ALMA (from l-r): Ian Simmonds (drums), Sam McCambridge (bass), Jack Kennedy (vocals), Kieran Breese (rhythm guitar), Ross Litherland (lead guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
ALMA, an alternative five-piece from Stoke-on-Trent, are a young band, but play a mature sound influenced by a wide range of musical genres.
They haven’t even released an EP yet, but they are making themselves heard, with a headline gig at Hanley’s The Exchange already under their belts.
With this and a fast growing devoted fan base, it seems there’s no stopping them.
I sat down and chatted with them about their success so far, and what the future holds.
How was ALMA formed?
KIERAN BREESE (rhythm guitar): Basically, I spoke to Sam about playing bass in a band we’d form.
It was originally going to be me playing guitar and singing and we’d found a drummer which wasn’t Ian.
All we needed was a lead guitarist who came in the form of Jack, who lied his way into the band saying he could play lead, but then clearly couldn’t.
He had a better voice than me though, and he ended up singing, while I dropped back to rhythm guitar.
Ross then came in on lead and Sam brought Ian in when our original drummer left.
How did the name ALMA come about?
JACK KENNEDY (vocals): There’s a pub called by that name near where we all live, and it seemed to be a good name to call ourselves.
Also, it’s a song by Morrissey, so it was just there for the taking, I guess!
What inspires your music?
ROSS LITHERLAND (lead guitar): Well, we play and create music that we all like and enjoy playing, so I’d say we’re inspired by bands like Arctic Monkeys, Slaves…
IAN SIMMONDS (drums): It’s a mixture.
We take aspects from certain genres and put what we like to call “our own twist” on it.
ROSS: Possibly even with elements of grunge and punk.
KIERAN: Yeah, I’d say we were indie with a punk twist.
ROSS: I suppose we create our own style to be remembered by.
IAN: That’s what we go for anyway.
You’re all from Stoke-on-Trent. What’s your view of the current music scene in the Potteries?
KIERAN: It’s sick! We love local gigs, whether it’s watching or playing and there’s always an electric atmosphere.
ROSS: It’s almost like one big community, in that everyone knows each other and are always supportive.
Local gigs are the best ones to go to, in my opinion.
IAN: I personally think the Stoke music scene consists of indie music and beatdowns, which is sad because there’s not a great deal of genres flying around massively, but it suits us down to the ground because we fit into one of these classes.
And yeah, everybody knows everybody.
How is it playing live?
IAN: It’s awesome, having the backing of the people we do and having regular people show up to every gig.
It gives us a sense of fulfilment, I guess.
ROSS: It’s always an incredible feeling.
It’s great seeing people enjoy what you do, we never want it to end.
KIERAN: At our headline at the Exchange especially, the crowd were nuts and it’s the best feeling in the world, seeing people have such a good time to songs you’ve written.
IAN: We’re doing something that loads of people love and enjoy which makes doing it better, because it’s not just for us, we’re doing it for the community as well.
SAM McCAMBRIDGE (bass): Everyone is incredibly supportive when we play live, from friends and family to members of other bands coming to watch and support.
It’s a great area that we were brought into and every gig has a different atmosphere, none at all are negative.
ROSS: As Ian has said before, there’s no need to be nervous, because you are doing what you love and you should go out and enjoy it.
In regards to lyrics, is there are a primary songwriter or is it more a collaboration between every one of you?
KIERAN: Jack is the primary songwriter, but we all pitch in musically, he’s just the lyricist.
ROSS: Jack always comes out with some amazing lyrics though, and they make the songs what they are.
What’s your process of getting a song from initial idea to completion?
KIERAN: Normally, we start off with a riff from Ross and then Ian puts his drums to it, followed by bass and rhythm chord, then Jack usually puts lyrics in when we’ve rehearsed it a fair few times, or even just a few hours before a gig, like he’s done before.
ROSS: We tend to all put in our ideas and opinions, so we are all happy with the final product.
What subjects do you tend to cover in your songs?
KIERAN: The most interesting one is a song called “Sad State of Affairs”, which is based on a girl who tweeted negatively about us even before our first gig.
There’s quite a bit of heartbreak in the lyrics as well, it’s quite angsty.
IAN: Making music for the haters.
What have you got lined up in the near future?
ROSS: We have a gig on the 19th August, and probably the biggest one coming up is the DJ set by Bez of the Happy Mondays we are playing at the Exchange.
KIERAN: We can’t announce a lot of things other than that.
ROSS: We have our foot in the door for a few other things as well.
KIERAN: All yet to be revealed!
How did you get the support slot for Bez?
KIERAN: The promoter for our headline at the Exchange is putting it on and so they asked us.
I’d never been so excited as to when I got that phone call.
You probably thought it was a wind-up at first.
KIERAN: I’m not going to lie, I was sceptical at whether it would fall through.
ROSS: When Kieran said we got the slot, I couldn’t quite believe it.
SAM: We were all going mad, because we’re all familiar with the Manchester scene and as soon as he mentioned Bez and support slot, we were so happy and excited it was unreal.
ROSS: We are all buzzing for it.
When is it?
KIERAN: 29th October.
ROSS: Should be a cracking night with some cracking acts on.
Will you be bringing out some music soon?
KIERAN: We’re actually recording our debut EP next weekend, so it should be out soon.
SAM: The tracks may be mastered before September to release, should be a cracker.
What’s your long-term aim?
KIERAN: I’d love to make enough money from the band to survive off of it.
ROSS: It would be great to do it full-time.
KIERAN: But at the moment, it’s all about having fun and not getting too ahead of ourselves.
ROSS: Sometimes you do have to be optimistic though.
IAN: To be honest, I’d be happy even if we didn’t make huge amounts of money, but I guess being signed would be sick, just live making music and making other people happy.