March 19, 2015
Fuzz pop trio Alright have been sugar-coating the Charlotte music scene since March of last year. Now they’re kicking off their first tour with an EP release party this Friday at the honorable Snug Harbor. Alright consists of current and former members of local bands like Late Bloomer, It Looks Sad and Pullman Strike. Josh Robbins (bass) and Sarah Blumenthal (vocals and guitar) also founded Self Aware Records and run their own screen printing business. Alright’s music comes whirling out in shaggy-bangs, angsty guitar, Converse-wearing bass lines and cannonball-splash drumbeats. They are capable of making the listener feel nostalgic and riled up all at once with their energy and a summer-flannel sound that would make Angela Chase or even Lelaina Pierce a fan upon first listen.
Their self-titled 7” is available for pre-order via Self Aware Records. Make sure to stop into Snug Harbor this Friday for Alright’s tour send-off with The Mineral Girls and Banda Suki.
CLTure: First of all, I have so many pressing questions about your album cover. Can you explain what’s up with the delicious, creamy, wonderful birthday party-esque cake on a table with a slingshot, army men and array of plastic dinosaurs? Do all the toys represent some deeper aspect? Why such an ornately decorated cake? Was it a real cake that someone took photos of and if so, tell me you ate it?
Garrett Herzfeld: I don’t think there’s a deeper aspect than the fact that it’s cute. It’s ornately decorated because Anna Murray is a master baker, and yes it is in fact a photo of a real cake.
Josh Robbins: I ate the cake and it was delicious.
Sarah Blumenthal: I think Josh came up with the idea for the cake? I’m not sure, sometimes he steals my ideas and then I don’t know what’s going on. Our good friend Anna made/decorated the cake. She’s so amazing and talented, and while this cake is pretty cool, some of the other stuff she does is unreal. It was definitely a real cake and we staged it and took photos of it.
CLTure: How many bands altogether are members of Alright in? I lost count at around six.
Josh: 5 or 6, depends if you count my fake solo stuff, Body Double.
Garrett: We don’t.
Sarah: Including Alright and Josh’s fake solo stuff, I’m getting 7, but that doesn’t include all the bands Garrett has started and/or joined in the last week or so.
CLTure: What books and albums are you not leaving the house without for your upcoming tour?
Josh: I will download podcasts and force people to listen to the new Two Inch Astronaut album a bunch.
Garrett: I’m hoping to have my iPod fixed this week before tour so I don’t have to listen to Josh’s podcasts and albums. Just kidding’, I like WTF with Marc Maron and other podcasts he listens to but I’ll be cranking the new Kendrick and Joey Bada$$ plus Single Mothers, with whom my other band Cabrón is playing on March 31st at the Milestone.
Sarah: I just picked up [Kim Gordon’s memoir] Girl in a Band from Lunchbox and cannot wait to start reading it! Also All the Pretty Horses (by Cormac McCarthy) is the last of The Border Trilogy that I have to finish, so that will probably come too. I’m not even worrying about music, Josh and Karl (of Museum Mouth, who is filling in on drums for Late Bloomer) will pretty much maintain tight control. Luckily, between the two of them, I’m pretty sure all my interests are covered.
CLTure: A big part of Alright capturing the signature nostalgic, 90s sound (often referred to as “bratty”) are the female vocals over fuzzy bass and headstrong drumming. Is this the sound you guys are going to cultivate or are you still molding into what fits best?
Josh: I think it is the sound we specifically make together. I feel like I just try and write from an honest place. What I listen to and what I grew up listening to has no choice but to sweat itself out of me while writing songs.
Garrett: This is what naturally came out, but some of our newer songs do go in a slightly different direction. So, I think we’ll be staying pretty true to ourselves while also allowing ourselves to reach over into new territories at least a little.
Sarah: I feel like I am definitely evolving as a guitar player and our sound changes a little bit with that, but it’s still all about the fuzz. Also Josh is singing more on the newer stuff, so that can give it a different feel. I would say that it’s less “bratty” than our demo and 7”, but it still has the same tendencies. We all have our own styles and ways of going about things and those threads are going to show up no matter what.
CLTure: You’ve released a cassette called Sleep Study and now a new 7” Cold Feet. What can we look for next?
