Originally hailing from Los Angeles, but now resident in Beijing, Alpine Decline (Pauline Mu and Jonathan Zeitlin) have been kicking around China for a little while and find themselves headed to Yuyintang this Friday. Having released their debut, self-titled LP back in 2010, quickly followed by 'Visualizations' later that same year and 'Disappearance' in November of last year, it's clear these two are more than at home in the studio, but how do they take to life on the road?
Could you introduce yourselves and talk us through how you came to be playing music?
Ah hello! We're Alpine Decline! I'm Jonathan and she's Pauline… We started in Echo Park, California and now we live in Beijing. We've both been playing music our entire lives and have played together in other bands for a really long time. We started Alpine Decline in 2010.
What made you leave your former band Mezzanine Owls and form Alpine Decline?
Hehe… "form" kind of makes it sound like we molded Alpine Decline out of clay! The end of Mezzanine Owls was pretty rough, intense and abrupt. It happened to be a time when Pauline couldn't play drums for about six months. We spent that time completely absent from anything having to do with music and then started talking about Alpine Decline, what it was going to be, what did we want to be doing with our lives and music.
Can you describe that 'particular vibe and energy' to Alpine Decline that you've mentioned elsewhere?
I probably can't describe it very well, but we try to create a musical context for our songs, both live and on record, that's maybe a little bit more visual and expressive to support the ideas of the songwriting.
Is being engaged in the act of making records still the main focus for you?
Playing live satisfies these selfish social urges we can't seem to purge, but we're at our best when we are deep into a rhythm focusing on a record every day. It took us a little time to create this kind of ritual in China, and by the time we're done with our new record it'll have been a year since our last one "消失/Disappearance", but I think we're sorta settled in now.
Have you been conscious of a great development in the kind of music you've been making from the first record up till now?
We had a very strong sense of what we wanted Alpine Decline to be before we actually started making the music, we've gotten deeper and deeper in through making these records to the point that the development of the narrative or the music has kind of taken over the development of our actual lives. We have a much better sense of how our process works than we did making the first record, when we had a pretty good conceptual idea of what we wanted to do but less of a practical sense of how to do it.
So how has it been for you being on the road for extended periods of time?
It's pretty easy for us to travel because there are only two of us and we get along quite well. We actually tend to spend more of our time traveling alone in the wilderness than in cities playing music.
Where have your travels taken you? And where in particular are you looking to return soon?
In previous bands we've played pretty much every corner of the US. With Alpine Decline we've been around some places in China as well. We've covered pretty decent territory in the high Sierras and in the backcountry Sonora and Mojave desert. We've also spent some time in some mountains in China and Tibet.
What have been your impressions of the emerging music scene in China?
I'm not the best person to talk about the music in China, but there seems to be a kind of wildness available to people making music here. It seems a bit more difficult because there aren't established systems for musicians, but the absence of those systems does open things up for people who want to be involved or want to do something different. There seems to be an intense desire to create something great in China, and I think people both inside and outside of the country are really eager and interested to see what that's going to be.