After a series of singles, Oxford’s Alphabet Backwards have released their debut album Little Victories. And sure, it’s unashamed c-86 indie-pop with a folky feel-and it’s all the better for it!
Sure, you could be a boring sod and say that they sound like…but why do that, when you could be having the joy of listening to songs like ‘Ladybird,’ album closer ‘Elton John’ (which sees them go eighties in a way that, erm, most c-86 bands wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing a quarter of a century ago) and album highlights ‘Blink Of An Eye’ and ‘Taller.’
And summer may be over, the nights may fair be drawing in, but stick this on, and your heart lifts. And in these dark and uncertain times, that’s more than we can ask for from any album. More than just a little victory.
As they gear up for the release of their debut album, Little Victories, Alphabet Backwards discuss what makes them tick…
17 Seconds: Please introduce yourselves.
James, Josh, Steph, Paul and Rob.
17 Seconds: How did Alphabet Backwards come together?
Little P, Josh and I [James] had been in bands when we were younger and so when I started writing some songs but wanting to make them more complete they were a natural choice. Great musicians and great friends. Josh then knew Rob, as he lived in the same village, the one where Truck Festival is held and Josh also knew Steph. This time through the fact that she is his sister. I liked her voice from way back when Josh, Little P and I would practice in his living room. So, off we went on our way.
17 Seconds: Who are your influences?
They are varied as any collective of musicians is going to be. Science, our keyboard wizard is Maximo Park and Magic Numbers, whereas Josh’s influences move around. Currently he is Alt-J and Tom Waits heavy. His bass plays quite an intrinsic
part of how are songs take shape, I find. Little P and I share a love of Kings of Convenience and Erland Oye but then I also have slightly more pop influence and a simple joy of a hook. All bands who have a way with a tune.
17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?
Few things here and there. On stage my guitar broke a couple years back during one of our first shows, while I was having a fix [17 Seconds assumes he means fixing his guitar, rather than injecting drugs], the rest of the guys just started playing something like ‘Play that funky music white boy,’ I think. It broke again at another venue and I was more focused on fixing it. I was told after that this random girl had got on stage, and then been moved off, Oblivious. More recently – well
weekend just past – we were in London and we had built up to ‘Elton John’ [closing track on the album]with a little french house thing but something had gone awry with the synth and the sound was different to what we were expecting and it was
pretty funny as we kinda just stopped and waited. The Brixton Windmill seemed to laugh as well, which was good. Pete Doherty once turned up at one of our shows, there should be a six degrees of Pete Doherty though like Kevin Bacon, for sure. Anyway he was not there to see us at all but his Babyshambles friend who was also playing. Frank Turner was there, too. Frank Turner’s band are a band themselves from Oxford too, called Dive Dive, their latest album was amazing.
17 Seconds: Do you read your press?
Here and there, we dont take it seriously, though. We kinda just enjoy what we do and we laugh a lot together, so why do anything else? Although good reviews and opinion makers saying you are the next big thing is always gonna help, industry wise it ain’t always about that. You have to take the best from both worlds, I think.
17 Seconds: Do you think the word ‘indie’ still means something in 2012? If so,
It seems to signify a certain type of genre more than actually independent, it is thrown around like a colloquialism these days to describe a sound for the mass market. Coldplay, Snow Patrol are all “indie” but yet all on major labels. Adele is a really good indie news story. Especially for XL and PIAS who lost a lot during the riots a while back. That kinda stuff thankfully still has the back bone of the countries musical output across the world as well recently; well them and Harry Styles!
17 Seconds: Who would you most like to cover one of your songs, and which one?
Elton John doing ‘Elton John.’
17 Seconds: What are your favourite albums?
Weezer The Blue Album, James Blake James Blake, Wheat Hope and Adams, Pulp This is Hardcore, Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
17 Seconds: If you could work with one other musical act, alive or dead, who
would it be?
I think Paul Simon. Mainly because we all share a massive love for his Graceland album, I dont want to give him all the credit for that album, though. It would be great to work with all themusicians he worked with though. Especially the guitarist, Ray Phiri, he is a true maestro of his instrument, so natural. I am sure there is some gloss added to the actual story as I know there was a lot of political unrest when it was made but it really sounds like they were having genuine fun creating and playing this music which is all we try to do.
17 Seconds: What are your plans for the next year?
Yes 2013, a new year. We will release a second single from our album and so will head out for another small tour of the Uk. It’s a collection of dates over a selected period of time more than a tour. We may head to Germany and hopefully will continue to play more and more festivals in the summer where we feel right at home.
There’s no shortage of bands playing indiepop -yet there’s something subtly infectious about Alphabet Backwards. Straight outta erm, Oxford, they are lead singer James Hitchman, Josh Ward on bass, and Paul Davidson on drums. The band allegedly found their keyboard player Rob Thomas playing the organ at the local church, and vocalist Steph Ward joined the band after her brother Josh heard her singing in the shower.
Of such stories are the world made -I don’t care if it’s not true, it sounds brilliant!
As does their forthcoming single ‘Taller’ taken from their debut album, Little Victories, due on October 1. If you like the likes of Los Campesinos! and Dogs Die In Hot Cars, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy these guys, too.
They are playing the following live dates:
September 8th – Academy, Oxford
September 13th – It’s All Happening, London (Venue TBA)
September 20th – Golden Fleece, Nottingham
September 21st – Jam Cafe, Nottingham
September 23rd – Brixton Windmill, London
October 7th – Walk the Line Festival
October 13th – Guided Missile Club, London
This is their British Explorer EP, released late last year.