There’s a punk-train rolling through Philadelphia at the moment. From Hop Along and Restorations to Modern Baseball and now Beach Slang, Rocky’s hometown which sits two hours south of New York (driving a beaten up Toyota) has the hustle bustle of the big apple, but it’s a little more beaten up, and pop stars don’t exactly write fairytales about it.
Beach Slang’s debut album, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, was written in the dreary city, but frontman James Alex was forced to take another approach for the sophomore record. We chatted with Alex about his upcoming release, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings and how it compares to his earlier work.
Congrats on the album, you must be stoked!
Way stoked! I’ve been chomping at the bit man. Finally being able to put out a song the other day and just tell people the title and show them the artwork, I don’t know if I could’ve waited another day. I can’t wait till September to lay the whole thing on people.
What was the process like this time round compared to the first record?
The writing of this record was the most different, the recording was pretty much the same. We cut it at the same studio, same engineer and coproduced it with the same guy. We sort of found what works for us, nothing feels broken, so we just went in and made another Beach Slang record. There became this thing though that we kind of had to battle – In a lot of interviews I was being asked ‘do you feel pressured to follow up the first one?’ I’d sort of punch back in my head ‘don’t let that creep in’. I was able to keep it at bay, and honestly in the end there was nothing intimidating about it. I had songs I wrote, they were honest and of this moment so it was a really organic and natural approach. We cut it in like eight or nine days so it had that Beach Slang tempo to it. We didn’t get caught up in anything, or bumped out of focus.
How would you compare it to the sound on the debut record?
I think it’s fairly similar, if you put it on you’ll know it’s a Beach Slang record. If you invest in it a little bit more you’ll hear the evolutions and moves and get a hint of what LP three might sound like. We don’t have a huge back catalogue, so we’re still sort of in the first chapter of this thing. So we got to continue the vibe of the first record.
Can you explain the album title, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings. Are you reflecting your teen years, or describing others?
I think a lot of it is that. My writing is super influenced by those 80’s John Hughes coming of age films. I feel like I relate to that sort of misfit-looking for your place in the world-punching through to find it-never giving up-John Hughes vibe. I was asked once if I could describe Beach Slang in a sentence what would it be, and I said a loud bash of teenage feelings, and I immediately wrote it in my notebook and thought I’m definitely calling the next album that. I think I’m forever glued to that youthful charge, that romanticising of being alive and always looking for something better.
Can you reflect on your teen years, were you into music as much as you are now?
I definitely was into music, I wouldn’t say I was writing songs, I was writing though, maybe poems and wishing they’d be songs. I wasn’t a good songwriter then, but words were always really important to me and definitely, hugely into rock n roll. In a lot of ways rock n roll was my best friend. I had a huge record collection and eventually cracked the code on how to actually write. If you listen long enough you learn some tricks on how to write, or how to creatively steal from your heroes [laughs] one or the other.
…soft, drunk, loud, messy, beautiful <3
— BEACH SLANG. (@beachslang) July 13, 2016
Can you take us through the Beach Slang writing process? I know a lot of musicians can’t write on tour, they say it’s too hectic. Do you have to be locked in a room by yourself with space to write?
Well you know that was my approach leading up to this record, but given our tour schedule and when I wanted to have this record out, I pretty much wrote this whole album during a European tour. It was about a month or so long and I just wrote all the time. The fellas would go out and see all these beautiful places and I’d stay in the van or the hotel room and just work. I was driven by fear you know, I wanted this record to matter. Then I sort of tapped into this ‘poet on the road’ thing which took the fear out of it. I was able to realise how cool it is to wake up in a different city or country every day meeting different people with different stories to tell you. There was all this humanity in these songs, and something really cool came out of it, and now it’s sort of my favourite approach. I think about if I had of written it at home, and I’m certain the razor wouldn’t have been as sharp, to put it that way.