by Ziggy Merritt
About a week ago I had the opportunity to ring up James Alex of Beach Slang, a fierce pop-punk outfit currently on a national tour and anticipating the upcoming release of their first full-length album. To preempt their gig at PhilaMoca, I asked Alex to shed some light on the design, aesthetic, and influences behind the band. From the start, one of the most apparent was Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs.
Back in April, Beach Slang released a cover of the Furs track, “Love My Way”, featuring a true-to-form rendition of the still active new wave band’s 1982 single. “I remember when Beach Slang started,” Alex recalls. “The way I was writing, I felt like I sorta had a semi-successful song and that I could sorta sing like Richard Butler.” This he accomplishes to great effect, capturing the choked, almost raspy vocals of Butler while keeping true to his own unique DIY sound.
And while the Furs and indeed the entirety of the Valley Girl soundtrack provides inspired alchemic fodder for Alex, much of the current recording process is born off of the impulsive plug-in and play approach that has worked so well for their previous releases. “We didn’t want to change a whole lot as we approached this. We didn’t want to overthink it, we wanted stay on the same livelihood,” Alex states.
Past this approach, we drifted on to the ever-shifting realm of tumblr where some of the design and inner aesthetic of Beach Slang is expressed via monochromatic photographs captioned by their own lyrics. Themes of loneliness, introspection, lawlessness, and raw, imperfect love run throughout the short gallery. I asked Alex on the importance of not only these themes but of tumblr and social media as a way of connecting and disseminating certain ideas and ideals.
“One thing the internet has done well is sort of level the playing field, right?’ he responds. “Back when I started, labels were gods and bands were the peasants. We’ve sort of reclaimed that community. Wherever you fit in that community you have a place now and it’s fucking amazing.” This speaks not only to the music industry itself but also, more specifically, the tumblr community as a means of interweaving the thematic elements of Beach Slang with a progressive, punk audience.
Reaching further than the community, a design similar to the aesthetic expressed on tumblr is utilized for the design of the album covers released thus far. From Alex’s connections as a designer he utilizes amateur photography from his personal pool of friends and resources, such as the art school portfolio from their tour manager.
“The photography is really happenstance,” he expresses. They occur in the moment, on an impulse that speaks deeply to Alex in consideration of the artwork utilizing these same photographs. “I look at a photograph and it’s like a sock in the gut, like I’m in love with this, and I fortunately have really talented friends who want to help me work it along.”
You can catch Beach Slang at PhilMoca this Monday the 27th alongside Hurry, Mike Bell, Ghost Gum, and The Movies.