ALOIS: Hope, Healing, Optimism

Interview with Martin Schenker

Pack your bags and get ready for a tropical escape! Azul, the latest full-length instalment from Swiss synth-pop group Alois, evokes carefree days spent in some far-away place, where the sun is always shining and the sky is perpetually blue.

Think the sweet, creamy sounds of Caribou married to Metronomy, but set to tropical rhythms. This is feel-good music with a touch of melancholy. Play it loud and dance to it like aint nobody watching! Shed a tear if you need to.

Alois are a Swiss quintet from the Red Brick Chapel collective / record label. They are Martin Schenker (vocals and guitar), Pascal Eugster (bass), Florian Schneider (drums), Lukas Weber (percussion) and Luzius Schuler (keys).

Here is a transcript of a short, but conversation with vocalist / song-writer Martin Schenker…

How have you been dealing with the lockdown?

At first, this felt like a really numbing time. We were ready to release our record and play it out live. The lockdown froze up all of our enthusiasm and energy, since this is a record of what I would call “body music.” But, after a few weeks, I felt that this is a good time to reorganise and reformat my life. I cleaned out my studio, I checked on my finances, I started eating healthy food and educating myself. 

The songs on Azul are so full of life and energy and color! Did you have any second thoughts about releasing it now? 

Just recently, a Swiss journalist wrote that he would’ve loved to have our album during the lockdown. For him, the songs seemed both melancholic and energetic, which perfectly fitted the mood he had back then. I think that Azul is a record about life, love, loss and healing. I really tried to inject optimism into these songs. I hope that this can help people through difficult times.  A few months ago, we also weren’t in a good space to put out this record. We pushed the original release date back (originally April) because we didn’t want to promote our music during a dramatic health crisis, and it wasn’t clear how the pandemic will unfold. Now, people at least try to enjoy summer, and small concerts are even possible. 

You guys are from Switzerland, yet there is this tropical thing about to your music, what’s that about?

We all played jazz in the past, and I also buy a lot of records to DJ, that’s where we got into contact with the music from tropical regions. We love to experiment in our studio, that’s where we blend electronic beats with guitars and explore the rhythms from various cultures. Often, we combine these sounds with very synth-driven songwriting.

But not everything about this record is all hunky-dory, right? You’re also talking about losing people and going through some heavy emotions, but why did you decide to dress this up in all this color? You could’ve just as easily followed these themes and emotions down a darker path.

Hope, healing and optimism are important topics for me! And I wanted to communicate that on these songs. Musically, I love to create a sense of ambivalence on my tracks, it’s hard for me to write music that follows just one emotional direction. Dancing is also not just an outbreak of excitement and euphoria, it can also channel much deeper emotions. I often see a song in colors, and forms, and I try to find a certain sonic aesthetic for each one, and then experiment with that. 

Are you planning a tour with this material? 

Yes! We have a tour of Switzerland planned for the autumn. We will also support Klaus Johan Grobe on his tour, let’s see if that happens.

Have you been playing together in the last few months? 

We’re going to start rehearsing in a few weeks, and we’ll also play a live video session with our  friends from Skiclub Toggenburg, they make modular synth music. We collaborated with them on a new EP, which wil come out in September. We’re constantly in the studio trying to develop new ideas, I’m sure that there’ll be a new release next year. 

Any new songs written during the lockdown? 

Yes! I’m working a lot with our drummer and our keyboarder. It’s possible that the next batch of tracks is even more club-oriented than our new record. It feels like a rebellion against all the restrictions during the lockdown. We danced a lot in the studio, and that’s always a good sign!

We’d love to see you in the UK! What’s the difference between the recorded version of the songs and the live ones? 

Playing live is our thing! We never use a computer on stage and we translate our recorded music into something more organic. You might want to compare our record to the live videos that we released recently. It’s the same songs, but the treatment is different. Playing live is about having fun with the song, jamming and experimenting with the ideas to push the arrangement into a new direction. The idea is to make people dance, enjoy this moment with us, and have them dive into our world.