ALASKALASKA came together through a perfect string of coincidences and kismet, beginning at a friend’s birthday party in Pembrokeshire, a young Lucinda John-Duarte watched future bandmates Fraser Smith, Gethin Jones and Joe Webb playing in an energetic jazz ensemble – an important influence that would eventually form the backbone of their sound.
Fast forward to two years later, a move from Pembrokeshire to New Cross to start university introduced Lucinda to Calum Duncan and Fraser Rieley whilst studying for a popular music degree at Goldsmiths. The three collaborated on several projects in different forms during their university years, before Lucinda went on to work with various other South-East London artists including A House In The Trees, Alfie Connor and EERA. Soon after, amid a quarter-life crisis, Lucinda was itching to once again write and perform her own music. Finding Fraser R in a similar position, busying himself producing and writing for other artists, the two decided to combine their interests and influences on a new project. A series of songwriting sessions and rehearsals brought them together with Lucinda’s old friends Gethin and Joe for the first time – bonding immediately and crafting a small set of songs that were driven by Lucinda’s intricate twisting vocal lines, reinforced by crunchy jazz chords, and underpinned by a rhythm section that combined influences from neo-soul to 80s pop, plus jazz & latin traditions.
Shortly after, this jazz abstraction was explored further when saxophonist Fraser S was invited to a rehearsal, instantly bringing a sophisticated flair and smoothness to the sound, and heavily nodding to an 80s post-punk and-art pop ideal. Months later, the dynamic changed again when Lucinda’s ex-bandmate Calum was introduced, whose heavily effected, swirling and jarring guitar sounds lifted the sound of the group to a different level and helped articulate yet more influences in alternative and experimental pop. After months of playing together to build a unique, multi-layered sound (and as they have admitted, “forgetting to try to play any gigs or record any demos…”) the band assumed their name, ALASKALASKA, and quickly began building a strong following in London, then later solidifying an impressive live reputation across the rest of the UK and Europe.
Despite emerging from different backgrounds and sharing disparate tastes, combining her two friendship circles was far easier than Lucinda could ever had hoped for. She explains, “When we first started playing, I was really nervous about introducing everyone to each other, but as i hoped everything worked and slotted together so nicely, and so quickly. It was as if it had always been this way.” If anything, it’s this curious melting pot of personalities, and their multitude of musical undertakings that makes ALASKALASKA so very unique. Fraser S can be found regularly performing at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club; Joe plays in three separate jazz outfits, made a recent appearance at the Proms and once played musical director for a party at Madonna’s French villa; Gethin performs re-orchestrated albums by the likes of Kanye West at XOYO as well as partaking in various swing and bebop ventures; and when Calum isn’t with his other band, Leyendekker, he’s busy collaborating with other artists such as Matthew Herbert and Dave Okumu. Lucinda and Fraser R form the core of ALASKALASKA, and outside of part time work they dedicate all their time to the collective – writing and arranging songs, remixing for the likes of Nilüfer Yanya, and designing, editing and generally driving the direction of the group.
Soon, ALASKALASKA will move into their first studio – built from scratch, in the heart of Peckham by mates and fellow musicians, Mellah – opening up a new world of opportunities to write and experiment without time constraints. “It’s about having the opportunity to spend more time with each other, having a laugh… and writing some more bangers.”