You may associate Brixton band Alabama 3 with moody track ‘Woke Up This Morning’ that became the theme song of The Sopranos, but the group’s latest album The Wimmin From W.O.M.B.L.E is an entirely different creature.
A3 singer Larry Love (real name Rob Spragg) spoke to Alex Watson to share more about the album and why “Wimmin” are increasingly important to the band.
After completing the school run – what he calls “the glamorous side of rock and roll” – Larry Love is good enough to drag himself away from the latest Muppets movie to discuss Alabama 3’s recent work and their upcoming UK tour. Although they’ve kept it quiet, it seems that the band have been hard at work recently, with a further acoustic album due out in October.
First on the agenda though is the mysterious follow up to 2013’s The Men From W.O.M.B.L.E (World Of Militant Beat Liberating Executioners) which has been kept largely under wraps until now.
Hi Larry, can you tell us more about The Wimmin From W.O.M.B.L.E?
“We sort of did a quiet release just before Christmas, and we’ve got a single coming out called ‘You Are The One’. We did The Men From W.O.M.B.L.E and then The Women From W.O.M.B.L.E just trying to showcase a lot of the artists that we work with.
“I’m a great believer now that the concepts of rock and roll are quite out-dated and redundant and I think the concept of a band being John, Paul, George and Ringo is no longer particularly appropriate in this day and age. And consequently the kind of cultural company you keep is often more important than your brand name identity. We just sort of opened the prison gates or the flood gates – I don’t know which – and got all the kids and different people we were working with on the album.
“I realised that we were working with some really cool sisters. There’s definitely a spark in feminism again. I think young women are gathering up, often in opposition to the kind of misogyny that’s on the internet. I think women are once again organising in a quite sort of positive and angry way around their identities as women in the post-web age. I think the album reflects that kind of rattiness. There’s nothing wrong with twerking, but twerking alone ain’t going to shift the axis.
“There’s nothing more naff than a man telling women how to be women. There’s a whole contradiction inherent in that as well, so I’m quite conscious of that. We’ve got Maya Angelou, Billie Holiday and a lot of strong women [featuring in samples on the record]. A lot of women on an album together does sound pretty fucking frightening sometimes. You don’t want to fuck with Maya Angelou at all, do you know what I mean?”
How did the writing and recording process work for the album?
“Technology giveth, technology taketh away. We were doing tracks that 17 year old kids can do in their bedroom and then we took them to the studio and jammed over the top, or we’d start a song with an acoustic guitar or a piano on a loop. Alabama 3 are quite used to a manual approach to recording.
“We’ve got two very good studios which are ours, so we can develop stuff in one studio and polish them up in the other. But we’re very much into chucking everything into the pot – chaos – and then sifting through it afterwards, although we try not to be too precious about how we develop our aesthetic. I think that way it opens up a lot more windows in terms of inspiration – you never know what’s going to come out of it. I don’t go to the studio with a song in my head, I’ll go with four lines or something and see how it mutates in the company of other people.”
Will there be a way to tour The Wimmin From W.O.M.B.L.E with all of its guest performers?
“Not all of them, but the last tour we did in November very much shifted the axis. We didn’t have much time because I only fucking dropped the album about a week before the tour, so we didn’t really promote it. But we did have a lot of guest women on stage, and we also got Aurora Dawn who’s our singer and the only woman in the band. We really pushed her to the front and she was singing the songs I normally sing.
“We had a lot of support as well. We had an all-female punk rap band called The Pukes, an all-female punk band called The Poppies and a lot of different variety of female musicians doing a variety of genres. It made the dressing room smell a lot better than some snotty fucking gabba band full of sweating men. There was good chemistry on the road, it was a good atmosphere. I’ve never seen the band be so hygienic on a tour – everyone was borrowing each other’s fucking deodorant and washing their hair and cleaning their teeth.”
Will your upcoming tour in March be a similar set-up?
“We will do [a similar thing] ‘cause I think it was really good. The increase in oestrogen was a positive thing. I can’t just use women for three weeks and then discard them again, can I? Women ain’t just for Christmas, they’re for life.”
Where are you most looking forward to playing on the tour?
“One place we haven’t played is Ilkley, and we haven’t played Edinburgh for a while – I love Edinburgh. Ilkley looks weird. They normally have tribute acts and that kind of shit, so that should be a bit twisted I think. Apparently the venue is a tea shop in the afternoon.”
What’s on the cards for Alabama 3 for the rest of 2015?
“There’s a film coming out called Hackney’s Finest which we did the soundtrack for – it’s up for some award [nominated for Best Soundtrack at the East End Film Festival 2014]. There’s also another film that’s still on general release called Songs For Amy that we did. We’ve got a label now so we’re signing lots of different bands.
“We’re just keeping busy. I think the industry these days is good in the sense that you’ve got to get off your arse. There’s no point just selling records, you’ve got to sell culture.”
Alabama 3 play the following dates:
6 Feb: Dingwalls, Camden
18 Mar: The Robin 2, Wolverhampton
19 Mar: Kings Hall, Ilkley
20 Mar: Studio 24, Edinburgh
21 Mar: O2 Academy, Newcastle
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