On the same day that Failure & Hum made the shocking announcement of their co-headlining tour, we were so excited that we neglected to notice a new video from Beak> (the band who is responsible for probably our favorite non-D'Angelo album of the decade so far).
Since 2012, they've released a 7-inch and a "Bonus-Album" comp. And their next hot record is planned as a split with an alter-ego band called < KEAB. One video from each side of the split has been unveiled over the past few weeks. Check it:
Monday, June 22, 2015
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Pics stolen from here.
"Alex G is a band from Philadelphia, and they go to McDonald's every day."
The band asked me to include this as the first sentence of this feature. They are sometimes referred to as "Sandy Alex G," a name that is used on their Bandcamp and social media presence, partially to avoid confusion with a handful of other artists who also use the name "Alex G."
I spent a decent amount of time with Sandy Alex G during the final 48 hours of their tour with my band Speedy Ortiz. The band's four members are Alex (guitar, lead vocals), Sam (guitar, backing vocals), John (bass) and Cassidy (drums). A few hours after our last show of tour in Montreal, I hitched a ride with them to Connecticut, but not until after they took me to a house show where they played a set at the ungodly hour of 3AM. I sat on a couch and slept through almost all of it, with the exception of one song: "Serpent Is Lord" from the album DSU (our 9th favorite album of 2014), a song I had unsuccessfully requested a handful of times throughout our preceding 26 days of travelling. They claimed they weren't prepared for "Serpent Is Lord" because it includes piano, but without any warning, there it was (minus the piano part). It gave me the energy to stand up for one song at 3:25AM. I applauded when it was over and then went back to sleep. Maybe it was all a dream, but in either case, it provided an odd sense of closure to Speedy's seven-week tour as a whole.
Earlier that night during their 10PM set at Montreal's La Ritz, they opened with an unrehearsed and appropriately sloppy cover of "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)."
This was the one instance among our 18-city trek when Alex G's set did not open with an ascending, droning 2-minute wall of noise: Quickly strummed dissonant guitar chords contrasting a slow walking-bass line and an unmatching drum pattern. It resembles a crazy mixture of Big Star's Third and Sun Ra's freer moments - a stark contrast to the melodic, very catchy and deceivingly complex power-pop jams that comprise the rest of their set.
It turns out that their intro-noise is a new, unreleased song called "Look Out," and crowd reaction to this song has been mixed. Its slow-moving 5-note bass outro is often followed by no applause - dead silence - indicating the audience is either mesmerized or horribly confused. In either case, it's a disorienting moment leaving everyone with no idea what to expect. But within 5 seconds, "Look Out" will promptly segue into the gorgeous intro of "Black Hair," completely wiping the slate clean. This contrast somewhat encapsulates all their mystery and goofiness in one brilliant moment, resting somewhere on the line between poetic setlist construction and playing a joke on the audience.
A few key moments throughout our travels took place on the following nights:
On May 25th, as we were leaving our show in Portland, Oregon, Alex asked if they could follow us to "Mickey D's." This was a great question, especially because we had no plans to get food at all. And none of us prefer McDonalds. But since they asked, we settled on Jack In The Box as I had only been there one other time and I felt like getting an Oreo shake. The Alex G van settled on egg rolls. Sam and Alex noted that this was our first big bonding experience, sitting in separate vans, listening to CDs and eating fast food in a parking lot. We asked what music they had been pumping in the van, and they passed us a CD of Crash by Dave Matthews Band. This brought to mind a week prior in Houston when they had soundchecked the song "Crash Into Me." I assumed this was a joke at the time, but now I wasn't so sure.
June 1st in Columbia, Missouri was a bonding breakthrough. By this point, the travelling 2-band bill of Alex G and Speedy Ortiz had been expanded to include our friends from Palehound. Everyone from all three bands stumbled upon a "Big Jenga" game behind the venue. This was also the night when all 13 of us (11 musicians, plus 2 crew members) spent the night at the same house so that we could follow Alex and Sam to a vulnerable, open, public field where they shot off a string of surprisingly impressive fireworks they had been collecting throughout the tour.
