IN CONVERSATION WITH: CATHERINE POCKSONAugust 26, 2015
As one half of electronic duo, Alpines, Catherine Pockson has toured with Florence Welch and sung with The Maccabees. Having played the piano since she was ten years old, as well as a more recent dabble in bin drumming, Catherine always daydreamed about being a musician. A debut album later, we’re sitting with her in her home recording studio to talk dream collaborations, the influence of nature and the sound of Alpines.
UO: When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I have always made music, written songs and played piano since I was about 10 years old. I never thought I could be a musician, as my grades weren’t great and I was told at school that if I tried to become a musician I’d end up a waitress. So in a way, due to the infrastructure around me it never seemed as if it could be a reality, only a day dream throughout my life growing up. But then I finished university and felt that being a musician was the only thing that made sense to me – it incorporated all of the things I love in life.
UO: Do you play any instruments?
Piano. Oh, and last week I played a metal bin to add ‘build’ and human touch to a piece we were working on. Bob reminded me that having never drummed in my life it would be a pointless exercise, but I am happy to say that my bin drumming made it onto the track!
Shop: Free People Pink City Maxi Dress and Cheap Monday Salt Pearl Necklace in Silver.
UO: When did you meet Bob and how did Alpines come about?
We met at a wedding in 2010. Bob was in the wedding band and I was doing my solo work at the time, gigging all over with my piano. Bob was producing songs on the side, he’s such a wizard with making beats. One day he suggested I go round to his to listen to what he had created, and I instantly connected to his tracks singing over the top of them and within days we had written a handful of songs.
UO: You describe your sound as ‘Night Pop’ – how did this sound develop for you? Did you always know this was where you wanted to position yourself?
Night Pop was actually a kind of joke to try and make the point that labelling music nowadays is meaningless. In fact labels as a whole are meaningless. We said that if we make a ‘label’ for our sound, the journalists would love it and they did. When we first started making music we wrote a lot at night because we both had other jobs during the day. We also used to drive around late at night listening to artists such as Burial, Jamie Woon and The xx when we first met, and these artists really inspired us. But I suppose we’ve gone past the term night pop now.
I like to think you can listen to our songs day or night. I think the new album would be best listened to at twilight actually. Maybe we should make a new label ‘Twilight pop’, but then I think we would run the risk of having R Patz fans turning up to the shows, being disappointed that the songs have nothing to do with vampires and star crossed lovers. Either way labels are ridiculous, we are just as inspired by hip hop as we are classical music- everything affects us.
Shop: Minkpink Chunky Knit Roll Neck Jumper and LF Markey Flare High Rise Flare Jean.
UO: You talk about always keeping your music fresh – where do you think Alpines is headed in the future?
I hope we have the chance to release many more albums in the future, I know we have so many more songs in us. I like to think that albums will still have their place down the line. But who knows, in this digital world we live in anything can happen. Freshness is an interesting concept, I suppose by that we mean trying to be contemporary with what we do. How does an artist stay contemporary? I suppose they juxtapose the past with the present and everything in between in order to carve out a new sound that pushes boundaries. Shapes what is to come.
UO: Who would be your dream collaboration?
UO: What’s been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
Regrouping when we left our label and managers back in 2012 was a real challenge and subsequently releasing our first album with no support at all was very hard. It was a real test of perseverance.
UO: What’s been the highlight of your career?
So many highlights. We have been so lucky. But I suppose supporting Florence and The Machine at Ally Pally has to be a great highlight.
Shop: Pins & Needles Frill Detail Blouse and Senso Sadie III Snake Pony Boot.
UO: What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned?
I feel like I could write a book on the lessons I have learnt working in and around the music industry – In fact I probably will write it one day! But above all we have learnt that you shouldn’t give up just because others around us might have other priorities at that particular time. You have to have very thick skin to survive in this industry – it’s a business. There really isn’t time for self doubt, sprinklings of it here and there keep you humble and can drive you forward which is important, but you have to really believe in your art above all. This is so important when making music because there will be quiet times and you have to focus and be tough on your own, you have to know in your heart and also in your gut that this is what you were meant to do.
UO: Who or what inspires you both personally and professionally?
Everything and anything, which I know sounds really lame, but I feel like such a sponge sometimes. I am so open to everything from the mundane everyday happenings, to life changing exciting trips. I am all eyes and ears to inspiration all the time. We also love cinema, just this morning we went to see the Iris Apfel movie and immediately went out afterwards to source things for our album photo shoot. We learn so much from other artists and musicians. We love reading and exploring nature. We are massive nature lovers.
UO: What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Has that inspired your sound now?
I grew up listening to a lot of blues, soul and folk music. My Dad loved all these genres especially. I also had a cousin who worked for Domino records when I was a young teenager and he introduced me to cool music at the time. Every Christmas he would give me loads of promo CDs from that year. So as well as listening to Lauryn Hill and En Vogue on repeat with my friends, I was also learning about the music of Elliot Smith, Portishead, Massive Attack and Radiohead. All in all, a pretty eclectic mix. It definitely inspired the way I used to write growing up, and I am sure in a way it will always have a part to play in my music now.
Shop: Urban Renewal Vintage Remnants Blue Midi Kimono Top and Urban Outfitters Shiny Roll Neck Jumper.
UO: What are you looking forward to this autumn?
I am really looking forward to working on the visual side of the album such as making videos and artwork. For months now, I have been building moodboards for this side of things so I cannot wait to bring it all to life!
UO: You coined the name Alpines because of your shared love for nature: where does that love come from? How do you manage to connect with nature when you have a schedule which keeps pretty busy?
The first road trip we ever did was driving to the Alps in the summertime. Bob made a whole cd book of CDs which we listened to for hours on end for inspiration. The mountains are our favourite landscape. Nature is timeless, it was here way before us and it will be here way after we are gone. I suppose we both gain a lot of peace from that knowledge. Alpines are actually small flowers that grow in the highest reaches of the mountains, they are very hardy and survive all conditions. We both grew up with parents who love nature and would teach us about it all the time, which would probably explain why we both love it. We live really near Richmond Park and it is the perfect place to have a bit of a break from the studio. Wide, open, green space away from everything is the perfect way to rejuvenate and get back to work. I couldn’t now imagine working in an inner city doing what we do, it would be too intense!
UO: What is your favourite era?
This changes all the time. We are both obsessed with history! Mine would have to be either the Ancient Greek period because they were such visionaries. The art they were making, the buildings they were building and the philosophy they were figuring out arguably rivals any other period in my opinion. Or, just for very romantic reasons I love the 1960′s. For the movies, the starlets and the clothing.
UO: What is your must-have wardrobe staple?
This is a difficult one as I am always evolving what I love to wear. But I do love a high waisted flared pair of jeans, paired with a black turtle neck. Easy elegance that can be adapted with various accessories to be more or less glamorous.
UO: Which designers are you loving the most right now?
Marta jakubowski, Casely-Hayford, James Long, Lukhanyo Mdingi, and Sophie Hulme for her amazing bags. I could go on, but these guys are all brilliant. Everything Riccardo Tisco touches I love too. Then there’s my friend Marina London who makes classically beautiful silk pieces. Super proud of how far she has come.
I’m currently listening to… The Maccabees new album ‘Marks to Prove It’
My guilty pleasure is… Oreo milkshake
If I could unhear a song, it would be… ‘bird is the word’
My favourite time of the day is… dusk
My favourite season is… Autumn
My biggest release is… hitting a tennis ball really hard
If I could be anywhere in the world right now it would be… on a mountain overlooking the world