By Michael Dunn
CALGARY – Over the eight years they’ve been playing and making records together, Winnipeg’s Sweet Alibi have toured Canada consistently, but it was the success of their indie hit, “I’ll Wait” from We’ve Got To (2014) that brought the female trio’s harmony-rich soul/pop/folk sound to a wider audience.
“Even now, when we get to shows, there are a lot of people who show up because they heard us on CBC,” says Amber Rose who splits vocal and guitars duties with Jesse Rae Ayre. “It makes a huge difference for us at shows, and it kind of set the tone for our sound and production going forward.”
While their self-titled debut leaned heavily on indie folk arrangements and songs, We’ve Got To and Walking In The Dark (2016) found the band honing a more distinctive sound, featuring Ayre’s soul and pop style mixed with Rose’s more traditional and country leanings. With the help of producer Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities), Ayre, Rose, and harmony vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Michelle Anderson have been a lot more mindful about channeling and focusing on their particular strengths and flavour of style.
“We were just talking about Beck,” says Anderson, “and how he’s always making records that have a sonic theme running through them. Each one is different, but it’s always Beck, you know?
We’re trying to be more cohesive that way, our harmonies sort of define the sound, so that people know it’s us when they hear it.”
Having toured Canada numerous times, Sweet Alibi is preparing for their first European trip, a tour through Germany in January. For the band, the opportunity to travel outside North America is not only a first professionally, but personally as well. “None of us have ever played there, or even been there,” says Ayre, “It’s a whole new place for us.” Rose adds, “I’m gonna stick around after the tour, maybe go to Italy or somewhere. I’m super excited.”
While being in a travelling band can be challenging for any group, it can be doubly difficult as female performers in an often male-dominated industry. With the recent viral honesty #MeToo campaign, and the light being shone upon the dark corners of misogyny and the prevalence of sexism in entertainment, Sweet Alibi opened up about their experiences as women and as performers.
“There are definitely times where boundaries being crossed,” says Ayre. “I mean, we’re playing in bars, and people have had a few drinks, their judgment is a little impaired and they might act in ways they might not otherwise. Not to use drinking as an excuse, but sometimes it brings out certain behaviours in some people.”
“There are still instances where you know, we’re three women walking into a bar, and someone will still think we don’t know how to plug in our guitars,” says Anderson. “Since we’ve been a band though, the three of us stick together, and if we see anything like that happening, we’re pretty quick to support each other, and not stand for that kind of shit.”
“I think people are becoming more aware in the music industry, and making a better effort to be more inclusive,” says Rose. “At Folk Music Ontario, there are rooms that had posted, ‘This is a safe space. If you need to talk to someone, come in here’. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I definitely support it, and I think talking about it is the best step forward.”
Sweet Alibi Performs Monday, November 6 at the Ironwood Stage and Grill (Calgary), and then Saturday, November 18 at the Bow Valley Music Club (Calgary).Bow Valley Music Club, Sweet Alibi, The Ironwood Stage and Grill