Alcoa is the name of the a folksy project manned by Derek Archambault – better known as the frontman for hardcore outfit Defeater. His debut under this moniker, Bone & Marrow, is out later this month via Bridge Nine. I checked in with Derek to talk a bit about the record, the recording process and having his fiancee contribute vocals to the project.
So just to get things rolling, can you give us a little background on how the Alcoa project got started?
Alcoa was started years ago when I was in Transistor Transistor. I started writing songs on an eighty day tour we did with Light The Fuse And Run, came home and recorded them and played a handful of shows in New England. Over the next eight or nine years I would play shows for a few months and then shelve the songs again, never having the desire to really take it anywhere and playing in other bands to take up my time. The project stayed on the back burner through Defeater's touring and that lasted up until we started recording "Bone & Marrow"
How much would you say doing the acoustic material for Defeater played into the writing for Bone & Marrow?
A couple of the songs for the "Sleepless Nights" part of EDSN were skeletons of songs I had written for Alcoa but had never really seen the light of day. The writing process was something I had been doing for years so it came very naturally. Write and record the basic structure and let the rest of Defeater add their personal touches.
When did you take the time to write and record these songs? How did splitting the recording between Mike [Moschetto] and Jay [Maas] help this record come together?
Aaron Neveu (drums/some guitars/etc) and I started fleshing things out last winter by me showing him a song structure and recording the drum tracks ourselves. I would then take the tracks home and record all the acoustic guitars. We did this for the whole record and then brought everything to Moschetto to do the rest of the instrumentation. Mike is a very talented engineer and had the space, instruments and time to let Aaron and I make the record we wanted to. Jay Maas handled the vocal recording and we mixed the record together. Jay and I having such a long standing relationship helped the process a lot. We both have full time jobs at home and had to work between Defeater tours, so it took a while to get everything in order, but it all worked out for the best. And Jay's mastering really brought the record's sound into it's own. Having engineered the record as closely to a 60's/70's sound as we could with the gear we had, he rounded all the edges beautifully and brought out everything we had buried under a wall of sound.
It's noted that you brought in some extra instrumentation to help round out the sound of this record. How much would you say those choices help shape the vibe of this LP?
Almost every song on this record was written with a full band arrangement in mind. Some of the songs have been kicking around for a few years and were played as a full band in various incarnations of Alcoa, always with me trying to exact my vision. It wasn't until Aaron and I started recording "Bone & Marrow" that the songs really came into their own though. The other players on the album are all dear friends that I asked to come and lend their talents to it, again with my intent to complete the songs as I heard them in my head. Some of the new pieces they added have given the songs new life, some are the textures I always imagined. This is also the first time I really tried my hand at playing banjo. Some of the banjo on the record ended up being a huge part of the song, like in "Drowned".
When writing for Defeater, most people know there's a story to those lyrics. How did writing the lyrics for this compare in trying to tell the listener about what you're trying to get across?
Lyrically, this record is nothing like a Defeater album. It is just a collection of songs written about everyone writes about; love, loss, regret, life and death. Some of the stories are still fictional, some loosely based on my life and others that are the most honest things I have ever committed to song.
It is also noted that there are some vocals on the record from your fiancee Alyssa. What sparked her addition to the record and how did that relationship manifest into the creation of her parts on the record?
Alyssa and I recorded a demo of some of these songs before I left for a Defeater tour with Bane last fall. We thought it would be nice to take on Alcoa as a project to play with in Defeater's downtime, but never really considered it being a real band. Alyssa has a beautiful voice and I'm so happy she added it to this record, it wouldn't be half as good without her on it.
What kind of touring can we expect you to do on this record?
Alcoa doesn't have any plans to hit the road yet. Defeater is in the middle of writing and recording our new full length for Bridge Nine and Alyssa and I are in the midst of planning our wedding, so things are a bit chaotic right now. I'd love to tour with this project, but with Defeater being my main focus and almost every member of Alcoa owning their own business, it makes it hard to sort out time when we can all tour.