On June 5th in Toronto, I gathered all four of them together in their backstage room (along with Speedy's Darl Ferm who joined us for the purpose of witty interjections) for our interview. Darl, Sadie and Devin supplied a few questions as well.
TMK: So the other night in Columbia, during the banter, you said "We're gonna make a stop at a town called R&B Zone." Would you care to elaborate on that?
Alex: *laughs* I don't think I said that. I think that was Sam who said that. That wasn't me talking. [Note: He definitely said this.]
TMK: Do you remember a lot of the stuff you say?
Alex: No, I actually do remember, but I think I was just trying to set the mood for an R&B jam.
Sam: I think it was before "Mary."
John: Is that the night when you were talking about the train? And stops on the train.
Alex: I just wanted people to get mentally prepared for that song.
TMK: How many fireworks have you bought during this tour?
Alex: Probably a hundred bucks worth.
TMK: Did you use all of them so far?
Sam: Yeah, because we couldn't bring any of it past the border, so we had to set it off.
Darl: Where did you set them off last night?
Alex: At this elementary school.
Darl: Hell yeah.
Alex: We set them all off. It was incredible.
Darl: St. Louis parking lot was pretty epic.
Sam: That might have been my favorite one.
TMK: It says a lot about that area that police didn't show up there.
Darl: Well, next to that apartment building was also pretty nice. It was so loud, and so many people were there and it was in the most obvious spot. And someone was saying that every half hour, it's ok to go back out and set off more fireworks.
TMK: What is the intro song called?
Alex: "Look Out."
TMK: What's the best reaction you've had to that song?
Alex: I think in Austin, someone was like "That was scary!"
Sam: I was gonna say, any time that it gets no reaction. No claps.
Darl: In Austin, no one clapped and then immediately when you started the next song, everyone clapped - for THAT song ["Black Hair"]. You throw off people so bad with it.
Sam: It almost feels like people want to pretend it didn't happen. I like doing that. It's fun.
TMK: What are the words about?
Alex: It repeats each line. "When I say look out for him, what I really mean to say is look at for me." And I repeat that.
TMK: The music is really loud in that song.
Darl: Is there a stern tempo John has to play at?
Alex: He just goes by my tempo. [Note: The count-off for "Look Out" is between 2-3 times faster than the bass tempo.]
Darl: Wait, really?
TMK: The rhythm section needs to be purposely out of sync during that song.
Sam: That's probably the toughest part of it.
TMK: Do you guys like the movie Scream?
Sam: I really like it actually.
John: It's a smart movie.
Sam: The ending is the best part, when they're stabbing each other.
TMK: How many scream songs does Alex G have? Referring to ones where you scream?
John: At least two, right?
Alex: I guess two of them. "Icehead" and "Animals."
TMK: We were wondering about the story about why it's called "Sandy Alex G." And also, do you play the song "Sandy" live?
Alex: Occasionally. There's only one guitar part in it that I think is boring. But "Sandy Alex G" is how I named the Bandcamp page. I intended to call the band and artist "Sandy" and give it one specific sound, with the lyrics coming from the perspective of a 14-year-old kid. And I was gonna just make a bunch of songs from that perspective and keep putting them up there on that specific bandcamp page, keeping it ambiguous, with another separate Bandcamp page for different sounding songs. But instead, I ended up just putting everything I did on the Sandy Bandcamp page.
Darl: You didn't change anything because of the Alex G from Youtube?
Alex: Well we started getting booked as Sandy Alex G so that people can recognize that name from the Bandcamp link.
TMK: You used to run in place on stage, and you stopped doing that.
Alex: Yeah, I'm trying to take the show more seriously now!
Alex: Just trying to be a little more serious.
Cassidy: You got bad knees.
Alex: Yeah true. I injured myself dancing.
TMK: So no more running in place?
Alex: I'll pull it out again one day. Just not on this tour.
