Movin’ on Up

Nine Black Alps Ascend to SOhO’s Stage

by Rebecca Riley

Manchester, England’s Nine Black Alps met and formed in 2003. Nine months later they were signed to Island Records. The band members quickly quit their day jobs and headed out on a frenetic stint of recording and touring, both in Europe and the United States. Fresh off a big gig at the celebrated Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last weekend in Indio, California, the band is on its way to Santa Barbara to play at SOhO next Thursday, along with homegrown indie-darlings the Kissing Tigers and Entoven. It’s the latest rock show for the venue, which is branching into genres such as out-of-town alternative and old-school hip-hop that aren’t the traditional jam band/reggae/classic rock/homegrown punk mainstays of Santa Barbara’s live music scene.

In addition to playing a barrage of shows in the U.K. at dive bars, clubs, and smaller venues, Nine Black Alps have also played a number of music festivals, including the fests at Leeds, Reading, and twice at Scotland’s T in the Park. Their visit to Indio last weekend marked their first trip to Coachella. The band’s singer, Sam Forrest, noted that large festivals give the band “license to be less serious … [and to] support a cause they believe in.” Festival stages are clearly more expansive than dive bars, so bands must exude more charisma to keep audiences entertained. And of course, as Forrest remarked, any “excuse to have a party in the middle of a field with good atmosphere” is right up this band’s alley.

The Nine Black Alps had just started touring when they got the opportunity to record Everything Is. The first Nine Black Alps album sounds like a newer version of grunge updated for the garage-rock decade, utilizing a lot of distorted guitar and singing angst-ridden anthems for the disaffected youth. Everything Is was produced by Rob Schnapf, who has worked with Elliott Smith and The Vines. His influence is noticeable on the album, helping Nine Black Alps to fashion a wall-of-noise guitar style. The two acoustic numbers on the album ached of Elliott Smith’s Nick Drake-influenced guitar and stand out amidst the fast agro-pop that constitutes the rest of Everything Is.

After finishing the first leg of their American tour, the Nine Black Alps headed to Los Angeles to record some tracks for their upcoming album. Forrest described the eight new songs as sounding much like a stylistic continuation of the last album: simple aggressive songs with lots of distortion. While they don’t want to do a remake of the last album, Forrest said that the band is not filtering its sound as much as they are allowing the songs to form spontaneously. Forrest noted that the pressure to write songs came solely from within the band itself, and that being signed to a major label had not put limitations on their work.

The band recently extended their three-month tour of America to include West Coast stops in San Francisco, Pomona, Solana Beach, and Santa Barbara. Forrest said the band decided to add dates on the Left Coast because certain radio DJs in Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco had recently begun playing Nine Black Alps’s singles. In response to the increasing interest being paid to Nine Black Alps by listeners, fans, and assorted disc-jockeys, Sam reassures the American people that Nine Black Alps will continue to “stay around as long as people want us.”

4•1•1 The Nine Black Alps play SOhO on Thursday, May 11, with support from the Kissing Tigers and Entoven. Visit or call 962-7776.

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