Written by: Jen Dan; Photo Credit: Tim Wettstein
Alois are a Swiss quintet composed of jazz musicians who play a very peculiar style of electro-pop; one heavily infused by Afro-Caribbean rhythms and a Euro-Techno drive.
Their new album is called Azul (Spanish for Blue), which on the surface sounds like the type of music you would like to play on a cruise ship – relaxed and optimistic. But once you peel away the glossy outer layer, you’ll find a reservoir of melancholy. The record was written as a response to depression, a sort of sonic visualization of a vacation away from the darkness.
Alois consists of Martin Schenker (guitar, vocals), Pascal Eugster (bass), Florian Schneider (drums), Lukas Weber (percussion), and Luzius Schuler (keyboards). They are a part of a growing collective of Swiss independent musicians releasing music under the auspices of Red Brick Chapel.
We at The Record Stache are delighted to have had the opportunity to chat with band leader and vocalist Martin Schenker.
Hello! Glad to touch base with you, Martin! Azul sounds like a perfect summertime record, yet this particular summer is a strange one, to say the least. How does it feel to be releasing music right now?
For sure this record will always remind us of these extraordinary times we are going through right now. I hope our music will give people an uplifting and positive energy, on headphones or on the dance floor. We wanted to make a record full of “body music,” [but] since most of the clubs are closed, it will have to be played in living rooms, or at quarantine grill parties or something.
Do you think we will ever get back to “normal,” and if so, should we?
I think that we should use this time to reflect on what we’re doing and try to change for the better.
Your record is called Azul, which in English means blue. Traditionally, this is a color associated with sadness and melancholy, especially in music, but that’s not the case here, right?
I think that the record and this color reflect a certain duality that is present in life. You can either land at the bottom of the ocean or get to [the] highest of heights. It’s definitely not just about dancing and having a good time; it’s also about healing and learning to enjoy music again.
The new songs are so much more dynamic compared to your first record. Why this shift towards the dance floor?
Everyone in the band loves rhythms from various cultures and we also enjoy electronic music, a lot! But the main idea for a dance-oriented record grew out of our experiences with playing live; the energies we felt along with the audience.
You all come from the jazz scene, which might not be so readily apparent upon first listen, but the influence is clearly there, and I can imagine that it comes out more when you play live. What have you learned from jazz? How has it enriched your music-making?
Yes, we have a background in jazz, and I guess it gives us a sense of freedom in being able to bounce ideas around and improvise on stage. It also helped us discover many other musical styles, from Brazilian jazz through Caribbean disco, and traces of these found their way into our new record.
Is it already possible to play live in Switzerland? What are some of the precautions that need to be taken? There are various solutions that are being tested around the globe, from people sitting on spaced-out chairs to dancing inside bubbles…
At the moment events up to 300 visitors are allowed, with restrictions (small groups, keeping distance, name tracing, etc…) I went to a gig the other day and had to sit an assigned area.
What’s next for you as a band?
We have a tour around Switzerland coming up in September, and we’re going to put out a new EP with our friends from ski club Toggenburg, who make techno with modular synths. We are currently working on our live set. It’s definitely gonna be fun to play the new songs on stage, finally!
Keep up with Alois