TMK: We should ask you the same question we asked Krill about Bar Mitzvahs. Are any of you Jewish?
TMK: Have any of you been to any really good bar mitzvahs or bat mitzvahs?
Sam: We were talking about this before. I think I've been to three, and Mike Carroll's was the best. He had a live band, and they hired dancers for it.
TMK: So did you guys know each other then?
Alex: I knew Sam. I don't think I was cool enough to go to Mike Carroll's.
Darl: Was Mike Carroll really cool?
Alex: He was a pretty cool popular guy.
Sam: He had that early-2000s hair spiked in the front.
TMK: How long have you known each other?
Sam: Alex and I have known each other 10 years.
Alex: Something like that.
Sam: Yeah, we met in 6th grade.
TMK: So when did [Cassidy and John] meet up?
Cassidy: I met them when I was in 9th grade and they were in 10th grade.
Sam: We went to high school together.
John: I guess I met them three years ago. I met them at Temple. Temple University that is.
Darl: Oh ok, I was about to say... I thought you said you guys weren't Jewish.
TMK: On that note, I guess I'll go straight into Darl's question, which is "Why?"
Cassidy: Just in general?
Darl: In general.
Sam: Because we can.
Alex: Yeah, because.
Cassidy: Why not?
John: Yeah, because we can.
TMK: This is Devin's question. What is your favorite place to buy clothes?
Sam: Kohl's. Yeah.
Cassidy: Yeah, if it's not a thrift store, Target.
John: Target's actually sick. *brief pause* Macy's I think?
Sam: I guess you get best dressed.
TMK: Do you guys like Alex Chilton?
Sam: Yeah, I love him. I was driving earlier today and I had the first two Big Star albums on one CD, and we listened to the whole thing.
TMK: That 2-album package is a great deal.
Sam: You can't find them individually on CD. It's really hard to find them like that.
Darl: Really? #1 Record and Radio City?
Sam: Yeah, and then the third one I have on a separate disc.
TMK: I remember getting the 2-album CD at Borders.
Sam: I love him though. He's awesome.
Darl: I have a question. Does Borders still exist?
Darl: Good answer, everyone. I wasn't sure.
Sam: Barnes & Noble is still around though. Still going strong.
John: Alex Chilton? Was he the singer? Is he the one who sounds like The Smiths or was he the rocker kinda guy?
Sam: He's more of a Smith-ier thing. Chris Bell was the other one on the first record who has the really high register on "In The Street."
Darl: Chris Bell sings "In The Street?"
Darl: Didn't know that!
Cassidy: I didn't know who he was. I just knew the Replacements' song "Alex Chilton."
TMK: That's a really good song.
Darl: That's the best Replacements song.
Sadie: I have a stupid question. Do you like Elliott Smith a lot?
Alex: Yeah, I used to listen to him a lot.
Sadie: Where would that fall in your top 20?
Alex: He's probably in there. I don't listen to him as much now, but when I was younger I listened to him a lot.
TMK: Good question. I hear some of that in your songs, from both of you.
Sadie: That might be my #1 of all time in terms of influence.
TMK: Similarly, that's why I mentioned Alex Chilton.
Alex: There's probably more Elliott Smith than Alex Chilton.
Sadie: Well Elliott Smith was also influenced by Alex Chilton.
TMK: Very true.
TMK: Sam, you said Die Hard is the best action movie. What is the second-best action movie?
Cassidy: Rush Hour 2.
TMK: Is Rush Hour 1 the best one?
Cassidy: Wait, I've only seen the first one, and it's good.
John: There's a movie called Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and it's pretty sweet.
Darl: That movie's really good.
Alex: Lord Of The Rings is cool.
Darl: What the fuck is Lord Of The Rings?
TMK: But what's the second best?
Alex: Any of them. The trilogy itself is the greatest action movie. I don't remember the specifics. I liked all of the Lord of the Rings movies.
Sam: As far as what I've watched the most times, The Warriors.
Darl: That's my boy.
