Having a husband and wife collaboration is nothing new these days in music, but when you consider the path, not to mention miles, Cornelia “Connie” and Frank Calcaterra took, it is an interesting one.
The Calcaterra’s were born and raised in Austria then made their way to settle in Tampa, Florida and eventually started the indie rock band DieAlps! (translated: The Alps!, pronounced dee-alps) in 2012.
“I came to the United States in 2006 for the first time as an Au Pair for the duration of a year. The reason I ended up in Tampa was because my host family at the time lived here,” Connie Calcaterra said. “During that time, I met Frank but I moved back to Austria when my year was up. I decided to come back to the USA in 2010 and have been here since. Frank and I got married and started the band shortly thereafter.
“I don’t regret my decision to move here because I’ve met so many wonderful people and I love being able to play music with my friends. However, this country’s current administration frightens me. I’m mostly concerned about the cost of healthcare in this country, something I never had to worry about in Austria. The gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening, and most people I know here must work two jobs and still can barely afford to pay their bills. The current political climate is deeply unsettling to me. On the other hand, it’s also exciting being able to be part of the counter-culture, being part of the generation that no longer accepts racism, intolerance, and inequality as normal. The next years will be tough for us but I’m happy to fight the fight.”
With Connie and Frank on guitars and vocals, the duo became a quartet when they brought in Jonathan Robbins on drums and Sarah Modene on keyboards. In the fall of 2014, DieAlps! released their self-titled EP in 2014. The album featured lush shoegaze 1990s-inspired pop music. Connie wrote much of the album focusing on growing up in Austria where she picked up the guitar at age nine and became classically trained to her new life in America. The 5-song EP caught the ear of many and earned the band favorable reviews.
“Honestly, I was happy to get any kind of response at all,” Connie said of the EP. “Most of those songs were written before my move to the USA. It was a nice little collection of songs that I had and I honestly just wanted to record them in order for them to “exist” instead of the songs eventually being forgotten as demos somewhere on one of my old cassette tapes.”
After spending much of their spare time in the recording studio in 2016, the band emerged with their first full length album ‘Our City,’ again released on New Grana Records. ‘Our City’ finds the band growing from a single vocalist to Connie splitting the lead singing duties with her husband.
“It was sort of an inevitability. I’ve been writing songs for the majority of my life, and there is this desire to find a way to get people to listen. So, I needed to either incorporate them into DieAlps! somehow, or start a second project altogether. I’d honestly be much more comfortable just playing guitar licks in the background,” Frank Calcaterra said.
Frank didn’t just sing and play guitar on the record, he also recorded, engineered and produced ‘Our City.’ The result is a polished album finding the band adding more punch to their sound. “”We wanted the album to have a 90’s vibe… So, when it came down to mixing, I found myself referencing everything from Pavement to Yuck, early Radiohead, and The Shins,” Frank said.
Continuing their love for retro-90s music, ‘Our City” is a lush combination of early Polyvinyl Records emo and the Shins-era Sub Pop material. The songs are bright and shiny with layers of keyboards, clean guitar sounds, and a smooth rhythm section. For a band which is still relatively new, DieAlps! sound experienced beyond their years.
Where does this polished sound come from? Is it hours of practice or extended time in the studio? For a young band, ‘Our City’ sounds like a band which has been around for years.
The addition of trading off lead vocals (and sometimes duets) from Connie and Frank has added a new element to the band.
“There are actually so many benefits to having multiple singer/songwriters in the band: First off, the burden is literally split in half in terms of songwriting, so new songs tend to accumulate much faster,” Frank said. “Secondly, we end up with a much more diverse collection of songs than we would otherwise, which I’m personally a fan of. There is also a healthy sense of competition (for lack of a better word). I wouldn’t say we’re competitive in terms of songwriting, but I would say that my songwriting has improved tenfold since I’ve met Connie. We’re very honest and open with each other in regards to the quality of songs we put on the table. I could easily release a double album of rejected DieAlps! songs.”
Where their self-titled EP was an ode to home and life changes, ‘Our City’ is more in-depth with songs about trust, war, and current topics of the day.
“I guess [‘Our City’] is a mix of both. Most of my songs are influenced by some kind of event,” Connie said. “However, I like to keep the lyrics elusive rather than being super literal about stuff. “Dwight,” “Battles,” “Running Into walls,” and “Hands Up” are more personal songs. The other songs touch on various issues such as religion, war, violence, and politics. For example, for “We Fought the Sea” I wrote the lyrics after seeing the photo of 3-year old Syrian boy Alan Kurd washed up dead on a beach. His story, and the stories of so many others, are absolutely devastating to me.”
Whether it is personal or political or elusive, ‘Our City’ is stacked from top to bottom with a collection of lush and memorable songs, which showcase the growth of this up and coming band called DieAlps!
“Well, the most common misconception of the band name is that we must really have something against the Alps; either that or we’re trying to make some environmental statement in reference to all the glaciers that are melting,” Frank said of the band’s name. “It’s actually a lot more simplistic than most people realize. “Die” translated from German is “The.” I suppose we wanted to somehow blend aspects of two separate cultures into a singular band name, and capitalize on the fact that we’ve got an Austrian in the band.