Every band, in one way or another, reflects its name. So what is alluvium? Washed up soil from the ocean. And whether that ocean is the ocean of influences that defines the laid back but focused style of Alluvium, or perhaps the great ocean that we call life, this band is named perfectly.
Hailing from Coquitlam, Alluvium is one of Vancouver’s youngest and most diverse rocks bands, crafting tunes that as melodic as they are divergent. With what bassist Sepehr Rashidi calls a “melting pot of musical styles”, the band’s debut EP, Amethyst, is a sea of funk lines, mournful pop hooks, and chiming west-coast melodies. Lead track “Mocha for Xander” combines a dusty drum beat and a wandering bass line with lead singer Samantha Dowdell’s soulful cry. “I’m spread so thin, you can see it on my skin/but you don’t care, you got your own dust bunnies to take care of”, isn’t what most singers would write for a chorus, but that is probably why Dowdell is not like most singers. On Amethyst, the band tackles subjects of isolation on both the mournful “Earl Haig” and the jazz-club worthy “Mocha for Xander” with equal panache, before delving into the repetition of modern life on the EP highlight “Goldfish”.
We had a chance to talk to bassist Sepehr Rashidi about the origins of the band’s style, their plans for a new EP, and why he once played a show under the name, “Ragtime Sass”.
What’s happening with Alluvium right now?
We just came from opening for Good for Grapes and Jordan Klassen at the Momentum Youth Festival Competition, and we competed with a bunch of bands to get that. We learned a lot of things after being mentored by Jordan Klassen, and now we’re working on a new EP, recording, a lot of writing. It’s an exciting time.
You also played with Good for Grapes at Momentum, and obviously they’ve just won the Peak Performance Project. Do you think that mentoring is going to be handy as you move forward?
Totally! We also have a strong connection with Derrival, who came in second for the Performance Project. Their keyboardist produced our first EP. We think that connections are the most important thing in the music industry.
The song “Earl Haig” off of your EP Amethyst really caught my attention because it’s named after the general of the British force in the Battle of the Marne– is that what the “girl drowning” line is about?
Well, that’s definitely a really interesting interpretation– our vocalist wrote that song, so I can’t be sure. I think her premise for that song was that she was having a rough time and felt she needed to vent through a song. We really like the idea of having a very happy instrumental over a darker, moodier vocal part, and that’s what we tried to do with that track in particular.
So basically I read wayyyy too deep into it.
[laughter] No worries! Who knows, that could have been it.
On another note, the band’s name is Alluvium, which is a term for soil carried by water, and I noticed that throughout Amethyst a lot of lyrics deal with the ocean. Is this reflective of the band at all?
We like to define ourselves by our diversity of musical styles– we have members who are serious prog music, seriously into jazz, and seriously into funk. I think you see that in Amethyst: tracks like “Mocha for Xander” are very funk driven, and then you have a laid-back song like “Earl Haig”. So I think in that sense, a melting pot or ocean analogy really explains our musical style– we’re one band influenced by a lot of different sources.
Speaking of “Mocha for Xander”, who in the band has that funky background?
That would be me– I study a lot of funk bassists, predominantly guys like Flea and particularly Marcus Miller. As far as the jazz influence goes, myself, Sina (guitar), and Sean (drums) all really admire jazz and studied jazz together in high school. So that’s where you get the funk in the group.
Your EP cover features a town called Uxbridge, which is a seemingly random town to the west of London. Does that town have any importance to the band or the EP?
Alice Wang was the one who designed that cover, I think that her idea of putting a map or globe type of cover was the symbolize our diversity and our mix of genres. I can’t really comment about that town specifically.
With this new EP that you’ve mentioned, where do you think the band’s direction is heading? Do you see yourself going in a funk direction, or sticking to a more west coast sound?
That’s a great observation– this new EP is the first full body of work that we’re releasing with our current lineup. On Amethyst, quite a few of the tracks were recorded with different members. So with this album, we have our core group: Sina, Sean, Sam, and myself. And the direction the music is taking is one that’s a lot more evident of our influences. It’s a lot more progressive and experimental than Amethyst for sure– the poppy vocal hooks are still there, but I think the instrumentals are going to be a lot more experimental. One of the tracks is called “Rocks and Chains”– it’s kinda our favourite song right now– and it switches before 4/4 and 4/7 time, and another track has a 7/4 chorus and a 4/4 verse. I’d say we’re definitely pushing ourselves and playing gutsier and denser music, and also showing our influences even more than before. You can hear jazz guitar on this EP that maybe wasn’t evident on Amethyst, Sean’s really progressive drumbeats, and you can even hear me sneaking in a few funk pieces on the bass. We don’t want this to be too self-indulgent on this album, however: we do have Sam using her pop influence on the vocal side. This new EP is about us pushing our boundaries.
My last question: a lot of bands when they’re starting up usually have some really bad names at some point, and I have heard some truly nasty ones in my time. What is the worst name you have ever performed under?
Can I say two, and then you can say what is worse?
I was in a progressive metal band at one point that was called “The Exits”. We thought it was a great idea because every building has an exit sign so we figured “hey, free advertising!”. And then we decided to call ourselves “Ragtime Sass” because the initials of the band was S-A-S.S. Yeah. I played under the name “Ragtime Sass” and I’m not proud of it.
Ragtime Sass wins. Jesus.
Yeah, that wasn’t gonna exactly get us a record deal.
At least y’all turned it around. Thanks Sepehr!
Follow Alluvium on their Facebook page here to see what the band is up to.