In 2017, Richmond Tigers won the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final against the favoured team, Adelaide Crows. It was the club’s eleventh premiership and its first title since 1980.
That sporting event would be completely insignificant in my life if not for the fact that I lived in that suburb of Melbourne at the time. So, by default, I participated in the mad celebrations afterwards.
I also recently found out that there is a song talking about the 2017 AFL Grand Final from a Crows fan’s perspective. And since music lyrics are rarely inspired by sports, I thought it would be cool to chat with the band who recorded it. So here’s a recount of my virtual meeting with Alta Falls.
First thing’s first, however. As a foreigner, it’s definitely not my place to educate anybody on AFL or the game itself – “footy”, as it’s fondly called Down Under. But it’s the key to understanding the story behind the Alta Falls’ track. So before we talk about music in this post, we need to focus on this Aussie contact sport for a minute.
Footy is an obsession. Just think about how much the Brits worship football (otherwise known as soccer) or the Americans – their equivalent of the game. It’s pretty much the same level Down Under.
It’s particularly visible in Victoria, where the game was played for the first time in 1859. You even get a day off there (!!!) on the Friday before the Grand Final, which happens towards the end of September. In normal circumstances, and regardless of the teams that contest it, the last match of the season takes place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). And 10 out of the 18 AFL teams are based in that state alone.
When you spend some time Down Under, you’re sort of expected to declare which team you’re rooting for. So I picked the Tigers because of my suburb, Richmond. And you can imagine what a crazy and rowdy party it was in the hood when the team won the Championship in 2017. It was also my worst hangover ever the following day.
And here’s where this lengthy sports-related introduction morphs into a story of a song. It turns out that the Alta Falls’ members were in Melbourne for that Grand Final as well. But their experiences were pretty different because their team loyalty lies outside Victoria.
“Trust Me” is Alta Falls’ first single for 2022. The track is an Aussie rules-inspired indie electro-pop anthem. But what does it have to do with anything at all?
Alta Falls are Nathanael Hubbard and Matthew Green. Nathanael is the lead singer and guitarist, while Matt’s department is the keys and backing vocals. They both work together with producer Aidan Hogg (G Flip, Holy Holy) who helps bring together all the little sounds/samples throughout the mixes, defining the band’s signature electronic indie-pop sound. And in the live settings, the duo become a three-piece, adding Sebastian ‘Baz’ Jennings Hingston (Tia Gostelow), who also does the recordings with them, on drums.
Nathanael and Matt have known each other for a while and have been making music, together or separately, for a bit as well. But this particular project is just over a year old, counting from the first release in April 2021.
As seasoned musicians, the Brisbanites played in other music outfits before Alta Falls. Matt was a member of a social justice band, and Nathanael was writing songs, and doing the occasional producing, recording or mixing, for instance. Then, the band Matt was in dissolved naturally. And Nathanael needed a substitute keys player for his solo project, so he enlisted Matt.
Somehow, Nathanael’s project never took off properly. “We never thought we got the sound right”, says Matt. Too many different members went through it as well. “There was just no identity to it”, adds Nathanael.
Nevertheless, the two musicians worked well together. So they decided to take a step back for a couple of years to write a few fresh songs and see how it would go. And that’s how Alta Falls was born.
They first started crafting the new sound in 2019. Then, the pandemic forced them to spend a lot of time in the studio in 2020, which, as they claim, “was a positive experience”. There was just no pressure to launch anything or an expectation to do shows since the whole music business was shut down in Australia. They used the time wisely instead to ensure they were content with what they wanted to present to the world.
Like the rest of Oz, however, they assumed they’d be in the clear in 2021. Their music was ready to go, too. And when the second year of lockdowns hit the industry, they decided there was no point in waiting any longer. So last year, they gradually dropped five singles leading to The Fire – a high-energy EP that packs a punch with catchy lyricism carried by a euphoric kind of feeling.
I’m a fan of how Alta Falls explain their vibe. While the lyrical content is focused on the significant, their sound creates brilliantly danceable earworms. “The sort you’d happily sink vodka Red Bulls to at a festival”. One of their singles was also described as a “ (…) Stranger Things-esque production [that] keeps a nice element of mystery, too, so it doesn’t feel too sweet.”
