by Martyna Turczynowicz
Local folk darlings the Sweet Alibi are releasing their latest album, We’ve Got To, on November 20th. The trio has been winning over fans with their eclectic folk sound and compelling lyrics. Stylus sat down with Amber Quesnel, Jessica Rae Ayre and Michelle Anderson before one of their gigs at the Times Change(d) to talk about the upcoming release and non-stop touring.
Stylus: What’s the story behind your name, Sweet Alibi?
Amber Quesnel: It took us a long time and also a dictionary. Alibi was one of the first words that we came across that wasn’t weird. It made sense; we like that we’re pretty and our music’s soft but we always try to drive in an edge. Either it’s in a song or the way we look or what we’re talking about.
Jessica Rae Ayre: We wanna hear a few F sharps here and there.
AQ: There was another name Michelle had come up with, Woody Got 3. But then we were like that’s way too sexual! There was also Sweet Twang, which was kind of twatty sounding. It would have placed us as a country band. We were starting out, we didn’t really know what we were.
Stylus: Your new album, We’ve Got To, is going to be released soon. Tell me more about that…
JA: Our next album launches November 20th. It’s very soon, it’s exciting. Basically all the years we’ve spent together. I think sort of where the sentence came from is that
AQ: I think where the phrase came from is that Jessica wrote a song called “Get It Right.” It was the beginning us making the next album. In the lyrics she says “I’m gonna get it right, I’ve got to get it right.” So “we’ve got to” is like the same kind of message “Get It Right” has. You just gotta do it.
JA: The title we kind of got from, you get to this point where you start to tour and you pick up momentum and what is your next step? Do you just continue to do that, or go separate ways. We’ve developed so much together, we made this family.
Michelle Anderson: So much time and money has been invested in this.
Stylus: What’s the sound like?
AQ: We worked with Rusty Matyas from Imaginary Cities. He’s tons of fun to work with. He’s got his own sound that he adds to every song. After working with him I’ll totally be able to recognize whether or not he had a hand in producing what I’m listening to. He’s really into writing melodies, which is really great because a lot of the songs we write, we don’t think about that. We think about vocal melodies but not about instrumental. He helped a lot with that. When we were starting we didn’t even really know whether we were folk or country. That’s what was nice about working with Rusty; it makes our Sweet Alibi sound. It’s still folk but there’s some elements of pop in there. It’s developed its own vibe.
Stylus: Have you been touring a lot?
AQ: A lot, it’s been great. We’ve been touring since last April but in the last six months it’s been every month. So we’re usually home for about a week and gone for two and a half or three weeks. The next tour we’re doing is three weeks, five days and I think it’s the longest we’ve done.
JA: We’ve also done some awesome festivals. We did Summerfolk, South Country Fair, Winnipeg Jazz Fest, we did the Winnipeg Beach bandstand. Pretty busy. We were also at North by Northeast in Toronto back in june.
AQ: That was super fun. We’re doing the HomeRoutes tour in B.C.
Stylus: What’s HomeRoutes?
AQ: The HomeRoutes Tour is a Winnipeg based company and they choose artists and they put them on different routes. There’s a ton of routes all over Canada and in the States now. You go from house to house so there’s no bars or anything. It’s better than touring on our own because it’s easier.
JA: You get to hang out with the people hosting you and have dinner with them. You play a bit and take a break and chat and play again. We’ve made so many friends from that. Musicians from all over the world that do it. It’s getting really popular. People are always asking us at shows, “Do you guys do home concerts? Do you know what that is? How do you get involved?”
Stylus: Do you think house concerts are becoming more popular?
JA: I think it’s becoming a more popular thing. There are so many independent artists now. Even if it just starts with your family and friends in your city, you can do a couple a year. I think the word’s catching on. People will go to a house concert, and then they’ll wanna throw a house concert.
AQ: It’s so fun. You meet new people. The host is sort of in charge of how the night goes, it’s fun for them. I think people like it because it’s intimate. It’s like having a theater for a night in your home.
Stylus: How is touring all the time?
AQ: We’re practically married to each other. Everything we do in life now revolves around Sweet Alibi. I know everything in my life does and in theirs. It has to. We always joke on the road about making a Winnipeg gossip magazine. Something very anonymous. Someone needs to do it because it’d be pretty funny.
JA: We watch other musicians’ Facebook posts and are like, “Oh we could totally write that in the column!” and send someone to a show to scope it out. We’d take pictures on our phones.
MA: We’ve gotten pretty in depth with this. It might happen. There are a lot of different stories, I think it’s been an interesting summer in Winnipeg.
Stylus: That’s really funny!
JA: We wanna do it so bad. We’d go so ganged up on though. I wonder what would happen, because people would suddenly want to hide their personal affairs. You even could have moles. But then they would know who’s telling the stories.
Stylus: What do you think of Winnipeg’s music scene?
AQ: Everywhere we go, it never fails, people are like, “So where you guys from?” and we say Winnipeg and they’re like, “Oh, no wonder, everyone’s from Winnipeg.” It’s almost like they’re slightly annoyed.
MA: Somebody from Royal Canoe said something along the lines of “Everybody here is creating because the winters are so long…”
AQ: It’s not just because of winter. It’s also the way the city’s designed. We don’t have a huge nightlife, but we have hot spots, there’s the Times Change(d). Even if you’re not a musician you’re likely to end up at the Times and if you do you’ll see amazing music and probably be inspired to start a band and play there. It’s a goal for a lot of young artists in Winnipeg. They’re like “You guys played at the Times? I can’t wait to play at the Times!” We were like that too, that drove us to become a band. Winnipeg talks about other Winnipeg bands a lot, we all know each other. It’s competitive, but it’s supportive.
The Sweet Alibi will be celebrating the release of We’ve Got To on November 20 at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets are on sale now!