ‘ooohh.’ Just being cool in my own skin at the moment is making me happy.”




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