Alphastates -
                 a voice that kisses
                 the pulse of passion

It's not hard to remember the first night I heard Alphastates.  I was listening to a bunch of new artists and I came to this relatively unassuming red page.  I heard the song Addicted and it was just great, the keyboards were amazing and the singer was quite good.  Then I listened to Sometimes and Angel Kiss and I was so overwhelmed I had to call a friend and tell him to listen.  Recently I had the chance to hear both of their CDs including their upcoming record, and the thing that strikes you is that, well.. ALL of their songs are really good.  No weak moments, no filler material, there is an amazing craft that goes into this, some exceptional natural songwriting talent along with a perfect mix of vocals and well-thought-out backing tracks that make Alphastates simply one of the best indie acts in the world right now.  Their peer artists elected them Best Band in the 2006 Golden Kayak awards, and they also got Best Electronic Song with Angel Kiss.  They have had 4 number one songs on the Kayak Big 50.  Even all this doesn't do them justice though, I've got to take a moment to say something extra about Catherine Dowling, whose singing just grows and grows on you, penetrates your every pore until you find yourself in a state of dazed bliss.  There is something about the emotion she packs into singing the various lines and phrases of Alphastates' songs that is above and beyond pretty much anything I've ever heard in my life - that voice, the way it pauses and drops and crackles at times, it just caresses all one's sensitivities.  Also the lyrics are very intense as well, seductive and captivating, and the range of familiar influences abound into this kind of fantasy poprock experience.  Anyway, the limit goes beyond the sky for this superb indie band, and hopefully someday we'll be able to hear them everywhere we go, as their songs clearly kick the asses of anything on the Billboard Hot 100 for years now.  I recently got the chance to hook up with Gerry (keys, guitar, backing vocals) who provides a lot of the chemistry behind the sound, and Catherine, that voice of major enchantment, to ask a few questions about Alphastates..

Scott:   Ok, let's start with this one, how did you all meet and was there a moment when you realized that this band had some major chemistry going on?  :)

Gerry:   Although it might not seem like it, this is the quick version… Catherine and I met when I was playing in a band supporting Catherines old band in Dublin. Once I heard her I left the band I was in, seeing her made me realize I was playing with the wrong people. She was looking for a bass player, and I told her about a friend of mine. Through that friend I met Catherine again, we became friends and eventually we started playing music together. The chemistry was there straight away, we put out an e.p. within a few months which did really well on national radio here, it was around that time we met Stevie. The three of us played with just about every drummer in Ireland (and one from Mali) for a year or two until we met Mike. That was the first time we had a stable line-up, we needed the right mix of people and it can take time to get it right.

Scott:  Can you describe your songwriting process, does one person write the songs and bring them to the band or is it more of a group process.  How long from the time you start a song on average do you consider it finished ?  Do you reject some songs or use most everything you write ?

Gerry:    Catherine writes some songs, and we all work on the music afterwards. We also bring music to Catherine and she adds the vocal and whatever else she thinks is needed. Songs can be changed beyond recognition during the recording process, and we record all the time. Everybody brings a little something and it’s very hard to define when we consider a song to be finished. We never play a song live without recording it first, we prefer it that way. Once people enjoy listening to it and it goes down well live, we’re happy, we’ll move on to the next one. We’ve rejected a few for the time being, but they’ll all get revisited at some point.

Scott:   The vocals emit a lot of sexuality, which is something that is not as big a part of rock music as it once was, I think..  This is a tricky question to ask heh but do you think the vehicle of the music brought that out or do you think sexuality is often a factor in what makes good artists so creative in the first place ?  And has the sexual vibe of your music ever caused you to have any fans who you had to call the police on ?  :)

Catherine:   It's a hard question to answer.  I think passion is a requisite to all good music regardless of the genre. Passion certainly causes songs to be written. Passion can be positive or dark and twisted. I love its both sides.  Maybe it can be said that sexuality and creativity both feed off each other. I'm not sure it's as calculated as that. I think it's perhaps just an intrinsic factor - it's either there or not. 

We've had one or two obsessive fans. Nothing to call the police in about though. 

Scott:   Who are your musical and life heroes, if you have any ?

Catherine:   I remember being pinned to my seat the first time I heard Billy Holiday. I was attracted to the pain in her voice.  I've always been drawn to strong people with strong things to say and who aren't afraid to say them. I can't say I've got one musical hero as in truth I've got many.

