At the centre of Alae is almost a decade of friendship. Singer Alex Farrell-Davey and instrumentalist Allister Meffan met in 2010 at Nelson College, a school they both describe as one with a rich musical history. "We had a music teacher who had been there 42 years," says Meffan.
The two struck up a friendship through their shared love of music, and have played together ever since. After some time apart – Farrell-Davey lived in Bahrain and Melbourne, while Meffan tried university at Otago, Victoria, and Auckland – they started Alae as a duo. Recently, the band expanded to a four-piece with the recruitment of drummer Jayden Lee and bassist Marika Hodgson.
"Allister and I got to the point where we couldn't achieve the live sound that we wanted to with just us,'" says Farrell-Davey. "We just contacted a couple of mates and Jayden rocked up, he got the right vibe."
"Straight away," adds Meffan. "It was almost instant… Marika we met when we were touring with Hollie Smith. We used her for all of our recordings basically. We just got to the point where we were like, 'You have been in everything so far, you should just be a part of it.'"
In person, Farrell-Davey and Meffan's friendship appears like a shared aura; they finish each other's sentences and talk about music with the same tone of intense fascination – almost obsession. They cite the same musical references – Wilco, Bon Iver, Feist – and describe the construction of their songs as a collaborative process.
"I start the blueprint," says Farrell-Davey, "and Allister illustrates the songs. He colours them in and makes them look pretty.
"Because Allister and I have known each other for so long, we innately get each other's tonality. When I come to him, he's like, 'Oh yeah I get that space, I understand that, I can actually translate that into music.' It's like just sympathising with each other."
Farrell-Davey says Feist's 2007 masterpiece The Reminder was a major inspiration for their debut record, Henry St. "The way she changes genre – she goes between that song 1234 to some beautiful stripped back thing, where her voice is just dancing around everything and you're like, 'Holy shit man, how have you done that?'"
Henry St wears its inspirations proudly; its arrangements and structure hark back to those stalwarts of indie rock and pop that the band love, while Farrell-Davey's soothing voice intensifies the emotional themes of longing and loss that appear throughout – a style he describes as "melancholy with a side of optimism".
"You've already accepted the cynical truth, but it's like, I still want to get that better thinking happening. This is so real, but at the same time it's like reaching for a little bit of happiness, and you're like, come on – that's where the emotion comes from, that's where that stomach-dropping shit comes from."
Farrell-Davey and Meffan's only hope with the album is that for all the emotion they've poured into it, any listener, regardless of who they are, might see themselves there.
"I get really sick of hearing in songs, 'I love her, or she loves him' – that shit's so presumptuous and it's gross," says Farrell-Davey. "Sexuality and love, it's all so ungovernable, and there's just no way you can sit down and say that this is the right way to be.
"I guess I just want to see people identify with the themes for my own selfish purposes, so I know that I'm not the only one that's thinking it. And vice versa, when people really match up with things you've said, it's nice for them to know that they're not the only person thinking it."
What: Debut album Henry St