Garrett: A full-length will hopefully be our next endeavor.
Josh: The next album will be called Cold Cuts and will feature pictures of tasty sandwiches.
Sarah: Next up, looking for a new bass player.
CLTure: Sarah, instead of band swag buttons and stickers, have you started making those band-brooches we discussed yet?
Sarah: SADLY these aren’t a thing yet. Does anyone know anyone who can make this be a thing?!
CLTure: What bands would you officially cite as influences?
Josh: I always say Hüsker Dü, but I don’t think that would be any way representative to what we actually sound like.
Garrett: I’d be silently lying if I didn’t say that Travis Barker influences the parts I come up with for this style of music.
Sarah: The Promise Ring, Jawbreaker, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World and every single thing ever that I can sing along to.
CLTure: Alright shares feminist articles from established blogs on social media. Have you all experienced misogyny individually since you’ve been in the music scene? What are ways you think that negative, oppressive mindset can be addressed and beaten?
Josh: I’m not a woman, so I could never act like I know what it feels like, but on a more personal level, I’ve seen on many occasions people assume Sarah is a “merch girl,” and that is super rude and disrespectful. There are many times where people will treat a female in a band like an object or an oddity and not a human being. Having a woman in a band is not a schtick, it’s just another person in a band. People need to get away from using terms like female-fronted, because it creates a spectacle and puts a female in the position of “the other.” In the indie/DIY scene we should be accepting of all people. I will admit, it’s hard to get away from these labels, I’ve used them myself. It’s not entirely problematic it just doesn’t help the conversation.
Sarah: Oh man. I’m so lucky to be in a band with two guys who really get it and support me in the way that I feel about this stuff. I try not to be aggressive, but I do think it’s very, very important. So I’ll share blogs and articles and talk about it and anything else I can so that people know where I (and we as a band) stand on the issue. I’m not trying to start a fight, but I think it’s important information and it needs to be out there, and if I can help it to be more out there, that’s awesome. And if you really want to fight with me about it, we can do that too. Frustrating things like sound techs assuming that I don’t know anything about my gear, or taking it upon themselves to “fix” my levels for me. The first review we ever had of our demo, which can be pretty much summed up by “woman fronted Late Bloomer side project” (at the time Josh and Scott from Late Bloomer were playing in Alright), definitely got under my skin.
These are all little things that are tendrils of a larger root problem. Everyone who was “at fault” in one of those scenarios meant well, but meaning well does not negate the fact that what you’re doing is demeaning and oppressive. There have been other situations with people who clearly don’t understand why “girl band” isn’t a genre, or why, as a male, they can’t be in a “girl band,” or why the fact that they’re even saying “girl band” is a problem, or why the fact that it’s OK because it’s just a joke is the exact reason that it’s not OK. There’s really an endless vault of examples. The biggest thing we can do about it is to not sweep it under the rug. Put it out there, make people aware of it. I’m a girl, and I’m in a band, but I’m a lot more than that, and we as a band are a lot more than that. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t make a big deal about something because I don’t want people to think I’m a bitch or I’m just being super sensitive, but feeling things and having emotions – being offended or feeling like you’re being forced into a box you don’t belong in is OK, and it’s OK for you to say it’s not OK.
CLTure: What are you going to miss the absolute most while on tour?
Sarah: Sprocket cuddles. Sprocket kisses. Sprocket walks. Why isn’t everyone’s answer to this question “Sprocket?”
CLTure: All three of you have been members of the Charlotte music scene for a long time. What’s your favorite thing about our little scene?
Garrett: I like that we are inclusive and open to helping people from other places with booking a show. It might not end up being the greatest one, but it’s always at least something.
Josh: I like Phil Pucci.
Sarah: Charlotte has a great scene, and anyone who says otherwise is misinformed. My favorite thing about the Charlotte music scene is definitely the people involved in it – maybe it’s just the people that I choose to surround myself with, but the amount of support we got as a new band, and are still getting at this point, is overwhelming. I don’t think that’s unique to Alright. We’ve really created a web of people and bands and we all look out for each other, and that’s a really lucky and unusual thing to have.
Catch Alright with Late Bloomer, The Mineral Girls and Banda Suki Friday March 20th at Snug Harbor.