Interview with James Alex (Beach Slang/ english version)
This is the english version of an Interview of James Alex of Beach Slang. Thanks for stopping by…
Crazewire: First of all congratulations. Four Stars at Rolling Stone Magazine and a lot of other really good reviews for the album (The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us). Did you expect this feedback? And what does it mean to you?
James Alex: Man, no way, not even close. I’m so „kid-picked-last-for-things“ that I have trouble expecting anything too good to fall on me. So, yeah, that felt pretty alright. When it first happened, I wrote this thing: „When I was a kid and first got turned onto rock & roll, I saw a photograph of Pete Townshend in Rolling Stone and that felt gigantic to me. I’m not sure why, but it did. Driving after the show last night, I saw Beach Slang got this wildly electric review and, man, I felt like that same little kid. Thank you, Rolling Stone, for that good feeling. Look, I don’t know what anything ever really means, but I know this means a whole lot to that awkward, little dreamer still hanging out in me. And, really, that’s enough, you know?“
Crazewire: With this success you have a bunch of new possibilities. You will play Rock am Ring next year (if I see this correctly with bands like RHCP and Black Sabbath). So there will be a lot of people who never heard about Beach Slang. How do you feel about these opportunities?
James Alex: I love them like wild. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing to play to people who already dig the thing you do. Those shows are like loud, drunk church. Perfect, you know? But, I also have this little fighter chip in me that adores shoving against the grain, winning over a room full of people who don’t know. There’s something charging about that.
Crazewire: These shows are huge and the people are standing a few meters away from the stage. Do you guys prefer shows in smaller venues or do you like these festival gigs as well?
James Alex: I’ll always love the intimacy of small shows. It’s the world I came up in, the one I understand. But, right, my aim is to make every Beach Slang show feel like that, like a basement show or house party. It’s the spirit of this sloppy, little hurricane. In broader strokes, I love being any place where I get to play my guitar, loudly, to people who give a damn about getting turned on, about getting alive. And that goodness happens at dive bars and festival fields. I dig that.
Crazewire: Are there any discussions inside of the band how far you wanna go (you know all that mainstream stuff)? Or are you open minded in either direction?
James Alex: Ceilings are really weirdo things to build, you know? As long as I’m not compromising my heart or my work, I want to stretch this as far as it can bend. Mainstream success and cultural importance do not have to be mutually exclusive. I believe that.
Crazewire: You have a strong connection to your fans. And you answer a lot of requests via social media. Do you still have the time for that? And how does it feel (for example) to see people who send you tattoos with parts of your lyrics? (I would love that…)
James Alex: I make time for it. It’s so important to me. Words save lives. I mean, if none of that is happening, Beach Slang isn’t happening. It’s not lost on me how lucky we are that people care about this thing. If it means sleeping less to write letters, no sweat. The tattoo thing is a real wig-flipper, a heart-sweller. I wanted to be a writer long before I ever played guitar so words are gigantic, necessary things to me. To see them painted in permanent ink on people, to know they matter that much to someone, means everything.
Crazewire: Speaking about lyrics… What do you think is the reason that so many people can identify with your lyrics? And is it possible that it is depending of the age of your fans? (you know, this romantic side of the punkrock lifestyle people our age love so much)
James Alex: There’s a sincerity in their honesty. It’s not artful marketing. It’s not smoke. It’s not mirrors. I wear my heart, unapologetically, on my sleeve. I wear optimism like armor. I think there’s something refreshing in that. All the dark, jaded junk gets exhausting after a bit. I’m punching in some light. I think hope is age-proof. It’s proving to be. It has to be, right?
Crazewire: Beach Slang seem to be more than just the Music… There are short stories like „A Short Book“ and all the little graphics/pictures/flyer you design. Please tell us something about your intentions behind all that.
James Alex: How things read and look, to me, is just as important as how things sound. It’s all a part of what this is. Look, humans are these complex, little monkeys with lots of sides and feelings. Beach Slang is no different. And, I suppose, it helps prove that art school wasn’t a completely useless pursuit.
Crazewire: I was in New York a few days ago and went to shows of the anti folk scene in Brooklyn because I like to be connected with people in cities I visit. For people who want to visit Philadelphia… How is the scene there? Are there bands and/or places they have to check out? How do you feel coming back after a long tour?
James Alex: Philadelphia is an explosion of everything that is good. I’m always hesitant to point out bands or places for fear of flakingly forgetting someone or some place I love. Just come visit. There’s a romantic grit that will gnaw into you and feel like good magic. Coming home always feels really sweet, but I’m a pretty restless thing. I’ll be chomping to split again soon.
Crazewire: Your success happened really quick. In times where you can find so (too) many bands, what do you think is your formula for success?
James Alex: I genuinely have no idea. I’m left thinking it’s equal parts hard work and dumb luck. Mostly the dumb part. All I know how to do is mean what I write and play it with all I’ve got. If it deserves a place, it’ll have one.
Crazewire: You are playing music for 20 years now. What’s you daily motivation to do that as a band?
James Alex: It’s all I know how to do. All I want to do. Life is a short, weirdo blip. I don’t plan on wasting any part of that doing a thing that doesn’t fuzz my heart out, you know? Rock & roll is the thing. It’s always been.
Crazewire: James… Thank you very much!
Video: Beach Slang – „Live“