Alligator Indian: Totally Swamped
By Alli Marshall
Asheville’s Christian Church and Spooky Bea are busy people. As Alligator Indian they make left- field indie pop that marries strident guitars to creepy-cool atmospherics. They also recently doubled as the organizational force behind the New Weird Asheville compilation. But these curators of the unconventional aren’t finding it hard to fit in.
“We love pop sensibility,” says Bea, and it shows: Catchy hooks, echoes of 60s girl group bands, 80s synth-pop and dance beats are all over Spring I’m In, Alligator Indian’s new LP. But as excited as the band is about the release — an expansion on the techniques of last fall’s Football EP— they’re also dedicated to their roles as leaders of Asheville’s Swamping Collective. It’s Swamping that released NWA and which seeks to bring together not just musicians but visual artists, videographers, writers and fashion designers.
“There are a lot of people who do stuff, but they do it on a small scale, or they don’t really show their stuff off,” Church says of the artistic nooks and crannies of the Asheville scene. ”We’re trying to bring those people out of the woodwork.”
Bea and Church grew up in Melbourne, Fla., and went to college in Orlando, where Bea studied music technology (she’s currently a voice instructor). Bea says she started experimenting with writing her own music in high school but didn’t identify as a musician until 2004; Church began working on music in 2005. Together, they moved to New York where the couple spent their free time wandering the city and recording as Eleven & the Falcons. Two-and-a-half years ago they relocated to Asheville in hopes of creating or being a key cog in an up-and-coming arts community.
“Coming from New York, we saw so much cutting-edge art all the time,” Bea elaborates.. “Here, you have to dig for it.”
The other challenge is finding a venue for those sorts of hard-to-typify acts that populate the NWA compilation. It’s not that these bands are necessarily aggressive or offensive. Some are orchestral (dep). Some use found sounds (Muntjac). And some are darkly melodic (Wyla). But none are rock bands in the traditional sense.
One club that seemed open to the Swamping bands was recently shuttered, but Church and Bea aren’t discouraged. They were tapped for a May AHA AVL session by Moog Music, and they hope to eventually open a venue of their own by pooling the resources of the collective. For now, they make do: The launch party for Spring I’m In was held at Asheville’s garage-like Warehouse #10.
“Considering the title, it’s a little bit dark,” says Bea, though she insists the content isn’t that dark. “I was highly inspired by The Wonder Years.” While that early-‘90s TV show celebrating the gradual loss of innocence might not be obvious, other influences, like dream pop and post-punk, certainly are felt.
Bea says Alligator Indian was initially inspired by punk. They’ve since moved past it. “As we’ve seen the positive aspects of trying to build a future for ourselves, we’ve identified with post-punk more,” she explains. “What we’re trying to do,” Church adds, “is move past the sonic palette and take those concepts that made post-punk so interesting and innovative and apply them to the now.”
Spring pairs dance-y beats and melodies with thoughtful writing. On opener “Our Love Was A Crime,” penned in support of gay marriage, Church and Bea sing, “They said that two alike should be two apart, and they scowled at us.” Other songs — like the mostly-spoken-word “Ice & Asteroids” and the charmingly off-kilter “Gnarwhal” — were crafted during bouts of boundary-pushing experimentation. But they serve as a sort of purging of past influences, too.
“It’s very attractive to want to re-create the music you love,” Church explains, citing the duo’s soft spot for 60s girl-group pop as an example, “but we don’t need to make a whole album of that. We try to put our own spin on things that we like.”