For nearly a decade, Alpha Rev has been one of Austin's most dependable alternative rock outfits. Surprisingly, in that time, the band has only released four albums, culminating in the recently released Bloom. However, the dedication to song writing and presentation of epic themes does suggest a band that likes to take its own good time.
Speaking from his home in Austin and in anticipation of Friday's show at the Granada Theater, Alpha Rev's leader Casey McPherson was kind enough to talk with DC9 about how Austin has changed and how it feels to be on Dallas' own Kirtland Records.
You were born and raised in Austin. How has if changed over the years?
Well, it's always for the worse. I mean more people have made traffic worse. But it still has its core cool spots. You can get to clear, cool water in fifteen minutes. You can still watch an outdoor movie at Barton Springs. A lot of the weird, small creative outlets still exist. As long as those don't go away, the culture will still be there.
What is your favorite venue there?
I probably love The Parish.
You're playing the Granada Theater here and it is one of our best venues. Does the venue play a factor in how the band performs?
Yes, of course. You spend hundreds of hours rehearsing and writing and arranging; and then you go to play a show and it just sounds terrible. Playing a good venue makes me really excited because I know we will be able to convey our music the way we want to. That's all you can hope for.
The band plays the Dallas area very regularly. Have your experiences here been positive?
Oh yes, I love Dallas. The bands there are super cool and Dallas has great food. My grandparents live in Irving. We played the House of Blues the last time we were there and that was an awesome show. We are super stoked to be able to play with Seryn this time around. They are an incredible band. We are honored to be on the bill with them. It is going to be special.
The band's most recent release is Bloom. Has the sound changed very much over the course of nine years?
There's been a bit of old school country influence that has come into the band, a little bit more Americana. I'm not as fucked up and depressed as I used to be. I think I'm exploring more of the good side of life when I am writing.
What contributed to you being less fucked up and depressed?
Well, I got arrested a lot less. That helps. Jail food is terrible. I got married. Being in love is something that can heal all wounds. I've been married four years now.
Bloom came out of Kirtland Records, a Dallas label. How did that come about?
John [Kirtland] and I have been friends ever since I was playing in a band called Endochine. He was in Deep Blue Something. I think he had known about Alpha Rev for a while and it just seemed like a good opportunity for both of us to work together.
The band's previous release, New Morning, was on Hollywood Records. Was it odd to switch to a small label?
No, it was refreshing. After the Hollywood deal, I was ready to work with a smaller group of people. I needed to get back to enjoying and remembering why I was doing all this in the first place.
Where did you come up with Alpha Rev? It sounds like a newly discovered star.
I just looked for Latin prefixes and suffixes to create a word that sounded like a heavenly body. It fit the meaning of my band and it wasn't taken by any dot.com.
Did you ever do a show with Mercury Rev?
No. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to gain any of that band's success.
You are also involved in Flying Colors, a band that features Mike Portnoy [Dream Theater] and Steve Morse [Dixie Dregs]. Does that qualify as a super group?
The other guys are super. They are mentors to me with their musicianship and their dedication to their craft. Mike was just a big fan of my Endochine and Alpha Rev. He and Steve Morse were thinking about doing a project together and they needed a singer. Mike suggested me. Obviously, I was honored, but I figured I would be fired the first day in the studio. But it has worked out really well. Those are some great musicians. I was honored to make a record and tour with them and we are going to make another record next year.
Almost every description of Alpha Rev says you are an alternative rock band. I always wondered alternative to what?
I have no idea. Managers and labels put all that stuff together. They say alternative and I don't even know what that means. That is a really good question.
One reviewer wrote that the band was "emotive without being melodramatic." Is that an important line to walk?
Honesty is real important to me. Music has been a way of me being honest with myself and with others. I think it's important to not try to act or fake it. Music is such a personal thing. It is such a personal way to communicate that I want to be as honest as I can be. The prouder I am of my music, the more emotional it is.