Thanks to Zero Tolerance Magazine for this great live review of Alunah at The Rainbow Venues in Birmingham.
Life On The Road With The “Smuttiest Band In Doom” | Maximum Volume Alunah Interview | The Rainbow Venues, Birmingham
Glam rock gods Cinderella seem like an odd place to begin an interview with Doom Metal gods in waiting, Alunah, but at the start of their 1991 album “Heartbreak Station” there’s a track called “The More Things Change.” “The more things change,” sings Tom Keifer in its chorus, “the more they stay the same.”
The reason for this musing is that it is exactly four months to the day since MV last chatted with Alunah. We did so in the back of a pub prior to their album launch show. Now, we are sitting in the front of another pub just a few hundred yards away with them for a little catch up before their latest outing in what is basically their home town. Time flies when you are in a heavy metal band it seems.
To recap on our last meeting. We had learnt a few things. First, that frontwoman Soph Day has a dodgy pop past involving Take That. Second that drummer Jake – rather like MV – likes Belinda Carlisle a little too much.
Today the bombshells just keep coming. Jake – who had told us when we tried to round the band up for a chat, to “go and find Soph as she’ll make more sense” – has a bit of a Status Quo thing going on and moreover that he emailed Soph the cover of their latest album “Aquostic” (for reference it has a picture of a naked Rick and Francis with only a guitar covering their bits). The singer recoils at the memory: “I mean, ewwww,” she laughs. “There was a little bit of sick in my mouth.”
More importantly though, there is another issue about being in a rock band on the road. There’s no nice way to put this. Farting. Time spent in a van with guitarist David, it transpires gets a little bits smelly, which is kind of a problem when you are on the road: “we’ve been all over Europe and it’s not been pleasant. I mean he does it as soon as he gets in the van,” say the band, giggling.
If all of this seems a world away from the music of Alunah, which is heavy, dark and oppressive, then it’s supposed to be. The four are relaxed in their own company – Soph and David are married – and along with Jake have paid their dues in this band for years. The one exception is bass player Dan Burchmore. The latest in a long line of four stringers to pass through the ranks over the years (“I think we’ve had about eight, but Dan can stay,” grins Soph.) but he has very obviously fitted in seamlessly.
We’d best put our serious faces on and get down to business, then. The day after the album launch on the first of October, the quartet got in their van and headed to the continent. They had spoken with genuine – and rather touching – excitement about going to Paris for a concert, so did it live up to expectations? Happily yes. “It was a great gig, in a beautiful room, where Picasso and Toulouse Le Trec used to go,” says the singer. “There was a good crowd too, so everything went really well.”
Or should that be everything went really well when they eventually got there: “It was a bit of a worry at one stage,” admits Soph. “The Friday night traffic in Paris was horrendous, and we were in the little van, still we got there in the end.”
Transport issues seem to have dogged the band, as they explain: “First the bus broke down, so the hire company came and gave us a new one.” Everything was fine, until that one went wrong too, with Jake adding: “4000 miles over the Alps in a broken van!”
Whilst in the Alps they were supposed to play the second stage at the Swiss Up In Smoke Festival, but one bands misfortune was their gain, as touring partners Lonely Kamel couldn’t make the gig, they asked Alunah to take their place on the main stage. Which brings us round neatly to touring.
There was a time back a few years ago, that you couldn’t go a week without seeing Alunah playing a gig somewhere in the West Midlands, now those appearances are much, much rarer. This is their first gig in the city since that one in October. It turns out that this has been a conscious plan. “We didn’t want people to get sick of seeing us,” admits Soph, with David adding: “I just think if you want to be big, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself. Play gigs everywhere, get people to know you, there’s no point in playing the same places again and again.”
To that end the night before our chat, the band had been in Glasgow, “It was a great show” but cold!” says David. MV suggests that despite bringing the subzero temperatures down here with them (the interview is conducted with us all wearing coats) they must be glad to be home. Sophie Day’s honest answer is a little surprising: “I’ll probably enjoy last night more,” she admits. “I’ll know a lot of people in here, last night I knew one person. I’d rather play to a room full of strangers than a room full of friends. It feels more of an accomplishment.”
