“Honesty is an intimidating card to hold” is something James Alex has truly come to appreciate with the release and reception of Beach Slang’s new album, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us. Alex, calling in from the band’s studio “across the river” in Philadelphia, says the songs of The Things We Do… — all of which were written in that same studio — are full of that “honesty.” He knew he had to change himself as a person and open up his “heart and his eyes” with the art he was putting out into the world to become less of a guarded person.
“I tried to carry this through in my writing as I always tried to keep part of myself protected in case people wouldn’t like what I wrote,” he says. “I just got to a point where I realized art deserves to be honest and that the best art doesn’t protect itself.”
The record feels bright and alive, full of hope and long nights and cold beers. It’s fun, sad and real. Alex wanted unsuspecting ears to pick up on all of that more so than anything else he had created before.
The band’s been in a whirlwind since last year’s release of a pair of EPs and this year’s full-length, receiving near universal acclaim for their early Goo Goo Dolls and Replacements-indebted rock ’n’ roll. Shows have been selling out, fans are getting lyrics tattooed, and Alex feels like he’s living in a dream world, one that he knows won’t last forever. “I had this wild hope that if even just one kid heard this record and had it resonate in way like certain records did with me, I just wanted that one kid to be like, ‘This person knows how I feel.’ I wanted to do something bigger than I ever had done before.”
The big hooks and shout-along choruses knowingly transition over to the live setting, where Alex wanted this band to be a force of positivity as well. For him, bringing that truth and love each night is a beautiful thing and never gets old. “When I write songs, they feel like a baptism, and when I play them they feel like an exorcism. That never gets old to me because there’s a healing inside of that.”
Alex and crew will have plenty of time to heal up as the they’ll be on the road for the next year or so, playing their way across North America and jaunts through Europe, where even those crowds are shouting along with each heart-swelling, fist-raising line. At home and across the pond things have been going so well for Beach Slang that Alex says he’s even become a bit superstitious: He doesn’t change his belt or part his hair a different way. “Having any level of success in rock ’n’ roll feels like hard work and dumb luck,” he says. “There’s no intellectual answers so I’m leaning on superstition at this point.” He laughs. “It’s been a fun ride and I’m not ready for it to end just yet.” If he keeps writing the big, crowd-pleasing records he has over the past year, Beach Slang won’t have anything to worry about in that regard..
Beach slang play the Knitting Factory on December 17. For ticket information click here.