Sweet Alibi Don’t Need Excuses
Taking a break can be daunting for a band, but a productive time away is a great excuse, or alibi for that matter. For Sweet Alibi, this meant a lot of rearranging their dynamics and how they wanted to sound going into their latest record. We spoke to member Amber Rose, ahead of Sweet Alibi's October 5 show at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield to talk about switching sounds, dealing with real-life and the terrors of the road.
Ottawa Life: Starting off with your new single "Confetti" how did you find inspiration from a radio story and some more personal family issues?
Amber Rose (Sweet Alibi): Jess was driving while listening to CBC, and they told this story about an Austrian woman who had a million dollar savings. She decided to destroy it all because her family was fighting over it during her life. Sadly as it turns out, the government reinstated the money so she didn't get her way in the end. Then again, she could've donated it, money's a tough thing. Jessica also recently lost her grandmother, and the same kind of thing happened with her family because of the money. It can destroy families, which is sad. I love the line though, "You just can't take it when you go," because we spend our whole lives saving and it's all money, money, money. But when you die, none of that matters.
And how did you want to interpret that darkness in the musical side of things, and how did the sonic evolution come about here from your prior material?
Well this is the first release we'd done in four years, and in that time we've been busy. It's hard as a band when you don't release material for years like that. I've had people ask if the band was still together. We've been using the time to hone in on our skills and remove elements, like how we used to have a lot of ukulele and banjo in the band. Our influences are a bit different now. We listen to different music these days, and I like the clean pop sound while still keeping our stories folk-natured. Folk music to me is the stories and its importance in the song. The clean drums and guitars and the upbeat feel is kind of nice, even when you have a dark story. We've changed how we play, and we've thought a lot going into this new record we're working on now. It's a lot more polished.
On this note too you had been gone for so long, so was it really all huddling around where to go next?
We're in our 30s and life changes then. After my mother passed away, I slowed down with a lot of things and that kind of thing really changes you. It made me step back a lot, and Jess and Michelle did too! Family is really important and we'd been on the road all the time. There was also all the writing, because we didn't want to just put out another record right away. We'd met up once a week to work on song and talk about where we wanted it to go so we didn't force things. We're also with new management, so this is our first record with them so there's been getting people on the same page. Between that and the family stuff, it's taken time but it feels like it's gone by so fast. We've been playing that whole time too, tour is grueling between the driving and gigs, and going home. There isn't a lot of time to write there, and you're using free time to talk to family too. We've had vans break down too, and witnessing vicious accidents. It's scarred me because we've luckily avoided accidents but it's scary. Our booking agent passed away too, so that was very tough, and it all just slowed things down along with the sadness of it.
How did you find Alabama Shakes and Bahamas influencing your sound this time around, and how did Matt Peters and Matt Schellenberg help you achieve that?
We'd be listening to Alabama Shakes in the van all the time, picking out lines or sounds that we wanted to sound like. For the producers though we discussed a lot about who we wanted, because you're essentially choosing another artist to be part of your band. You're giving them the highest vote too, picking guitar lines or vocal takes. The Matt's are in Royal Canoe, and they have such great music and song writing. You can tell they're really great at picking melodies. We'd been in the same circles so we thought we'd get along, which is good considering how much time you spend together on a record. After that it was just a matter of if they were available. We discuss music on the road so much, so loving Alabama Shakes lyrics and dynamic was a focus. For Bahamas, we're a harmony band. So looking at his backup singers and how they elevated the songs was very important. We're known for our three-part harmonies so it made sense. The guitar tones and lines were big too, and he was definitely someone who we would have loved to have on the producing end too.
For readers who don't know, what's the story behind the genesis of Sweet Alibi?
We first got together in 2009. Jess had been singing in a blues band, while Michelle was fresh out of music school. I was looking to play music with people, and they had known each other from high school and already wanted to play together. So I met Jess through mutual friend and we tried it out. We wrote "Pick Me Up" in our first session together. We actually deleted that music from platforms because we've moved so far away from that sound now, and it was a period of trying things out. We're clearer on our message and direction so it's different these days, on top of the instrumentation we had back then.