By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — It’s been a few years since Sweet Alibi’s third album, Walking in the Dark, was written, but the album’s weight is still felt among its members.
The record chronicles a dark and tumultuous period in the lives of lead vocalists Amber Rose and Jess Rae Ayre, including the death of Rose’s mother to cancer, and Ayre’s journey towards sobriety.
For Rose, it’s still difficult to perform some of the songs on the album, particularly the heart-wrenching title track dedicated to her mom.
“I kind of just go away to a place,” says Rose. “I try to look at the audience and picture one of them in a similar situation as my mom. I always pretend she’s in the crowd and I’m telling her story. That makes it a little bit easier, but it’s always really hard.”
As for Ayre’s own struggles with addiction—captured on the track “Middle Ground”—it’s been a time for healing and self-discovery. “I quit drinking four years ago, so there’s been constant learning curves, learning how to live your life without alcohol in it,” she says.
“I had a few turning points,” Ayre continues. “You know when people say they had a wake-up call? I feel like I had a few…I think it was after one of our first tours. We were out after every show, and I was drinking quite a bit. After we got home, I just kept the party going, although there was no party around. It was just me. It got very lonely, and it wasn’t me anymore.”
Despite the album’s heavier content, there’s a bright hopefulness in tracks, like “Keep Showing You,” or the sultry fan-favourite, “Bodacious,” about a famous rodeo bull.
Known for their rich multi-part harmonies and pop-infused take on roots, the Winnipeg group are currently on the road with singer-songwriter Jadea Kelly, with whom they share a manager.
With the added talents of vocalist Michelle Anderson (also on banjo and guitar), Sweet Alibi are among a growing list of Winnipeg groups (hear: Chic Gamine, The Bros. Landreth, The Small Glories, etc.) whose expert harmonies and timeless soul continue to draw eyes and ears to the ‘Heart of the Continent,’ and beg the ongoing question, “What’s up with Winnipeg’s extraordinary talent pool?”
“We were just talking about this yesterday,” says Rose. “The community is just so strong. Everyone is so supportive, there are so many venues, and so many options for a young band to break out into Winnipeg…and, of course, there’s so many touring musicians, so there’s lots of help to break out into the touring world.”
Walking in the Dark, produced by Murray Pulver (also the producer of The Bros. Landreth’s JUNO Award-winning album, Let It Lie) recently earned the band a Western Canadian Music Award nomination in the Roots Duo/Group category, and things continue to look up for the trio.
“The band is doing really good,” says Rose. “We’ve been getting a lot of traction with the new album. People are really supportive. Jessica has been really healthy; everyone has been really healthy. We really can’t ask for more.”
Sweet Alibi perform at the West End Cultural Centre on October 30 (Winnipeg), The Bassment on November 3 (Saskatoon), Festival Hall on November 4 (Calgary), The Aviary on November 5 (Edmonton), Rogue Folk Club at St. James Hall on November 10 (Vancouver) and Upstairs Lounge on November 12 (Victoria). Vinyl copies of Walking in the Dark will be available for purchase on tour. For more information, head to sweetalibi.com.AB, Alberta, Bassment, BC, British Columbia, Festival Hall, Manitoba, MB, Rogue Folk Club, Saskatchewan, SK, Sweet Alibi, The Aviary, Upstairs Lounge, Walking In the Dark, West End Cultural Centre