reppin: phili, usa // 2013 - present // polyvinyl
sounds like: loud, sloppy hurricane // drunk and dirty church
latest album drop: a loud bash of teenage feelings (sept 2016)
featuring: james // ed // aurore // cully
When I first heard word that I was going to be able to sit down with a legend, the butterflies naturally float around there. But, I am a big boy, took a deep breath and soaked in the idea of not just chatting with James Alex, but being able to learn a thing or two from him. Hailing from a time when Jawbreaker and The Replacements were punk Gods (sorry buddy, you have a few years on me), he really took to heart the angst as a teenager, but the joy of being part of a scene that he could relate to. Being a weird reject can blossom one into a creative human and positive influence on others. Life lessons, right?
I tend to take an idea, a big thought and split it into two paths as it honestly keeps life very real and at least somewhat more simple. There are those who can take experiences and just not learn and repeat the same mistakes. There are those who take those same experiences and become a strong and better person for the world. Mr. Alex is the latter without a doubt. Throw in your headphones, switch it on over to Beach Slang and let me take you through a magical and eye opening conversation. A punk rocker, a father and what I came to learn, an overall awesome dude you just want to have a beer and shoot the shit with.
I love your gritty, raw rock sound...Alkaline, Jawbreaker..there is something about your sound that makes you more relatable and comfortable to listen to. How do you channel that into your live show? What is going through your mind as you are looking into the audience?
Right on man, The whole thing to me is just about that very connection. When we recorded this last record I remembered first saying to the engineer, “look man, I just want to make a live record.” I want that honesty with no divide. I dig that because the whole thing is this cyclical exchange of energy. It made me think about earlier on in life and it was always embarrassing to me when bands think they are Gods. I look at my fans as this idea of throwing energy back and forth at each other. I really believe our records are what we are. It’s that honesty that I want. It’s imperfect. We try to get everything in the 2nd or 3rd take because you can make everything so perfect now, it kind of massages all the soul out of it. If that goes, I think the whole thing that makes what Beach Slang does goes with it. We exist in that, we aren’t trying to be prodigy players. That is punk rock. There isn’t that crazy technical prowess, but the heart of it comes through.
The straightforward lyrics are legit..and a lot are about love. Specifically I love that little line in Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas, “too fucked up to love, too soft to hate.” What are you trying to tell your fans through these stories?
I think in the broadest brush stroke I could paint it in: This is life and it is happening. Bite into it and live it all the way. That know you are enough thing. So many people get hung up, and I’m guilty to, of getting caught up in their shortcomings and their failures. It’s more about these weirdo paths we have to take to get to where we want to go. I try to plant that idea of romance in the struggle. Be okay with that. Listen, I have written probably a million fucking terrible songs and there are 30 that may be okay. That’s cool. When I get to one of those, it makes me feel something, it means so much more. This isn’t trust fund rock n’ roll, I didn’t get handed it, I had to work for it. Sometimes you have to take a moment and sort of stop and think about it in broader terms for something like this to really work.
Me: Yes, yes yes. What you do in music is what I go through at work. I’ve fucked up so many times.
I remember when I was first growing up and picking up a guitar, there is this Bouncing Souls lyric: “you are not at the bottom, you are at the beginning.” And that line is just is always stuck around in my head when it does feel like gloom is knocking away the light. I don’t why, maybe it was because I was at that age where it just made sense.
Me: Hey man, I got my lyric tattooed to me soooo (laughs)
It cut in right when I was getting turned on and figuring stuff out. It really has a permanent mark on me.
You’ve been around the block playing music, touring, being the leader of the wolf pack, etc, etc...music is about experience to me. What’s the best one, or at least one of the tops you’ve had?
Man, I don’t know, the individual occurrence I am not really sure. To what I just alluded to, the acceptance and appreciation of persistence. I’m into that. Even when stuff starts to fall into place, I’m still looking for the grain to grind against. Quoting myself is so stupid, “I need the struggle to feel alive.” If I buy a place on easy street I’m not going to know how to do it. I kinda need that thing to sort of grind against. What I have found in small successes and big failures, navigating the waters of rock n’ roll….really loving the idea of the struggle of it all. Dig the idea of persistence. Not get beat by things. Even the way I can write now, I couldn’t do it before, my bones were too brittle, I didn’t have the guts, the provado cause I was hit then with mean critics...I would have shattered. My spine is kinda steeled up now, still in a soft way. I read this interview with Joe Strummer once...and this is fucking Joe Strummer off the Clash, and he understood that not everyone is going to dig something and that’s cool. It’s just not for you. In just him saying that, which is so common sense, but until you hear it and digest it..it really means something. Like okay, go find out what turns you on.
Me: Maybe I steered you somewhere else that will help you be happy.
Right on, I’m looking at the bigger picture and trying to chuck happiness at people. And if it is not through our band maybe you just dislike this so much, I am challenging you to write better than that. Now maybe the thing that lights you up is that you started a band or a book and I happened to be a catalyst in getting you there. I really dig the idea of that.
Me: Yea, I’ve probably done that same thing to numerous girls (laughs laughs laughs)
What has the rotating members you’ve had taught you about Beach Slang and where you want to go as a band?
That’s a great question. It has been a bouncy kinda thing. I am a pretty self-contained unit in terms of writing. I don’t think we’ll ever have that issue. I think what is painting for us is the idea of getting it right on two levels. For me, getting it right as a band and as musicians, that is absolutely necessary for what we are doing professionally. The bigger thing for me is, you know aside from singing in a band, is being a great human being. I really want to try to be some force of good in the world. The lineup changes almost have more to do with getting chemistry right,. We march across the country and there are 5 of us including Charlie (tour manager), she is just as much in it. I dig how we are represented on stage...I think we have been getting that right from the beginning. But off stage, that’s equally as important to me, if not more. I think we are finding our footing a little better. Look, everyone who has played and been part of this, I root for them in what they are chasing now, but I gotta say, it has never felt more right.
Me: That’s good, that does not happen unless you go through the shit before
It’s like a lot of life, you are learning in two ways. You see one thing that is aspirational and then you see the other stuff and you’re like, now I know not to do that. And Slang being a rock n’ roll band is no different. We’ve fucked up plenty. We keep marching on with no animosity. I want everyone to be friends.
I always use funny metaphors to describe bands and artists i write about, what would you use?
I’ve described it as a loud, sloppy hurricane. It’s drunk and dirty church. Look man, I came up with The Replacements being my favorite band. There is an importance to plugging in, turning up and going. Whenever I do radio shows or acoustic performances. Would you want to record that again you feel happy with that. Well, I messed up, but no. I just want it to be honest and real. In that imperfection, it goes back to what we were first talking about man, the connection. We see each other as humans. When I was a kid and getting turned on to Yes...I’m never going to be able to play 3 keyboards at once! (laughs). It was relatable to me. But then I saw The Ramones and I played along to the records. Then there was an immediate gratification and it was just so relatable. People have come up to me and said watching Beach Slang...I can do that. And I’m like, fuck yea, that is what I want, that was me when I was coming up. All of the sudden music became attainable.
Me: As a music fan...I always go back to that moment when I discovered that band, even when I listen to them. To me, that is as relatable in life as it gets.
That relatability has really paid dividends to me. Really too, while playing music keeps the lights on at home, I’m just a fan of rock n’ roll. I’m jazzed most of the time when we go on tour with that band you never heard of and I’m like, I think I just found my new favorite band.
suggested listening experience: at the gym letting off some steam // rocking out with your friends on a saturday // finding clam and comfort when shit is not right