Written by Yusuf Laher
15 Sunday 15th May 2011

Out last Monday, the new self-titled release is Alpers' third (and perhaps last) full-length as Bachelorette. Musically, it's a rich contrast of styles. From Björk-sounding and oddly beautiful, to gentle, dreary melodies, medieval-sounding folk and bubblegum-synth power pop. Recently, Alpers wrapped up a whirlwind tour of the US and Canada with Peter Bjorn and John. On May 23, she hits the UK for a four date stop over with The Phoenix Foundation, before heading on to the rest of Europe. I caught up with her to talk natural disasters, waveforms and Osama.

I read that you wrote the album on tour, from the UK to Libya. Do you think writing around the world influenced the different sounds?

I assume so. Although I don’t think I could really put my finger on how. I recorded a lot of the songs in England, and when I was staying with my mum in Libya. She was teaching at a high school in Tripoli. I recorded 'Not Entertainment' in Tripoli. I sampled a Muslim call to prayer that rang out over the neighbourhood five times a day. 

Overall, the music sounds quite isolated, were you alone a lot?  

I was. I work on my own. I record on my own... I was living on my own in a little guest house in Virginia a lot of the time. I just do that ‘cos that’s the way I work best - without distraction. It can get lonely, I suppose. But I’m not trying to make myself lonely. I’m just more productive when I don’t have lots of people around to distract me. 

What’s the most vivid memory from your worldwide writing session?

It’s hard to say. It’s all pretty vivid. I loved being in Virginia in Autumn. There’s a big national park and all the trees were bright red and yellow. And of course, being in Libya as well. In England I was staying at my sister’s house just outside Oxford. Which made me realise I had to go stay somewhere on my own – I was too distracted.

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And how do you actually write songs like these? Do you write them as complete pieces on a laptop or start off with rough ideas and build them as you record?

I tend to start with a melody that pops into my head, somehow. Then I start thinking about what instrumentation suits the melody. Start thinking about lyrics. Then I start constructing it on the computer. I write as I record.

Waveforms opens with the lines, “The waveforms are our friends, they don’t personalise, or even criticise, they peacefully oblige”. So is it safe to assume you find comfort in your music?

Yeah... I think that’s probably a fair assumption.

Does it ever feel like you relate to waveforms better than real people?

Er... I guess on previous albums, I’ve used electronic and scientific things as metaphors for human relationships. Just things that we could learn from, scientific things that are happening between people and all around us, that we’re not always aware of.

Okay. So you don’t wish your human relationships were as easy as manipulating waveforms then?  

Yeah. I think people relate to each other the same way that waveforms communicate. Sorry, I’m not explaining myself very well.     

Do you ever miss the camaraderie of your previous bands or do prefer working alone?

I definitely want to play music with other people again. I feel like I’ve done enough solo music making and I’d like to do something more collaborative after this album. It’s more fun having someone else pushing you.

When you play live, is it just you on stage?  

Yeah, I do a lot of live sampling, recording and looping – I try to do as much as I can live. So it’s not the same every time.  So there’s an element of ‘liveness’, instead of just pre-recorded things. The recordings are just one snap shot, it’s not the only way. So it’s nice to play live and reinterpret the material.

Do you record everything yourself?

Yes. Although, on this album, my friend Dino Karlis played the drums in a studio in Berlin.

Favourite track on the album?

I like ‘Tui Tui’. It’s about a Tui (native bird) that was living in a tree in my back yard in New Zealand. I have a fondness for that song. They have an amazing call, Tuis. They can copy other sounds. That’s where I got the idea for that whistling melody, from what the bird was singing. But it’s not a native Tui call, just something it heard somewhere else.  I also have a fondness for ‘Not Entertainment’ as well, just because of what it’s about.

You’re from New Zealand but now live in New York. How are you enjoying your new surroundings?

I really like living in New York. I didn’t expect that I would. I’ve always felt that being from New Zealand, I would need a lot of space. And that a big city wouldn’t suit my temperament. But there’s something about New York I really enjoy.

What’s New York like at the moment, following the reported elimination of Osama Bin Laden? I imagine people are dancing in the streets?

Yeah, that’s a bit weird. I find that strange. There are lots of people that seem to find it as strange as I do. They’re not happy about the whole Osama Bin Laden thing. It was all over the news. I’m on tour at the moment. I was at a hotel when the news came. All over the radio, people were saying it was a real victory for America. It’s a little bit odd, that stuff.

New Zealand’s had a pretty hard time lately, what’s your take on all these crazy natural disasters causing havoc around the world?

I was in New Zealand at the time. I was in an aeroplane just about to land when the last devastating quake hit. I spent a couple of weeks there right afterwards. Apparently, a third of the buildings in Christchurch have had to be demolished. And most of them are the historic buildings. So it’s going to be unrecognisable.

Must have been quite intense?  

People lost their homes, friends and family. Yeah, nature definitely doesn’t discriminate. And there’s not really anything we can do about it. I had a couple of friends saying things about the apocalypse, which I can understand. I mean, there were floods in Australia just before, there’s tornados in America... Perhaps nature’s readjusting itself.

Does the name Bachelorette mean you’re anti-marriage?

No, I just thought it was a suitable name for a solo project. I didn’t want to use my name. I just thought the name suited it, musically. I didn’t intend it to be a statement about marriage or anything.

Does it mean you're a huge Björk fan?

I don't own any of Björk's music but I listened to The Sugarcubes as a teenager. Bachelorette's a word that gets used a lot. I just liked the way it looked written down. Thanks for asking this question so I can clarify that my music's not influenced by Björk! Though I respect what she does.

Have you ever been close to marriage yourself?

No, I haven’t.

What’s next?  

I’m off to Europe. I’m playing some shows in England. More shows in September. Then I want to rest. As I said, I’d like work on projects with other people. Because it’s a solo project, I wouldn’t want to collaborate as Bachelorette. So Bachelorette would be on an indefinite hiatus... Sorry, I’m a bit inarticulate this morning.

For more, visit Bachelorette's official website.

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