In a little under three hours after our chat, Alunah do take to the stage, in the freezing cold back room. And they do so with considerable panache and skill. There is a confidence about them, and if the music doesn’t quite demand a swagger, it is certainly a cut above the norm in terms of its delivery.
Soph described the music a little before: “Someone said to me last night,” she recalls. “That we sounded like all the things we like, a bit of doom, a bit of psych, Janis Joplin, Sabbath but we’d put our stamp on it. I thought it was really cool. I hope we have done that.”
Alunah, for all the laughing and joking are absolutely serious about music, Sophie talks about her pride in playing with the French psych Lords Mars Red Sky (“my album of last year” she declares.) The band give every indication that were they not playing here tonight, they’d be here watching.
But they know they’ve got work to do too. Last years brilliant “Awakening The Forest” – their third album but first for Napalm Records – needs a follow up soon, but there’s no rush: “I’ve got some ideas for things, and there’s a track that didn’t make “….Forest” that we’d like to use, but nothing is really laid down yet,” says the front lady.
Instead the plans for this year involve touring – the band say they are hoping to go out later in 2015 – and they also speak of wanting to play Scandinavia, which would be a first for them.
The dumb thing that everyone thinks is that life on the road in a rock band must be glamorous. According to those that know, not a bit of it! “We’ve never been a druggy band, so there’s no drugs. There’s rock n roll I suppose, but no sex. Definitely no sex,” says Sophie laughing, before asking: “I’ll bet you didn’t know we were the smuttiest band in doom, did you?!”
Paul Castles caught up with singer Soph Day and the rest of the band at their recent hometown gig at The Rainbow: http://www.themidlandsrocks.com/interview-with-soph-day-of-alunah-2/
"Anyone not by now familiar with the Midlands’ doom torchbearers Alunah must be living under a rock. Their progress continues ever upwards, having released their third album, on Napalm, four months ago to the day. That was marked with a special debut release show at Scruffys and while not headlining the Rainbow they were clearly the local heroes most people there had turned out to see. Opening with two atmospheric gems from the album in ‘Bricket Wood Coven’ and ‘Heavy Bough’, Alunah brought proceedings down to a sedate pace but without the heaviness being compromised one dot. The extended intro of ‘Heavy Bough’ added a cold chill when it was unnecessary, on a bitterly cold evening. The riff built to a demonic climax before performing a sharp turn and grabbing you by the throat.Singer Soph Day has an emotion-packed voice, but the softness of her delivery is enhanced by the crust of doom that her bandmates layer on top. The majestically mercurial closer ‘White Hoarhound’ is sadder than a roomful of depressives allowing Alunah to depart to a great ovation."
Thanks to Andy at Maximum Volume Music for the kind words about our set at the Worth The Weight all-dayer in Birmingham on 1st February 2015.
"So four months to the day after they played their album launch for “Awakening The Forest,” Alunah are back. Since then they’ve toured their songs across Europe, before making their return to their home crowd. Barely lit throughout to add to the ambience, they begin with “Bricket Wood Coven,” “..Forest’s” lead track and it’s immediately clear that this is very obviously a band that is comfortable both with the songs and together. Dark, smoke-filled, mystical. All things that you could associate with the group, and as lead man Dave Day picks out the opening riff of “Heavy Bough” they are all things that come to mind. Better still is “Scourge Of The Kiss” with its bass groove, playing over singer/guitarist Soph Day’s vocals. The song is an epic sprawling, beautiful thing, building to a fine conclusion. They celebrate the upcoming re-release of the 2007 debut album with “Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn,” which shows even then they had this sound nailed down. With that, we are right slap bang up to date with “Awakening The Forest” the new album’s superb title track. They finish with “White Hoarhound” which performed those duties on the previous release, and it sounds just as good as ever. Birmingham producing some of the best doom metal in Britain? Things are just the same as ever, then."
Read the full review here >>
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Upcoming Alunah Gigs >>
Saturday 6th May
MFC, Coevorden (NL)
Sunday 7th May
Route 66, Dusseldorf (DE)
Monday 8th May
Music City, Antwerp (BE)
Tuesday 9th May
Kurzbar, Mannheim (DE)
Wednesday 10th May
Immerhin, Würzburg (DE)
Thursday 11th May
Coq d'Or, Olten (CH)
Friday 12th May
Bloom, Mezzago (IT)