Scott:    This is a more serious question.  I don't know how long your band has been in existence and I wonder if you sometimes get frustrated that practically all the songs on your page are better than anything in the Top 10 of Billboard ?  In other words, what's your state of mind in regards to how the cream of Alphastates should be rising to the top ?

Catherine:   It can be really frustrating but I think the most important thing any artist can do is to be true to what's inside them.  Fashions come and fashions go.   I equate music to a second lover.  If I don't play with it, it haunts until I do. Sometimes artists get obsessed with the end result instead of the art itself. It's important to enjoy the art. 

Gerry:   First of all, thanks for saying that, we appreciate it! It’s like Catherine says, if you’re not enjoying making music now you’re not going to enjoy it even if you are successful. I think you need to be addicted to make music all the time, it takes up so much of your time and your thoughts. So for that reason we’re happy to keep doing it, because making music is so satisfying when it’s good. It’s frustrating not being heard by that many people, and struggling to make a living, but you have to bide your time and never stop putting everything into your songs. There’s every chance that’s all you’ll be left with!

Scott:   Is Madeleine the queen of this crowd or is it the singer herself ?  

Catherine:  Secrets are more fun when they're hidden. 

Scott:    Do you perform often, live and if so, have you taped any of it ?  I ask because we'd love to hear some of your live tracks,  the songs seem very much like they'd be a good fit for all kinds of vocal improvisations.

Catherine:   One of my strengths, which can sometimes be a weakness too, is when I sing I get lost in the music and I sing from inside my skin. I never sing a song the same!! I'm totally unaware of what I'm doing.  It does have it's drawbacks however, particularly for the poor sucker doing  backing vocals.

Gerry:   As one of the poor suckers doing backing vocals, I can vouch for this. We wouldn’t put anything up unless we were happy with how it was mixed, but you can search for us on YouTube, there are some things up there. Also, on, look for a programme called Other Voices. We’re in there somewhere, broken and battered after a long year playing just about every venue in Ireland.

IScott:    You won a couple Golden Kayak awards, which were voted on by your peer artists, including Best Band of the Year.  Did you do anything to celebrate ?  

Catherine:   We snorted cocaine along each other's arses!!! :D

Gerry:   I wasn’t there for that. Why wasn’t I invited? Thanks for the votes though, it made us all very happy.

Scott:  Your song Sometimes has a bit of a soul vibe to it, at least for my ears.    Just out of curiosity, are you fans of 70s soul music ?

Gerry:   We all love a bit of it. I don’t think we’d list it as a major influence but soul has influenced so much of what we listen to. It’s all in the beats in that song, soul music has the best beats for dancing (like you didn’t know that already!).

Scott:   From your page "Their second album will be fucking amazing, probably" - Personally I have no doubt of that, whatsoever!  :) That kind of talk makes me love Alphastates even more.  After all, some of of my heros, Chuck Berry, Pete Townshend, Page, Cobain, all had that strong belief in themselves.  In America, and I know this from experience, your fellow artists get all bitchy if ya show any kind of cockiness.    Ever run into this at all ?  Got any anecdotes about that ?

Gerry:    It’s much the same in Ireland, we’re actually very modest as a band, too modest probably in the past. I admire people who are honest about how they feel, that aren’t arrogant or dismissive of others. We used to talk ourselves down a little but we’re proud of this album, it took so much hard work and patience, that we’re not going to be apologetic about how we feel about it. We worked on it until we thought it was fucking great, so if you ask us what we think of it, that’s what we’ll tell you. Anyone who has a problem with that, please relax and try to understand that we’re only saying what we feel!

Scott:    This is a question I ask all Spotlight artists, do you believe in UFOs, had any strange experiences in that realm?

Gerry:    I believe that the CIA and the FBI and various other high level governmental organizations have encouraged these beliefs since the start of the cold war to cover up for their own tests in flight, surveillance technology etc. Also, I don’t want to give the hoaxers the satisfaction of having any doubt whatsoever. I’d say there’s life, maybe civilisation on other planets, why not? I’d love them to come visit, they should come to Ireland, it’s nice, great people here. It rains a lot but if they can traverse the galaxies they can surely figure out how an umbrella works. 

The only UFO experiences I’ve had I can pretty much put down to the amount of blood I had left in my alcohol at the time.

Scott:    When the sky's a hazy shade of.. where would you like to be and what would you be doing?

Gerry:    I think we’d all like to be on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, with 80,000 people chanting our names. Or Madison Square Garden, somewhere like that where we’ve never been before. Somewhere that has thousands upon thousands of people, chanting our names. The name chanting is important to us!