ABOVE: ALAGOAS’ (L-R) WILSON BROWN, KATHERINE FICHTEL, AND STUART BIDWELL. PHOTO COURTESY OF SETH RICART
Alagoas sounds like a beautiful tongue twister; and the Brooklyn-based band recording under that name makes equally beautiful music. The band started out as a duo, husband-and-wife pair Wilson Brown and Katherine Fichtel, on a snowy day in 2009. Since the start of the band, they’ve added Stuart Bidwell to the mix. With only one single, “Brighton,” out so far, Alagoas have stirred up emotions across the Internet. Its video tells a unique love story that might just bring you to tears.
Alagoas will release their debut album Bird Alert in late February, but before then, we’re excited to premiere their second single “Ghosts,” which is a little bit different from “Brighton.” The track hits the heart with an upbeat, yet nostalgic look at the world.
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, NY
BAND MEMBERS: Wilson Brown, Katherine Fichtel, Stuart Bidwell
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BRAZIL: Wilson Brown: It’s a state in Brazil. We lived in Brazil for different periods of time, but we never lived in Alagoas. We lived in São Paulo. It’s a little state in the northeast that has beautiful beaches and is a magical way of life. It’s pretty there.
Katherine Fichtel: Brazil is a place that has been really meaningful to us. There were other iterations of a band name.
ON HAVING DAY JOBS: Fichtel: We both have full time other jobs: I’m a doctor. I was in medical school at the time.
Brown: I’m a composer. We’re married, too!
Fichtel: Stu, who is the other member of the band, is a full-time musician.
Brown: Besides being a musician, he bartends.
THE EMOTIONAL, VISUAL JOURNEY OF “BRIGHTON”: Brown: Our friend Jeremiah, who directed that, is one of our good friends. The couple in the video are two of our best friends. We spent a lot of time at the farm where that all took place. I reached out to Jeremiah and asked if he wanted to do a video for our band. I had scored a film at Sundance for him a few years back. I told him he could do anything he wanted. That’s what he wanted to do.
Fichtel: He had been making this documentary for a number of years. He was making it back in 2007 or 2008.
Brown: We used to live together on Hope Street in Williamsburg. They moved out of the city to start filming. They were well-educated city kids who wanted to learn about creating a self-sustaining farming system and start a CSA. Jeremiah started filming them and that was interesting enough, and then Lincoln was diagnosed with cancer. Then he was cured of Hodgkin’s Disease. They’re still farming. He’s a really good director.
COMPARISONS TO SAN FERMIN AND BEIRUT: Fichtel: I think that’s the thing about the album, each song is pretty different from each other.
Brown: It’s a diverse record, and I’d like to believe that everything comes from a lot of influences. There are a lot of associations that people would make. I hope it can sound like a lot of things while maintaining some type of unique thread throughout the whole record.
BROWN: I’ve made records way back when under different names and for other bands. I just did an EP for Rocket & the Ghost and Lily & The Parlour Tricks. We’re actually tracking at Mission tomorrow and Tuesday for Rocket & the Ghost.
RECORD RELEASE SHOWS: Brown: Definitely! We have a full rock band set and we want to get our act together. We’ve also just worked on a more pared down version with Katherine, Stu, and me. A request from our friends was to hear these songs in a much more minimal way, which I’m interested in doing.
THEIR VERSION OF MUSICAL STORYTELLING: Brown: There’s definitely a Brazilian, Tropicalia thing. Also a lot of ‘90s rock, early hip-hop influences and indie stuff. I feel uncomfortable about answering who are our top three influences. Our friend Todd wrote a nice blurb about our band, like, “It’s recognizable and familiar in a lot of different ways, but there are influences coming from all over the place.” I hope people who hear it feel that way.
Fichtel: Each song is its own entity that tells its own specific story. Some of them are more actual plotlines, or hypothetical stories. Others are more phrases, like an emotion or a moment. The overarching feeling that ties it together is this nostalgic feeling about any moment in life, but they don’t tie together in a specific way. A lot of them are weird love songs, but not all of them are.
THE MUSIC THAT STARTED IT ALL: Fichtel: “Spider Hands” is the first one. I love that song. It’s one phrase and one simple idea that were developed. “Brighton” was really special. That was the last song we wrote.
Brown: “Spider Hands” is the first song on the record. It’s a weird song, but it’s meaningful to us. It’s the first song that started this whole project. These somewhat fucked-up, twisted versions of love songs. I would say half or two-thirds of the songs were written when we were traveling places with a pen and a paper. We were writing these disjointed versions of songs. “Ghosts” is not one of those songs, but the rest are.
MAKING MUSIC THAT RESONATES: Brown: For me, there’s not a motive… it was a really fun project to write and realize the music. It was complicated to do. It was hard to find the time to do it. I love the process and I love listening to music. It’s as simple as people who aren’t our friends enjoying it and feeling it in their own lives that it relates to, regardless of whether or not it was what we intended. We hope it resonates somehow.
ALAGOAS’ BIRD ALERT IS DUE OUT NEXT MONTH. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, PLEASE VISIT ITS WEBSITE.