Interview: Alfa 9
Published on April 29th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Staffordshire five-piece Alfa 9 tickled our melodic sweet tooth with the gorgeous, jangly West Coast pop of their recent second album Gone to Ground, so Rocksucker caught up with singer/guitarist Phil Mason for a bit of a natter about the record and what their plans are for the summer ahead (in a gigging sense as opposed to a “going anywhere nice?” kind of way)…
The new album has a cleaner sound than the last one, if you will. What made you decide to go in this direction?
We’d done the first album then had a bit of a break, went away and did other things for a few months; we listened to the first album again and we’d done all these soundscapes, gone down the Pink Floyd route, so we thought, “Let’s go back to basics, write jingly, three or four minute songs that are good to sing along to and will hopefully get in people’s heads.
How do you go about working out your harmonies?
What we do is we’ll write a song, the main sort of melody, and we’ll build the harmonies around it: I’ll do some harmonies, then our acoustic guitar player Ali [Heath] will put some on, and we’ll just build the harmonies up around it. If they work they work, sometimes they don’t; sometimes we overdo the harmonies, do too many, but basically Ali and I have been playing in bands together since we were at school so it’s quite a natural thing for us now. When one of us goes one way, the other knows where to go harmony-wise.
You recorded the album with Mike Cave. What was he like to work with?
Mike Cave was absolutely brilliant. We worked with him in Liverpool for our few months recording our first album and he just became one of the band, basically. We’d all go down the local pub together after doing some recording, he just became part of the gang. We became nocturnal making that album because we’d get drunk after recording all day, get up at tea time then carry on recording again!
How did you get Myles Clarke to mix it?
Myles Clarke came through the record company. We sent the songs that we’d recorded ourselves off to the record company and Paul Tunkin, the head of Blown Out Records, has people to do mastering and remixing when it needs doing, and Myles Clarke is somebody he’s been working with. He sent the tracks over to Myles Clarke, Myles Clarke worked with them, there were a few bits and bobs we asked if he could change – “Can you make the bass/drums a bit louder here?”, stuff like that – and he was great about everything we asked for.
I think he had a perfect vision of how we saw the songs. He obviously knew what our influences were – The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Rain Parade, bands like this – so he knew where we were coming from. It was great to work with someone who knew the sort of sound we were after.
Are you playing any festivals this summer?
We’ve got the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia coming up in September, which should be really good. We’ve got a local one coming up in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and we might have some coming up in the summer but we’ve got nothing confirmed yet. We were a little bit late for getting into the festival circuit this year, but fingers crossed we’ll get a few more next year.
Finally, what new music have you been enjoying, or is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to that’s yet to come out?
To be honest we’ve been so busy with our own stuff that I haven’t had much chance to listen to new stuff, but I’ve been really enjoying Tame Impala, The See and Allah-Las.
Phil Mason, thank you.