Alpha Strategy: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of:Your next journey through Wonderland, lost and twisting in the deep dark woods.
File Next To:Zack Kouns, Big Black, Swans
Playing: WL 611 a.k.a. “Wavelength’s Endless Summer,” Saturday August 16 at the Vintage & Flea Market (1251 Dundas St. W.)

Alpha Strategy is a band that celebrates all things weird and strange. Emerging as an independent project of Rory Hinchey, the experimental noise-rock 4-piece has grown to incorporate the guitars of James McAdams, drums of Ben O’Brien, and bass of Aaron “The Baron” Parent. Their music is a stimulating combination of frenetic guitars and synths, drums driving your heart’s panicked beat, and the looming voice of a dark overlord guiding you on your journey. It’s an intriguing, fast paced, dissonant trip that can wholly maintain your attention until you’ve snapped back to reality to find you’re standing in the middle of the living room still holding your toothbrush. Raina Hersh connected with Rory Hinchey through the magic of email to pick his brain about the feverish sounds and evolution of Alpha Strategy.

Your music is described as having a “frenzied and erratic” sound. Frenzied is right! Sometimes it feels like the music is a train trying to run me off the tracks. Where does this franticness come from?

I guess everything I put together really comes back to personal experience, or my feelings on things. Not sure what that says about me? But I also like to try and make music I find exciting, so that if I could somehow discover it somewhere and have never heard it before, it would be exactly the sort of thing I’d want to listen to.

So what music is exciting you these days?

I listen to a lot of 1960s girl group music. I host a weekly radio program, where I play nothing but girl groups and female-fronted acts from the ‘60s. I’ve been listening to The Gun Club a lot lately as well. The first few records really do it for me; spot-on songwriting and this subtle yet over-arching dark humour about it. And I guess other bands that sort of tie into that, The Birthday Party, These Immortal Souls… Playing more shows around Toronto lately has brought me into contact with some really great, bizarro, noisy rock bands like Connoisseurs of Porn, Voidfolk, and We Were Heads. And I’ve always been fond of Wolfcow too. I feel pretty fortunate to be in a place where these people are playing around regularly.

Alpha Strategy started as a solo project. How has your writing process changed since incorporating other talents into the band?

Before the band, I’d been just chopping up loops from old girl group songs to build backing tracks, then tossing in a synth line, vocals, and whatever else. I’d originally wanted to start incorporating other people into it so as to improve the live presentation of the music. Over time, the guys have gotten more involved, and have put their own touches onto my songs, or in other scenarios we’d start a song with the idea of it specifically being a collaborative thing, rather than me just doing something on my own. We’ll start on the next record after this European tour in September, and I think it will be a lot of more bouncing ideas back and forth between us, which I am looking forward to.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s a few homemade synthesizers used in your music. How many do you have? Which types of sounds are your favourite?

There’s one that I use, it’s essentially an oscillating circuit that I can change the pitch on. Years ago, you could buy these “100 in 1 electronic project kits” from Radio Shack, which were these things for children, to get them acquainted with how different electronic components work or whatever. So, it utilizes a lot of that hardware. I run a line out from it into a ring modulator and out into a delay pedal. I’m pretty fond of the harsh/crunchy sound it makes, although you can do a bunch of other stuff with it; for a while, as part of the live set I’d switch a few wires around to get it to generate percussive tones.

You mentioned your forthcoming European tour. You’ve toured there before, right? Anywhere in particular you’re looking forward to? Is there a difference in the way your music is received?

I’ve been over there for three other tours, but only playing solo. For the first two I was doing more sort of droney-soundtracky stuff, under my own name rather than Alpha Strategy. During the last one, it was 30 countries in 37 days or something like that. This time around we’re on the bill for two dates of the Lithuanian edition of the Sounds of the Underground Festival, which I am really looking forward to. Vilnius has always been fun to play.

There’s been some great nights over there, and lots of real stinkers too, just like here. But the people are always nice, and so is the food. I like the idea of being able to drive for a few hours and be in a totally different country, and how it’s so much of a roll of the dice in terms of how each night will go.

When you’re playing locally, what’s your ideal venue?

I’m really fond of Handlebar. It’s just the right size, and a nice space. The folks who manage it are the tops, and have always given us a lot of liberty when we’ve put on shows there ourselves. The crowd is usually a good mix of people who’ve come out to see the bands, and people just casually stopping in.

Alpha Strategy play “Wavelength’s Endless Summer” on Saturday August 16 at the Vintage & Flea Market (1251 Dundas Street West at Dovercourt).