They've got the blues, but that won't stop Alabama 3
The hard-partying, hard-working multi-hyphenated country-acid house-gospel-blues collective Alabama 3 has somehow staggered its way to the 20th anniversary of debut album, Exile on Coldharbour Lane.
With a recently released album, Blues, they’re currently on the road with their Exile To Blues, 20th anniversary tour.
The Guide caught up with co-founder Larry Love who confesses to having a ‘rock’n’roll cold’ when we speak, or ‘a hangover’ to the rest of us.
Did he have any expectations for the band when they formed from the squat-rave scene in Brixton?
‘It’s gone so quickly I can’t remember any of it,’ he gives a rusty cackle.
‘We definitely had no long term plans. To be coming out at the height of Britpop, and naming yourself Alabama 3, when it was all Union Jacks –
I did have an instinct that we’d still be standing now because if you got it right...
‘You hear that album now and it still stands up, it doesn’t sound dated, it was so far out that there was no-one else that sounded like us – maybe the Happy Mondays in terms of their approach, but I’m pretty happy to be here 20 years later.’
While the band has a reputation as party animals, Larry makes sure they stay the right side of becoming a sad punchline.
‘Yes, I don’t know where that reputation came from at all. I wasn’t up until 10 this morning drinking port,’ he notes wryly.
‘The amount of partying we do, we still have a strong work ethic and ultimately we’ve been blessed that people are willing to pay money to come and see us, and that keeps you on your toes.
‘There’s nothing sadder than seeing musicians slide into junkieville or alcoholism, it’s boring, you know?’
While Exile achieved cult success, it was when the creators of mob drama The Sopranos – now routinely hailed as one of the best TV shows ever – picked their single Woke Up This Morning for the opening credits that they reached a wider audience – particularly Stateside.
‘At first they were looking at different songs for each episode, but they heard that one song and said: “That’s perfect”. It took them about two months to find us – they thought we were from Alabama, then they thought we were hippies from San Francisco, and the best theory was that they thought we were three young black guys from The Bronx. But then they found out it was the Welshman and a Scotsman, and they still went for it. It was really lucky to be associated with a programme of that quality.
‘Can you imagine being the band that wrote the song for the opening of Friends – it’s not as cool as The Sopranos is it?
‘We’ve been grateful to have that link. We actually made more money from it when the rapper Nas sampled it on his track Got Ur Self a Gun which he gave us 50 per cent of the publishing on.
‘It opened a few doors for us. We’ve been quite careful about not exploiting it and not wanting to devalue it, we’ve had a few offers for adverts and stuff like that that we’ve turned down.’
Even Larry is unsure exactly how many albums they’ve now released.
‘I think it’s about 15 albums we’ve got now – there’s some weird bootleg ones as well as the official ones.
‘I don’t often play my own stuff, but we’ve been reissuing the albums on vinyl so it’s quite good to hear them again and hear them on vinyl. I’ve been surprised about how good they are.
‘We try to make our records kind of futurist, even though we’re using these antique genres like country and blues – a lot of the albums sound right in your face now.’
And they’ve always operated in a field of one – no-one sounds quite like A3.
‘There might be a reason for that,’ he chuckles. ‘It’s either because we’re really good, or it’s a really stupid idea.’
Looking ahead, the band have got a busy year.
‘We’ve just finished an acid album and a country album. We’re looking to release the Blues album on vinyl in December with a box set which will be Alabama 3’s guide to ABC - which will be acid, blues and country.
‘And that will really tie in with the 20 years. And then we’ve get another album called Decadence, so that’s D, and then we’ll do some more E, then F.’
Will they complete the alphabet? That’s surely going to keep them busy for another 20 years.
‘Probably, yeah. It’s the impossible dream.
‘We’ve got our own studio now, so we’re blessed that we can make a living out of music – and as you know, she can be a cruel heartless maiden.
‘I think we’ll still be rocking, you can do country and western at any age. The older you get, the better you get, it’s not like Embrace or some terrible indie band.’
Concorde 2 Brighton
Sunday, May 14