The Riot Fest Interview: James Alex From Beach Slang
Beach Slang has been a band in transition. Despite personnel changes over the past year, and frontman James Alex recording as a “quiet” version of the band, they’re still continuing to play together– their headlining tour this summer culminates at Riot Fest. We spoke with Mr. Alex about these changes, being a huge Jawbreaker fan, and what’s next in store for the band.
Beach Slang is a noticeably different band now than when A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings was recorded last year. Could you offer a “state of the band” as it is now? Is the current lineup official, with Aurore Ounjian and Cully Symington, or will you and Ed (McNulty, Beach Slang bassist) be rotating through who’s available when you’re touring?
I think Beach Slang works best with a bit of chaos knocking into it. The key to the whole deal is not getting too comfortable, not slowing down the charge. Shake-ups and confusion help in avoiding that stuff. Nothing is official, but everything feels really right on. And I’m just going to ride that feeling.
You spent some time last winter recording the Quiet Slang LP. Could you offer any idea into what’ll be included on the EP, and when we can expect to hear it?
I’m listening to roughs of it as I’m writing this and, yeah, I cannot wait to throw the thing out into the world. It’s me, a cellist and a pianist playing a bunch of loud songs softly. The EP will be out this fall (I’ll have it on the Loud Slang US headline tour)—two Beach Slang songs and two covers. The LP will be happening in early 2018—ten quiet versions of ten loud Slang songs. I suppose I’ve been thinking of things like this: Beach Slang is drunk, sweaty sins on a Saturday night. Quiet Slang is salvation on Sunday morning. Or maybe it’s about holding on. Something like that.
How’s the writing and recording progressing towards the next “Loud Slang” LP? Do you have an idea what that will sound like yet?
To tell it straight, I’ve been so inside of Quiet Slang that I’ve only been knocking bits of things around. But, yeah, I’m definitely evolving Beach Slang into much more of a new wave band—lots of Moogs and Theremins. I’m aiming to fall somewhere between The Psychedelic Furs & The Cars.
Obviously much has been made of the similarities of Beach Slang and the Replacements, as well as your affection for Jawbreaker. What more recent bands are influencing you these days? What do you find yourself listening to?
Most of the modern stuff I listen to are records my friends make—See Through Dresses, The Homeless Gospel Choir, Galants, Night Flowers, White Reaper, Positive No and Hannah Racecar. And, man, they are intimidatingly brilliant. They push my writing in such a necessary way. I’m lucky to be surrounded by them.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through the Beach Slang experience so far?
Most opinions matter very little, and surround yourself with soft humans.
How psyched are you to see Jawbreaker perform at riot fest?
I’ve hardly slept since the thing was announced. We intentionally made it Slang’s last day of tour so I could knowingly lose my voice singing along. So yeah, I’m pretty psyched.
What OTHER BANDS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING AT Riot Fest this year?
New Order, Dinosaur Jr., Buzzcocks and that dog. I swear, that’s one half of one side of most mixtapes I made growing up.
Do you have any memories of Chicago that stand out?
I played an acoustic after show at School Haus last year and it was the drunkest, sweatiest sing-along I’ve ever been in the middle of. It was smash-packed with love. I remember this one kid crowd surfed from the family room (where I was playing) to the kitchen, grabbed a beer and then surfed back to his same spot without missing a lyric. Man, I wish I could keep that feeling and those humans with me all the time. It was why I love this whole rock n’ roll thing so much, you know?