Image from L-R: Doug Scheider (drums), John Toohill (guitar), Ryan McMullen (guitar), Irene Rekhviashvili (vocals) are the band Alpha Hopper.
It’s “corrupted mutant music” and we’ll listen if we want to.
Today marks the summer solstice, and we’ve got the perfect firecracker of an album to kick off the season. Alpha Hopper are back with their second full-length entitled ‘Aloha Hopper’ accompanied by some alarmingly good-looking summery album artwork. But don’t think for one second this music is going to be a cooling dip in the pool – instead, each frenzied gut-punch of a track is more like being blasted by several hairdryers when it’s already 85 out. It’s enough to give you heatstroke.
That’s some good-looking album artwork right there.
Fronting this Buffalo-based four piece is Irene Rekhviashvili whose lead vocals and performance match the formidable energy of the band’s sound – a sound that they describe as “corrupted mutant music” (take a look at their brand new video below to hear what that’s like). Irene’s feverish, frantic, and impulsive performances are arguably quite a contrast from her demeanor in her day job: an immigration attorney. So we asked her a few questions about the new album and some of the challenges of being an immigration attorney in 2019.
Alpha Hopper’s music video for ‘Trade-Off’ shot and directed by Brian Thomas Walker.
When and how did Alpha Hopper get started?
Doug Scheider (drums), John Toohill (guitar), Ryan McMullen (guitar) and I started playing music together about four to five years ago. I had just watched a music documentary about [The Birthday Party guitarist] Rowland S. Howard and was feeling amped up about playing more music. I asked John about starting a project, and he asked Doug and Ryan, as they’ve been close friends for a long time and have played music together before. They all said yes, thank goodness.
What do you hope people get out of your shows or performance?
For me, shows are about the temporary intoxication of sharing music and experiences. We like to go into a frenzy when performing, and hope to pull our audience into that feeling.
What influences you or the the band?
Although we have a variety of individual and overlapping musical influences, we’re all agreed that it’s ok to try something completely different, and not be bound by what’s expected by any specific genre. Almost every time John, Ryan and Doug write a song, I wonder what the heck is going on with it, as it tends to be new and unexpected to me, in the best way. Lyrically, I sometimes look into the void that’s outer space to see what I can grab onto – I’m a big fan of science fiction and it’s easy to be inspired by its themes and motifs.
Irene Rekhviashvili in action.
Your energy as a singer never seems to fade. What keeps you so consistently high-energy?
The music that the band writes is so loud and high-energy that it demands for the vocals to match, so I try to answer that call. I definitely have to practice my shouting, but it’s exhilarating to do something so surprisingly physical, surrounded by so much sound.
Do you have any favorite songs to perform from the new album?
One of my favorite songs on the album is called ‘You Eat’. It’s fun to sing and I like the story it tells – about knowing someone so well that you know their best and worst thoughts without them saying a word.
By day you are an immigration attorney: what do you think is the biggest challenge of your day job?
Lately, one of the biggest challenge of my job has been the constant changes in immigration law and proceedings. For example, processing times for immigration applications are getting longer, family members from certain countries are banned from coming to the U.S., and laws about who is eligible for asylum are getting stricter, making it that much more difficult to find safety or reunify families.
What is the most common misconception about your day job?
A very common misconception about my clients is the reason that they’re coming to the United States. It makes me angry when I hear blanket statements like “immigrants are stealing our jobs” or “they’re all criminals” because it’s clearly not true. Many of my clients, who are asylum seekers, are traveling across the world, leaving everything behind, just so they can find safety from persecution at the hands of their own government officials. Some worked for big corporations, owned their own businesses, were pastors and airplane mechanics, had homes and families. They had to leave all this behind because they were either harmed by their own government, or were afraid that they will be if they are to return. Everyone deserves a chance to present their case, instead of being pre-judged for the reasons they want to be in the United States.
How many of your colleagues have seen you front Alpha Hopper live? What did they make of it and your performance?
A few of them have seen me perform, and hopefully, some more of them will come to this weekend’s record release show. Everyone I work with is very supportive of my music-related extracurriculars, so it will be fun to share that directly with them!
Is Buffalo a good place to make music?
It’s a great place to make music! I’ve always found the people in Buffalo to be supportive of each other’s musical creativity and projects. Plus, there are affordable commercial practice spaces and private basements to practice in.
Alpha Hopper’s new album, ‘Aloha Hopper’ comes out this Saturday, June 22nd through the Swimming Faith and Radical Empathy labels and can be pre-ordered at alphahopper.bandcamp.com with a few songs available for pre-listening if you just can’t wait.
Or take a listen to the songs now available riiiiight here: