Using just voice and body percussion, Aluka turned the recording sessions for their debut album, Space, into one big choose-your-own adventure. Annabelle Tunley talks Tyler McLoughlan through the process.
It was through happy coincidence that Annabelle Tunley, Rachael Head and Sally Mortensen became an a cappella trio while studying a diploma of music together five years ago. Though Tunley admits there may have been a little female defiance in the decision to stick together for an assignment rather than recruit the services of a “blokey, boy drummer or boy bass player”, they soon found a shared love in the challenge of approaching a blank canvas with limited resources. With this month's debut album release, Aluka show how ditching the studio has extended a further level of creativity to their sound.
“We came up with the idea of marrying each song to a unique recording environment, and I guess that idea resonated with us because it was interesting and sounded like a fun thing to do, but also because we'd never particularly loved recording in the studio. I guess as a vocal group we travel around with each other and inevitably we end up spontaneously busting out Destiny's Child songs in various locations when no one else is around,” Tunley giggles. “Through that, you really notice how different each space is and what that does to the song.”
Working with producer Nick Huggins (Mick Turner, Kid Sam, Otouto), the group impressively recorded everything, save a couple of vocal lines, on location.
“I think it was a bit of a producer's wet dream because I think producers also do that thing where they walk around places and go, 'Wow, this would be amazing to record in here', but often you just don't have the band; it doesn't call for that. So he was really excited by it so that's what we did. It saw us going to tram depots, swimming pools, World War II bunkers, and farmyards, and yeah, all kinds of places; it was a lot of fun. The songs sound so different to each other; although we thought it would work we were really surprised when we recorded it all, put them all back-to-back, chose the order of the songs and listened through to it. We were like, 'Oh my gosh, this really... it really worked!' So I guess we were pretty surprised. Each different space adds its little voice to the mix also, kind of like there's four voices,” she says.
Heading out nationally to show off Space, Aluka are seasoned performers who lent their package-deal backing vocals to Lisa Mitchell's live show last year, while also working with Clare Bowditch on live and recorded projects consistently since their formation. Tunley is audibly delighted to be bringing the trio to Brisbane for the first time.
“When we started out, people generally just didn't know what they were witnessing a lot of the time. We'd get on stage and I think because at that point we were three very young girls hopping onto stage and you could definitely tell in the room that there was a bit of a, 'Oh here we go, I wonder what this is gonna be' type thing [going on]. But it was very satisfying then to see those people, within 30 seconds of us starting, just go kind of silent and their beers just slightly tip until they're nearly pouring on the floor. I guess we kind of... people don't expect what we're gonna do. They either expect us to be very bad or they expect us to be very, very cute. People obviously know us a bit better now, and so I think people come to our shows just knowing that we're gonna have a lot of life. We love performing, so it will be fun!”
Aluka will be playing the following dates:
Thursday 11 April - Camelot Lounge, Sydney NSW
Friday 12 April - Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart TAS
Wednesday 17 April - Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD
Friday 19 April - Nexus Arts Centre, Adelaide SA
Friday 3 May - Northcote Uniting Church, Melbourne WA