With its elevating and eerily mystical trajectory, Alpine's musical pilgrimage seems symbolically attuned to their Swiss-inspired name. "I think it really suits the direction that we're heading," vocalist Lou James ponders, "and the name has a lovely feel - there's a sense of just getting lost and I think that's what we're trying to convey. The dreamy soundscape is something that comes from everyone having really different musical influences. You feel like you're in another world when you get this really beautiful, dreamy sound. We want to take this sound to whatever level we can explore it - we're still finding that out at the moment...."
The Melbourne synth-pop six-piece have already garnered comparisons to Blonde Redhead, The xx and Warpaint, but James is unashamedly honest about her love of accessible pop music: "I was obsessed with the Spice Girls when I was very young," James enthuses. "I loved the idea of the energy and I love the pop songs. In year one, I wanted to be a singer but then I got over it, because I thought 'well, it's not going to happen'," she giggles. "I always really admired the Spice Girls - in a way, it works out being in a band with four boys and two female singers - it's kind of got a 'girl power' vibe.
"I don't think we set out to have an alternative pop feel and we never really intended to sound like anyone or identify with a particular band," she denotes carefully. "I think because we don't have a set plan on how we're writing the music, it's just through a lot of improvisation and picking up on sounds. We try to become in tune with whatever we're writing, so it ends up being a real collective force."
The seeds of Alpine were sewn when vocalist Phoebe Baker and guitarist Christian O'Brien (Baker's music mentor) met at high school. The pair began writing music upon completing high school, and James was soon asked by Baker to assist with vocal harmonies. Drummer Phil Tucker, keyboardist Tim Royal and bassist Ryan Lamb were mutual friends and would later complete the line-up.
Early support from Triple J - including a Feature Artist Of The Week showcasing - resulted in a memorable past year for Alpine. "Tim sent in two of the songs and put them on Triple J Unearthed, and then we got one of the songs played, I think, an hour or so later," James recalls with a giggle.
"From there, everything just took off and it was so fast-paced that we just let whatever was going to happen, happen. We were just hoping to write some great songs and have people love them, but from what's happened, it's been totally out of our hands... in a positive way. It was extremely motivating. It's still surreal to us - having them support us has helped us to really push ourselves ever further. We just started writing a couple more new songs.
"Since joining the band, I've discovered a lot of strengths in my writing ability. At the beginning, I felt quite shy about writing; I didn't know what my capabilities were - we've got a really tiny rehearsal space at the moment, so it's quite claustrophobic," she laughs.
"I've written stuff that's absolutely awful and makes no sense, and then I've written some stuff I didn't even realise was that great but everyone thought was amazing. To have people with completely different musical backgrounds being able to pick up on a sound or a melody that works is great - from now on, I'm not so scared just to throw anything into the pile of work that we're doing."
The vocals for their hit single, Heartlove - from their impressive debut EP, Zurich - were recorded during a particularly late night. "I remember Christian showed me the base of the guitar riff and straight away I was kind of taken aback," James expresses. "I was like 'whoa'... compared to everything else that we had written so far, it was really fast-paced and had lots of guts.
"Phoebe has this shed where she lives... she sounds like a hobbit or something," James giggles. "And one night, we were in this shed and sitting on her bed and she'd already come up with a couple of things, melody and lyric-wise. And I'd come up with some things and we just pumped out that song really quickly. I think because the song is so fast-paced, we got so stuck into it and got really excited and energetic about putting it together that the end result meant that there wasn't really much to fine-tune. That was probably the quickest song that we wrote. I still love performing that song live because it's just really intense - we always feel really exhilarated and exhausted after performing it."
The band's four-week residency at the Northcote Social Club gained Alpine even more fans and acclaim. "It really helped us to build on our live performance, playing every Tuesday night. Every night it rained and it was winter," James recalls, laughing, "so we got a bit worried about whether people were gonna come to watch us, but we did manage to get a crowd every night and a different crowd and we had some great support bands as well.
"It was loads of fun and that really helped set us up for the supports that we ended up doing later that year, in terms of our live performance and getting really comfortable with ourselves on stage.
"We were really stoked about The Naked And Famous supports (in November), because we all really love their music and those shows pretty much went off," she chuckles. "They were really, really lovely - all supports have been loads of fun and all the bands that we've played with have just been the nicest people, so we've been really, really lucky. Being able to support them has just been a dream for us. Last year was a really busy, fast-paced year for us and those supports we've been really happy to be a part of."
Now, more importantly, how is the ratio of euphoria to anxiety leading up to their EP launch at The Corner Hotel? "I've had a couple of sleepless nights," James grins, "but [I'm] really excited as well. I remember a couple years back, I used to always go to The Corner Hotel to see bands play, and to think that we're doing a launch there is just amazing.
"We want to make the show as big and exciting as we can and put all our energy into it and [make it] visually mesmerising, and we're gonna have heaps and heaps of glitter!"
ALPINE launch their excellent EP Zurich at The Corner Hotel this Friday February 25, along with Boy In A Box and Buchanan. Tickets from The Corner box office, 9427 9198 or cornerhotel.com. The very ace Zurich EP is out now through Ivy league.