Alternate Routes converge over music

Coming together at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. five years ago, The Alternate Routes have, in an apparent contradiction, taken a fairly typical route to their current success. They’ve recorded an album, signed on with label Vanguard Records, gotten an agent, and started touring. Connected through shared childhoods and mutual friends, the band consists of Tim Warren (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Eric Donnelly (electric guitar, vocals), Chip Johnson (bass, vocals), Mike Sembos (guitar, vocals), and Michael Stavitz (drums). “We’ve struggled. It’s hard to get 400 to a thousand people in every city if you don’t have that major hit,” Warren said. Instead of becoming disillusioned with their undertaking, their hardships have helped them to shape their lyrics. “Asked You Twice” chronicles how the five dealt with an unenviable situation: The band that they were opening for backed out, and they were left to crisscross the Northwest, playing at events more like parties than venues. “They ran us out of Spokane, just as fast as we could run and I ain’t seen a dollar for the work that I have done,” sings Donnelly, reflecting on the experience of an unwelcome traveler. The band was anything but driven out at their Feb. 7 show at Higher Ground, with singer-songwriter Matt Wertz.The band’s lyrical sensibilities are their most defining feature, with many of the songs originating from the friction between pain and joy, and ambivalence and passion. “The Future is Nothing New,” a song that Tim Warren describes as “our little radio soldier,” touches on some of the most universal human feelings. A young, sexy fortuneteller finds release in sex. “I think sex is probably the most unpredictable, in the moment thing that I can find. That’s probably why it’s so popular,” said Warren, laughing. Their debut album, “Good and Reckless and True,” was in part financed through Donnelly’s skills at the poker table. “We made 200 bucks one night in Boston, and the casino was on the way home,” Warren said. “We needed a grand so that we could make copies of our album and sell it. We pulled in, at 4:30 in the morning, and two hours later [Eric] comes up and throws two grand in my face,” Warren said. “He had a $1600 hand in three card poker,” he said.Today, they hope to avoid such quandaries. They’ve finished working on their second album, “A Sucker’s Dream,” with Nashville producer Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, Derek Trucks), and are currently on tour, promoting the album. With deep lyrical content and the musicianship to match, Warren and his band mates like to take chances.