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It’s been a while since we’ve heard from quirky popsters Alphastates but that’s not because they’ve had a massive falling out. Rather, their lead singer lost her voice and then they suffered a sudden lack of confidence. But now they’re back, with perhaps their finest record yet.
Anne Sexton, 24 Apr 2009
They’ve been a long time out in the wilderness but Alphastates have finally returned with a follow-up to their 2005 debut, Made Of Sand. Just where the hell have they been? Did they disappear in a blaze of sex, drugs and indie electronica? Were there diva strops and Commitments-style fallouts? Nope, the truth is much more prosaic than that.
“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” notes Catherine Dowling. This includes the not insignificant fact that Alphastate’s singer lost her voice.
“I had a node in my larynx and I had no voice basically. We’d been doing a lot of gigging and I had loads of damage and the specialist said ‘I think you’re kinda screwed.’ Then with natural repair and I did some alternative therapies and got my voice back.”
As a band Alphastates aim for sonically interesting, and frequently succeed, but Dowling’s compelling breathy voice and almost nonchalant delivery – a bit Beth Gibbons, a bit Elizabeth Fraser – is the lynchpin that holds it all together.
“It was an absolutely horribly frightening place to be in, because one of the things I enjoy most in the world is singing and I had to take a complete break," she recalls. "I was really hoarse. I sounded like Bonnie Tyler on crack.”
While Human Nature was not exactly the dreaded difficult second album, it had a somewhat complicated gestation.
“We actually made the record about three or four times. We had it finished and even pressed up copies, but then after a few weeks we’d listen to it and go, ‘No, this doesn’t inspire me’. We’re our own worst critics, but I think every artist is. Most musicians don’t do it for cash. If you do, you’re in the wrong industry. There must be a passion, a raw ache from the inside out. We all wanted to be inspired, and there were some creative arguments, but we all had the same goal – to make a really good record that we liked.”
With the increasing popularity – and bankability – of female vocalists, 2009 may just be Alphastates’ year.