Interview: Alabama 3

HARRIET WADE speaks to LARRY LOVE, lead singer of genre-mashing group ALABAMA 3, about hedonistic on-stage antics and penning The Sopranos theme tune.

Alabama 3 brixton consumerism drug addict Elvis Film film scores Harriet Wade interview Larry Love Shoplifting 4 Jesus The Sopranos zeitgeist

It was with some trepidation, and absolutely no idea what to expect, that I began the interview with the self-described ‘pop, punk rock, blues and country techno situationist crypto-Marxist-Leninist electro band’ Alabama 3.

Larry Love, the lead singer and writer of the song Woke Up This Morning (which many will recognize as the title track for The Sopranos), was reassuringly kooky. Somewhat of a contradiction of a man, he is the ideal front for a band that clashes so many genres and ideas.

Formed in Brixton in 1996, the band decided to fuse country and gospel, as ‘no one had thought of that before.’ Despite finding it difficult to break into mainstream culture, A3 persisted under the pretext that ‘a prophet is never well known in his own land.’

Spiritualism is something that infuses all their music, yet it is the theme of consumerism that dominates their latest album Shoplifting 4 Jesus.

Larry explains the album as a political statement against bankers, musing airily ‘theft is in the air.’ It is impossible to sell records, he claims vehemently, so the next step is ‘to sell culture.’ How he plans on achieving this was not immediately apparent.

The name Alabama 3 is a replacement for the original name, ‘The First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine‘. Avid fans of Elvis, they also simply found it quite a humorous name – less amusing when the actual Church of Elvis (I know, me neither) sent them a cease and desist letter.

The new name is a reference to an American homicide case in the 30s, as well as an effort to disassociate themselves from Britain and the ‘flag-waving jingoism’ of Britpop.

All members of the band have their own personas that they adopt on stage. The number of the band fluctuates, once ‘up to 25 on the fucking stage- like a sardine can.’ Lead singer Rob Spragg is ‘a gentle Christian man in the afternoon,’ but his alter ego Larry Love is a ‘dangerous hopeless drug addict.’

This hedonistic image does not seem completely in keeping with the rather saccharine mantra ‘look after each other, go dancing at least once a week and hold hands.’ But as everything with A3, nothing is that consistent.

Love makes the valid point that ‘all artists take on personas, we just took it a step further.’ I couldn’t help but warm to him when he later confessed ‘we just also did it to keep ourselves amused.’

Larry Love supports his wild image with action, one time jumping off the stage to headbutt a skinhead and in the ruckus accidentally deflating the blow up stage. The band has played Brixton prison three times, and has done three funerals in the last two weeks alone – testament to the versatility of their music.

Their music has garnered much respect: notable fans include Leonard Cohen and Stephen King. Futurism plays a huge role in their music, and they are always keen not only to tap into the ‘zeitgeist,’ but even to create it.

When their music first broke onto the scene it was unlike anything else, and in the subsequent nine albums they have always tried to create a fresh sound. Love believes that the idea of fusing genres was unheard of when the band started, though now is very common: ‘all kids mash up everything.’

Currently working on three film scores, they believe their sound is ‘cinematic’ and are unashamed of the Sopranos link (although aficionados will be as disappointed as I was, when Love admitted to an ignorance of the show- and couldn’t join in with my theoretical musings about the series finale). Love points out ‘we didn’t do the fucking theme music for Friends, the Sopranos seems cooler.’

Alabama 3 begin a tour of the UK on November 22, and Love himself does not know what to expect about on-stage antics. Despite never being completely constant in anything, this infallibility seemed somehow to add to the credibility of a band that transcends just so many genres.

Love claims that ‘we don’t write music for now, we write it for five years time.’ I believe him.

Alabama 3 are playing at The Junction on November 27.