Alex Arpino is an intriguing artist, with deeply ectletic influences spanning from his historical roots listening to hip hop and grunge, to indie pop, synth pop and new wave. And it tells on his self-titled release - an upbeat and joyful album with plenty of majestic pop moments and cinematic flair; it's almost too much fun. Read on to find out more ...
So, tell me the story of yourself and your relationship with music ...
I started out in the local graffiti scene, interested in hip hop and spent my days painting and developing as a visual artist. My music tastes were more skewed towards classic hip hop and groups like Ultramagnetic Mc's, KRS1 at the time, then i was introduced to Nirvana by a friend and it totally captivated me. I had taken a few guitar lessons in primary school but lost interest, but i still had a guitar in the house. I picked up some tips from a few people and got more confident as a guitar player, then the passion really grew for it. This led to some four track recordings and teaming up with a friend, we spent several years writing and my song writing chops developed over that time. From there it was building the courage to perform in front of people, playing open mic nights, the usual milestones you have to go through.Then i met up with some local players that had a lot of experience and were in active bands. By then i had quite a few demos stocked up and a few got around. I then put The Autumn Isles together, we played our first show in 2005. We had 10 great years, released two ep's and two albums, toured a few times and generally had a very creative and rewarding time. We had a few members come and go and some of our band members were having kids, the time felt right to cap it at year 10 and head into a new chapter. From there i took a few years off to build a new body of work, and here we are with my debut solo album!
You've released your debut self-titled album - how would you describe the music on this album?
The album is essentially a love letter to the various genres i have loved throughout my youth. It was approached with a need to get back to the simple pleasure of a good pop tune. I had a sense of fatigue coming off the back of a 10 year commitment with The Autumn Isles, i had questioned what i wanted to do - music wise, so i feel this record has a purelty about it, no agenda, no expectation, just someone enjoying the creative process. It has some soulful moments, punchy synth pop and some big pop moments. I enjoy building layers and always try to find a cinematic quality to my songs.
Who did you have working and performing on the album?
I was lucky enough to have Malcolm Clark (The Sleepy Jackson) come in and play all the drums, he has a really great groove and years of experience in the studio so his input was invaluable. I then had a few people come in and play some parts - Kiersten Fage plays Cello on a few songs, Peter Yuncken plays brass, Dylan Hooper on Saxophone and Amy Rosato sings backing vocals on a few songs. I then had Laurie Sinagra come in and help with mixing the record and Simon Struthers mastered the album.
What has the response been to your debut album?
I have approached this record differently in that i didn't have a band or previous presence as a solo artist, so it has been a gradual introduction to the world. The feedback i have had has been positive, and there has been interest as to when i will take it to a stage. I look forward to more people hearing the album and my focus has been to get a band together to start performing it.
How has your song writing and approach to music evolved since your time in your indie-rock band "The Autumn Isles"?
I feel i am more able to explore different genres. Although i wasn’t fixed to a certain thing in The Autumn Isles, it was a band with each member bringing their signature vibe, when we played it sounded like "The Autumn Isles". I think i was mindful of that when writing for the band and our sound evolved gradually over the ten years, as we grew together. For this album i had no previous landmark to stick to so it was all based on mood and what i felt like doing at the time. I found the whole process to be really liberating and a lot of fun.
Now you've finished your album - what next?
I have put together an excellent band, i am very excited to play with this group and explore this new material. We played our first show on 26th July for Fremantle's Hidden Treasures Festival, and we have an album launch booked for 1st September at the Sewing Room in Perth. I have enjoyed making videos for the first two singles 'Space Ghost (In a Puppet)' and 'I Remember You (Dancing with the Devil)', I plan on doing a third video in the coming months. From there, more shows and there is always writing going on in the back ground so I’m excited to see where this all goes.
What influences and informs your song writing?
For me there needs to be some valuable insight or process involved in finding a song, I think the timeless songs are those that people have lived or experienced in some way, so i always try and dig deeper to find that. There also needs to be an instinctual quality, particularly in the melody, it needs to flow out of you. I think we can over think things to a point it loses that hook, I always look for that in a song.
You're creating your own "various artists" mix-tape of your ultimate tracks. What songs do you include?
(an example, in no particular order)
If i had to pick something from my record it would be 'Space Ghost (In a Puppet), I Remember You (Dancing With the Devil), Falling Away to the Moonlight, With Your Love
Other artists would be:
ELO - Livin' Thing
Sonic Youth - Diamond Sea
Radiohead - Knives Out
David Bowie- Life On Mars?
The Beatles- Here Comes the Sun
The Beatles - Something
Father John Misty- Just Dumb Enough to Try
Dr Octagon- Blue Flowers
Fleetwood Mac - Dreams
Beach Boys- God Only Knows
Oasis- Stand By Me
John Denver- Annie's Song (The Ultimate Collection Version)
Boz Scaggs- Lido Shuffle
Christopher Cross- Ride Like the Wind
Belinda Carlisle - Leave a Light On
Bee Jees- More Than a Woman
Michael Jackson- Billie Jean
Beck - Lost Cause
ABBA - Ring Ring
Forienger - I Want to Know What Love Is
Blur- Coffee and TV
The Shins- New Slang
Nirvana - Milk It
We could be here all day!
If you could curate your own music festival, and include yourself on the bill, what local, Australian and international artists would you book? Who would headline?
Ok that is a hard one, but here goes- in order from headline - Paul McCartney, ELO, Sonic Youth (they miraculously reform for the festival), Beck, Elvis Costello, Tame Impala, The Shins, Sloan, The Lemon Twigs, Father John Misty, Lana Del Ray, Grizzly Bear, Portishead, Grimes, First Aid Kit,The Sleepy Jackson (2004 Line Up), Alex Arpino, 6's & 7's, Lucy Peach, Steve Hensby's Circus, Tenderhooks.
With mc duties by Molly Meldrum
You're 18 at a gig. What band t-shirt are you wearing?
Sonic Youth -Washing Machine
What was your first concert/gig?
I saw Johnny Diesel and the Injectors at the Perth Entertainment Centre - 5th August 1989.
If your music was to be used as a soundtrack for a film, what genre of film is it, who would you want directing it, and who would star?
It would be an indie film, a redemption story with a paranormal element, starring Natalie Portman, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, Joel Edgerton, Alison Brie and Saorise Ronan. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
If you had to play a completely different genre of music to what you do now, what would it be?
Noise Rock/Shoe Gaze
Tell us about a gig you've played that you could never forget...
I've been lucky enough to support some international touring acts and play a festival or two. For me though it is the more intimate moments, when you are launching a record and everyone is there to acknowledge the work put in and celebrate local original music. Probably the last Autumn Isles launch for 'A Bird Called Cognition', a very fun night and it felt like a big achievement to get to that point.
What food/drink serving suggestions do you have for this album?
For this album I would suggest a sparkling Shiraz (The Black Chook comes highly recommended), a fresh palate with notes of dark fruit. Followed by a range of tapas, accentuating the diversity found on the album, moving through the fresh and refined (oysters, prawns), to the bold and flavourful (Croquettes, Chorizo, Beef Cheek) and finally arriving to a substantial portion of Tiramisu, a reassuring hug of creamy sweetness that balances the bitterness of coffee.