On the surface former Baroness drummer Allen Blickle's Alpaca project with former step-brother Justin Nuckols might seem like an unprecedented departure from his previous band's sound. The macho-thunder of “FNYC” is maximalist dance pop like remodeling Porcelain Raft into a revved up porcelain speedboat. The album art is brings to mind intense 80s film montages in which the hero must reach his peak performance, squeezing eight months of training into three minutes.Much of Alpaca's record Demimonde is in wanderlust for a torrential downpour of 80s synth tones and guitar solos meant to be delivered in the danger zone of lasers. It's a record that's power came from reclusive sessions, making it big on its own merits rather than juiced on enhancement formulas.
Blickle quiet worked on Alpaca throughout his tenure in Baroness, setting time aside during tours to tinker with a sound that had always been in his interest since forming a band with Nuckols in high school. After quitting Baroness, he stuck to recording in Brooklyn but still the idea of a double life, one similar to those coined the demimonde, informed his vision of the first Alpaca record. The term was used for a sect of people who seemed to conform to societal norms, but led a double life that involved a secret life of hedonism.
Blickle took a great risk walking away from Baroness to pursue a personal project. He quit the metal band after a tragic touring accident. It's as though he crossed over into a new life, but Blickle will be the first to state that he's been working on Alpaca for roughly five years and this is not a case of trauma enduced amnesia. He and Nuckols enlisted the help of Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers, Erika Spring, and Halina Larsson to flesh out the vocals on Demimonde. Stream the record below and read on for a brief Q&A with Blickle.
Baroness gets described as heavy metal that embraces post-punk and indie influences. As Alpaca, it sounds as though the intent was to make a record that denies classification entirely. Given the title, Demimonde, is Alpaca's songwriting philosophy purely based on impulse and embracing whatever feels right in the moment?
I consider my musical tastes very broad. I have been involved in many different musical projects through out my life, Classical, Jazz, Punk, Metal, Electronic, Acoustic. My background stems from all of these and more. I am always touching on these different interests and facets of my ongoing exploration with music. Alpaca is a project that I have wanted to do for some time. This is not an impulsive musical venture, but more of a parallel road that I have been on the majority of the time I played with Baroness.
Would you say that the exploring done within this record comes from being pigeonholed to a specific aesthetic in Baroness and wanting to go as far beyond it as possible?
Not particularly. I think that exploring completely different music styles is healthy. Producing and playing other types of music actually influenced me playing in a “metal” band. I would bring influences from all over the place. I will always try new things and go where my taste and creativity is stimulated. Next year I might be a crust punk band or a noise project, who knows. Im always tapping into completely different.
Prior to Baroness were you experimenting with sounds much like Alpaca? Or was this a result of Justin Nuckols' influence in the project?
Yes, I have been recording and writing music like this for a long time. I started to write and produce on my own when I was in my early 20's then just kept on pushing myself. Justin and I have known each other since we were both teenagers and been playing music together on and off since then. We had a band in high school called E-fusion that was experimental post rock oriented. I would say our musical tastes are different but interweave in an interesting way. We influence each other massively as does any musical relationship.
Given the album art and how the sounds somewhat hearken back to something similar to macho-movie soundtracks from the 80s… are you guys a fan of those films or their motion picture soundtracks?
I really cant help it. But I do have some odd affinity with 80's sounds and visuals. Perhaps being born in that time influenced us on this record. I find the macho-movies of that time to be so ridiculous and ostentatious. The cover art Its sort of a sarcastic stab in the same way. We tried a few different art directions for the record, but this one just felt the best with the music. Something about the cover gives me a comforting feeling.
How did Erika Spring, Nicole Yun of Eternal Summers and Halina Larsson of Tórild become part of the Alpaca sound?
Halina has been a great friend of mine for a long time. We met on tour together when she was singing with Coheed and Cambria. We have collaborated a number of times on different tracks and Im stoked to include one on this record. Nicole plays in a band called Eternal Summers that I had done a couple of remixes for their albums in the past. I always liked her voice and wanted to work with her on an original song. Erika was introduced to me through a good friend at one of her solo shows. We talked about the project sent her some tracks and she ended up coming to my apartment in Brooklyn to lay down some vocals. She's a really talented singer and I was really happy that she got involved. All of our collaborations happen very organically with friends. Its more fun to make it easy going and loose like that.
I can't ignore that one of the songs is entitled, “Fire, Walk With Me”. Why sneak a Twin Peaks reference into the album?
That track was one that Justin and I did a long time ago. We didn't live in the same town at the time, so we were sending tracks back and forth through email. He wrote all the lyrics and I think at the time he was on a huge David Lynch kick. The song is somewhat dark, so the lyrics about the show/movie match pretty well in my opinion.
Alpaca's Demimonde is out October 1 on Robotic Empire.