By Brittany Robinson
SXSW Press Team
Beach Slang is a Philadelphia punk rock quartet that shook up the rock scene last year with their debut album, The Things We Do To Find People Like Us. With acclaimed music outlets, like Noisey and The A. V. Club, naming it one the best albums of the year, Beach Slang is now on tour showing the country how great their music truly is. I had the pleasure of interviewing James Alex, the lead singer and frontman, this South by Southwest.
Robinson: How is your SXSW experience going so far?
Alex: It’s going pretty wild and beautiful. It’s our first one. It’s like completely exceeded what we thought it might be. We were pretty hopeful it would be a pretty rad time, but it’s been mind blowing.
R: Have you been to Austin before?
A: Yeah, we’ve come to Austin before on tour. This is our first South by Southwest though.
R: What differences can you tell between Austin and Philadelphia?
A: The scene seems fairly similar in the way that there are a whole lot of creative, good-hearted people in a condensed area. I think Philly is just a bit grittier and dirtier, but I think the core feels really similar.
R: In Austin, we have a slogan called “Keep Austin Weird.” What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen on tour?
A: We had a trailer break down in Texas. A wheel fell off and we didn’t have a spare. We had to abandon it on the side of the highway. To make ourselves feel better we painted on it, so it started to feel like a highway installation art piece.
R: When I received the CD at our radio station, I already knew it was going to be a good record. I think it was mostly due to the album art. Where did the album art come from?
A: I went to art school before I worked in graphic design and this was full time, so I get the pleasure of doing all of the art. I’ve been asked about the art I do for this a lot. I think it’s equal parts Craig Stecyk, 1970s California and The Smiths. I pull a lot form their work. It’s so timeless and all heir records hang together very well visually. I love records that are super considerate like that. Every detail is part of the thing I’m trying to say. You know, the lyrics are the thing up in the forefront but the art is equally important. I really sweat over it. Maybe somebody sees it and gives it a shot solely based off the art.
R: In the vinyl sleeve, you wrote about the story about how the album came about. Can you expand on that?
A: I think it’s important to prove that words aren’t just something you throw on paper. They are memories of these experiences we have. We were early into our touring at that point and we were learning that transition of settling into your routines and being around the people that you love. We were kind of launching ourselves into the world. When you go and do that, first it’s a little jarring. You sort of fall into it and you meet these people, and you line up with what it means to be this nomadic entity. It all seems to fall together. I had that moment in that bar in Montreal. Everything felt right. It felt like I was living life the way I was meant to live life.
R: A lot of the tracks mention youth and feeling alive. Do you think punk is youthful in spirit? Do you think punk can keep you young?
A: I do! I see it at shows. People that listen to the band are like 18 to 68. It’s that universal thing where you don’t have to retire from being alive at 35. You can live the thing all the way. I believe in that sincerely. I think punk is an amazing catalyst for that.
R: Your latest album has received a lot of amazing attention. How does it feel to get this amazing reception on your debut?
A: It was super humbling. It was mind-blowing and we never saw it coming. We always said humility would always help guide the ship. We manage our expectations to maybe embarrassing levels. We really don’t want to set ourselves up to be disappointed. What we can do is work really hard, make really honest records, play shows, and be kind. All that cool stuff that happens on top of it is just really beautiful cherries and sprinkles on top of this Beach Slang Sunday. It’s been really cool and completely unexpected.
R: If you could change you genre to any other type of music what would it be and what would be the name?
A: I would probably be a real sappy folk singer-songwriter. I would call it Neon is the Sunlight of the Youth. I think that would work out nicely for me. If not, and 80’s synth band.
R: What should we expect from Beach Slang in the upcoming year?
A:I just finished writing songs for the next record, so after SXSW I’m going to get into a rehearsal space with these guys and start teaching them the parts. I already have studio time booked for the first two weeks of April to record LP two. That should come out in the fall of this year. No rest! It’s important to me to do an album a year. I want to keep stuff feeling urgent and in the moment. Not I wrote something, and I let it sit until it got stale.
Intro/Outro song- “Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas” by Beach Slang.