Alex: Oh, The Terminator. That's a great one.
TMK: The first Terminator?
TMK: The new [Terminator] trailer looks pretty bad, but I guess it's cool that they're keeping the franchise alive.
John: Or keeping Schwarzenegger alive.
TMK: Cassidy, what other bands have you played in?
Cassidy: Blank Spell, Low Charge and Cape Of Bats.
Sadie: Cave of Bats?
Cassidy: Cape. Cape of Bats. You can look it up.
TMK: Alex G!
Cassidy: Yeah, and Alex G. Also, I wasn't in the Marines.
TMK: You were in the Marines?
Cassidy: No! I wasn't.
TMK: Did we think you were in the Marines?
Cassidy: I heard a rumor.
TMK: From who?
Cassidy: I don't know. I heard someone from Speedy said that, and I was gonna make up a story that I was.
TMK: Do you guys like Incubus?
Sam: Yeah, I like Incubus. I had Morning View on CD when I was a kid, and I still love that album.
Alex: I don't mind them.
Cassidy: From what I've heard, they're cool, and I think it's a really good band name.
John: I like really old Incubus, like Fungus Amongus.
TMK: Did all of you play Big Jenga the other day?
Cassidy: I caused the downfall, but it was smooth up until then.
TMK: So who did best?
Alex: I only played one game.
John: There's only losers in Big Jenga.
Sam: I was in that first game with Darl, Jesse and Nick [from Palehound] that got super hot because it was the tallest game.
TMK: Do you guys know about Manbearpig?
Alex: Is that South Park?
Alex: Is that their global warming joke or something?
TMK: It's the Al Gore thing. He's a very tough villain in the videogame.
Sam: I think it's one of those things where I've heard people talk about it, but I've never seen that specific episode.
TMK: Well this isn't even a question, but I wrote down "Man Bear Pig on the outside."
John: That's a good talking point.
TMK: That wasn't even a question. Sometimes I just write things and I plan on forming questions around them. I'm nervous right now.
TMK: The next question is about John. Is John an excellent dancer? He moves around really well while he's playing bass.
John: I guess this question would go to you guys.
Cassidy: We've been waiting to go clubbing so we can see.
TMK: That would be cool if you brought the bass to the club and played along.
Alex: He's better at dancing than us.
TMK: What is your favorite Positive K song?
Everyone: "I Got a Man!"
Cassidy: It's also the only one I know.
Sam: That's unanimous.
TMK: Is "Harvey" about a vampire puppy?
Alex: Yes, it's more about a vampire werewolf.
TMK: Is that true?
Alex: A vampire puppy? Haha. Um, I guess so, yeah. What made you think that?
TMK: I thought the puppy woke you up in the middle of the night, or whoever is singing - whoever the character is. I figured if it's in the middle of the night, then he's nocturnal. I think that's why I thought that.
Alex: Harvey wakes up, and then the narrator goes in and coaxes him back to sleep.
TMK: You should keep the meaning mysterious, but I just wanted to see how far off I was.
Darl: Is it about the movie Harvey?
Alex: No, I heard about the movie after the song when someone brought it up. It's just a name that got used.
Darl: I have a question. What's the worst cheesesteak in Philly?
Sam: I don't like Geno's. I don't know if it's the worst, but I don't like it.
Darl: Is that the racist one?
Sam: It is.
Cassidy: When I think of it, it's just like one rectangle of meat with cheese on it.
Sam: Everyone always talks about Pat's and Geno's because they're right across the street from each other. When I think of cheesesteak, I think it needs to be chopped up really well, and Geno's just gives you like one single piece of steak pretty much. And it's also the racist place.
TMK: Does Philly have good tacos?
Cassidy: Yeah, good tacos and burritos.
TMK: What's the best taco there?
Alex: I like this place that moved into an old pizza spot. They never changed the name, and the awning is the same. I forgot the name of the place, but it still says "pizza" even though they sell tacos. They open at like 11PM and close at 6AM, and they make the best tacos of your life.