Combining a wide range of influences, Alta Falls take glimpses of The Preatures’ rhythms, Spacey Jane’s guitars, The Weeknd’s synth lines, and The Wombats’ energy to put their take on modern indie. Add melodic hooks, soaring harmonies, plus vintage 80s synth and guitar vibes, and you’ve got a fairly complete description of “the Alta Falls sound”.
But the two Brisbanites don’t just have a feel for a radio banger. They are pretty good entertainers and rising social media stars, too. Their TikTok profile is blowing up, with over 29k followers and counting. That’s because they do a lot of live sessions and share heaps of hilarious everyday stuff, like in this video.
But let’s go back to their latest single. On “Trust Me”, Alta Falls have continued working with their producer Aidan Hogg, as well as previously mentioned ‘Baz’ on drums.
The track combines masterful lyricism packed with double entendres. It takes you through a narrative of its own. Not just through the lyrics but with the instrumentals, which rise and fall with the peaks of the story — eventually culminating in a frenetic yet flawless keyboard line.
The lyrics were inspired by that bittersweet trip to the 2017 AFL Grand Final.
A fan of any team not based in Victoria is ecstatic if there’s even the slightest chance the trophy might leave the state for some time. And when that hope died for Nathanael at the fatal game, he wrote a song about it instead.
“My team, the Adelaide Crows, were in their first Grand Final after almost 20 years, and my hopes were riding high to achieve a childhood dream of watching them win a flag,” explains the singer. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. And although it was a heartbreaking result, there are still plenty of fond memories, including taking in the post-match The Killers concert along with the other half of Alta Falls, Matt.”
Music journalists and radio presenters have also noticed that interesting angle on “Trust Me”. Declan Byrne, who hosts the “Home & Hosed” segment on triple j, gave their single a spin on his show a few days ago. That’s an amazing achievement for an emerging band, which is a direct result of their commitment to this project.
If you take a closer look at the Alta Falls’ releases from 2021, you’ll notice everything they do is deliberate, including graphic design. When we chat on Zoom, even the light in Matt’s room corresponds with the colour palette of their first EP.
But the “Trust Me” artwork proves that the new single is a move away from the debut record.
A creative recently reached out to them with a proposal to animate their existing cover art. And when they looked at her portfolio, they came across another artist (whose work was also previously animated by her).
Alta Falls fell in love with that second artist’s work, too. So they chose a few images that resonated with them and decided to make them a theme for this next chapter of their story. These illustrations are ”amazing, surrealism-kind of work, taking animals and putting them into some weird kind of situations as a backdrop”, explains Nathanael.
In the case of “Trust Me”, the giraffe and the plane reminded the singer of the trip to Melbourne for the Grand Final. For him, the whole experience was a bit surreal, like the image itself.
There will also be a follow-up on the next singles when it comes to artwork. A different animal in a different situation will represent each song they have planned for release.
Speaking of which, the musos are not slowing down and are working on finishing those tunes as we speak. The idea for 2022 is to drop an EP as well. There will likely be a few singles in the meantime.
Before we sign off, I ask the two Alta Falls members whether they are more sports or music fans.
“Definitely music” is Matt’s immediate reply. “I do enjoy sport, but… I had an opportunity to play a sport this morning, and I turned it down to do music… so I guess that’s that. I’d rather be at a gig than a sporting event”.
In Nathanael’s case, the answer is not that straightforward.
“To me, watching the Crows play during the footy season is like the one time during the week when I get to sit down and do nothing. So no computer, no phone, just actually being in the moment… It’s a bit of escapism for me. I like the drama and the passion of it. It forces you to feel something, doesn’t it? You’re either really upset or really happy.”
But if he really needed to choose between playing a large festival or going to the Grand Final to watch the Crows win? This is a question his son has asked him recently, too. “Then it’s the music option”, he adds, smiling.
And this is something we agree on. I’d also choose a gig over any AFL Grand Final. Although, just for the record, I’m still a Tigers supporter.
Check out Alta Falls’ Aussie rules-inspired single “Trust Me” below:
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