NMR Interview: 'Alba' from Ålesund chats about the band and their plans for new releases...!
We first came across Bristol band 'Ålesund' just over a year ago, and featured them this time last year when they released their single 'Shift and Flux'. We caught up with singer 'Alba' during a noisy soundcheck gig in Manchester, where we chatted about the bands roots, their connections to 'Extinction Rebellion' and forthcoming single:
NMR: So firstly I have to ask, where did the name come from and can you give us the correct pronunciation?
Alba: ''So it's pronounced 'Aw-le-sund'.. I'm half Norwegian, my Dad is from Norway and he was born and brought up in Ålesund', which is a really beautiful West Coast town and has a really unique atmospheric quality, and given that we have always aimed to make atmospheric music it kind of felt appropriate to name ourselves after the town
NMR: So tell me, how did you guys meet?
Alba: ''Well I moved up to Bristol about 5 years ago and was looking for musicians to play with and I found Lloyd (my guitarist), but it took me ages to find him - Bristol as music scene is quite dominated by other genres of music, from jazz to ska to hip-hop, but I really knew the sound that I wanted to achieve from the band, and Lloyd understood that perfectly too - so it was worth the wait to find the right fit!''
''Ålesund... has a really unique atmospheric quality, it kind of felt appropriate to name ourselves after the town.''
NMR: I love the music scene in Bristol though, so many great little venues, from the Exchange to the Louisiana...
Alba: "Yes we love the Louisiana too, we just played there last week for the Bristol date of our tour! Bristol has an amazing and thriving music scene. I also sing as part of the Bristol Sessions which is night that aims to showcase local talent and is also a good place for Bristol musicians and singers to meet and jam together. Our bass player also plays with his other band called Little Thief who are doing really well locally, so there are lots of connections into the rest of the Bristol music scene too.
NMR: You've had so many live dates recently, and I also saw you've just played at an 'Extinction Rebellion' event in Bristol, how did that come about?
Alba: ''Yes we've just completed our tour! We've played two festivals in London and Wales and then had dates in Manchester, Stourbridge, Bristol, Southampton, Hastings and Deal - it's been amazing! We have one more date left this year at The Great British Folk Festival on 29th Nov. The Extinction Rebellion link up came from our producer Jake Bright who works with a violinist who's involved in lots of musical projects, and she's heavily involved with Extinction Rebellion and asked us to play at the Bristol protest, which we were just delighted to do. We were also asked to go down to London for the recent protests, but it unfortunately clashed with our tour.'
NMR: I'm really interested in whether things like Extinction Rebellion affect your songwriting, and the wider world in general. Clearly the worlds gone crazy with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in charge, does that influence the things you write about?
Alba: ''It's a funny one, because I always feel that I write about stuff which is happening in my world, whether they be experiences, friendships, relationships, but I never write overtly political songs, at least not with Ålesund. But I guess 'All Hail to your Queen' which will be a future single, came out of the latest rise of feminism, and the role of women in the music industry. There's clearly a lot of talk about this, whether it be festival line-ups or other imbalances, and the reality is that I'm just surrounded by men, whether I'm with my band, in the studio or at gigs, - we filmed a video recently and there were 10 guys working on it and just me. So that's where the song 'All Hail..' came from. I have written a song about Donald Trump, but its not really for this band, it doesn't quite fit... ''
NMR: I understand that, having listened to the soundcheck, the music you create has a real atmosphere, almost cinematic in its scale, and maybe that's more difficult to fit alongside a more political style song.
Alba: ''I think that's the case, I feel I always want to end up with a sense of happiness, I don't want it to be doom and gloom, it may start dark but I don't want it to end that way. I'd prefer music to be used as part of the healing process, personally I like to make things sound hopeful, as there's enough sadness in the world.''
''I'd prefer music to be used as part of the healing process... there's enough
sadness in the world.''
NMR: So you have a new single coming out soon?
Alba: ''Yes it's called 'Home' and it comes out on the 15th November. It was written about my friend from Australia who'd been travelling the world for 2 years through Asia and then Europe and then living in Bristol, she suddenly realised one day how much she missed her home country - and it got me thinking about that sense of belonging. 'Home' is simply about that attachment we can feel.''
NMR: Thinking about this then, how much do your Norwegian roots influence your songwriting, because especially hearing your music live today, I am struck that it does have a Nordic feel to it, reminding me a little of up and coming Norwegian bands such as Kalandra, who write similarly atmospheric cinematic music.
Alba: ''People definitely say this, my Mum, Dad and Sister have all lived in Norway, but they moved to Edinburgh when I was born, so my connections aren't as great as some of my family, but I travel there every year and it has a real nostalgia for me and there is something really deep rooted about my feelings for it. People laugh at me sometimes because I am always talking about Norway and how much I love it, but I'm not quite sure why the music has that sentiment, other than I guess I'm inspired by the dramatic and atmospheric natural surroundings.''
NMR: So what were your British musical roots then?
Alba:'' I was trained classically, went to a music school in East Sussex where I played violin as well as singing, playing in orchestras and singing in choirs and in Churches...which is where I probably got my love for big atmospheric sounds with lots of reverb! We've played a couple of gigs in Churches where the sound always seems to suit us. When I was younger I was possibly even a bit resentful of being so focused on just classical music, but now I'm so grateful for both the knowledge and the roots of classical music, because that taught me a real grounding in it all, and really helped shaped Ålesund's sound.''
NMR: Thanks for your time today, we look forward to hearing the new 'Ålesund' singles 'Home' and 'All Hail to Your Queen' in the next couple of months!
Also the above mentioned 'Kalandra' have an epic new video out, you can read about them here: