Perched on the rickety steps of a disused garage in Austin are Nine Black Alps. The Manchester purveyors of intricate grunge-infused slabs of bombastic sonic measures are doing South By South West as part of their ongoing US tour, a country that has firmly embraced their raging tones. They’ve briefly escaped their label’s showcase party across the street to fill Clash in on why things have been so unusually quiet from their camp and how that’s all set to change shortly…
You’ve just shattered the eardrums of everyone at the Island Records party, which is a shame for the other bands that have to follow you! Do you know the other bands well?
Sam: I don’t know them at all. I didn’t know half of them were signed to Island. Last year we did it and recognised a few more of the bands. We played with Dogs.
James: I think we’re totally out of touch with what’s happening in British music. Either we don’t care or we don’t actually get home enough to keep up with it.
Martin: McFly and Sugababes are on Island but I don’t understand why they’re not playing here; it would be much more entertaining rather than crappy guitar bands!
You’ve been in the States now for quite a bit – what’s happening?
Sam: We’re over here for two months to promote the album. Before we were in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and LA. Now we’re just going across the bottom, up the other side and back down up to the West Coast.
Travelling the States must be a hard slog?
Sam: Sleeping is a major problem, but no it’s ace, it’s a dream come true.
Have you had good crowds at your shows here?
Sam: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. It’s always so different. In each city you never really know what to expect. It’s good to play anywhere. It doesn’t really matter whether anybody’s there or not or whether anybody’s heard of you or anything; it’s just good to play because that’s what bands are supposed to do.
Do you have the same sort of people coming to see you here as you would back home?
Martin: No, people are a lot older over here because all the cool clubs are over-21s and stuff, whereas in England we’ve got loads of kiddie fans. It’s weird playing to an older audience - they’ve got a bit more musical experience and they’re a bit more critical as well.
Sam: So we need to get the kids back in and get some mosh pits!
We’ve not heard much from you in the UK since your debut, ‘Everything Is’, was released last year, but now you have an EP coming out - is this a precursor to a new album?
Sam: It was just because the album has just been released in America, even though it’s been out for about a year in England. It was just something to release at home just prove that we still exist, to maintain a press profile.
David: A lot of the tracks on it were on the vinyl singles, so a lot of people were asking for it on CD because - it seems stupid to me - but some people don’t have record players, so people hadn’t actually heard them. So we’ve made this collection of songs.
Sam: There’s one new one, but the rest are all older.
I think we’re totally out of touch with what’s happening in British music. Either we don’t care or we don’t actually get home enough
So tell us about your plans for the new album.
Sam: Hopefully we’ll be starting in the summer. We’ll try and get something out this year, definitely. It depends on how long things take. Things always take longer than you expect. It kind of depends what happens in America as well. If we become as big as Elvis or something then we’ll stay over here for a bit longer.
Do you have any ideas for the new album that you can give us a clue about?
Sam: No, just got lots of songs but no real idea. It’s just more songs basically. There’s no real desire to try and do something else. We can only really do one thing with varying shades of it, so there’s just more songs and we’ll pick our favourites.
What can we expect from Nine Black Alps when you return to the UK? How is the new material sounding?
Sam: We can play seven songs so far. One is kinda poppy… they’re all kinda slower I think, kinda heavier…
Martin: They’re much bigger, heavier and slower, but they wouldn’t be out of place on the first album as well. I think they have progressed though; they’re more intricate and complex.
Sam: I think it’s just developed slightly, it’s kinda got a bit more intellectual. They’re still poppy, but they’re probably not as instantly likeable or catchy. They’re less fragmented; they’re more like proper songs.
So what brought on the change?
Sam: Just getting older I think.
David: I think it’s more that you get the opportunity to do it full time, it helps you concentrate more on your work.
Sam: Yeah, the first album, I liked writing melodies and chord structures and things and I had to write some words for it so I just put down any words that came into my head. And now you have to spend your entire life answering up to that. Some people are like, “Are you really suicidal?” And it’s like, “No, of course not”. It’s just whatever comes out you put down. I still do that but I’m definitely trying to think more about words to make sure they’re not embarrassing, because there are a few lines on the first album which I am ashamed of. I just want to make an album that I can actually live with.