There are certain songs that I can always turn to whenever I’m in a funk. Just from tuning out my troubles alone through the power of music, I can always find myself at peace whenever I listen to a band like Beach Slang—and it’s within these moments, everything just starts to make sense for me.
I’ll never forget when I saw Beach Slang for the first time open for Modern Baseball and I Am The Avalanche at The Stone Pony last year. Their live performance was like no other group I’ve ever seen before, and I found myself immediately hooked. Since then, I’ve always made it a personal mission to catch these guys every time they perform in New Jersey.
In October, these Philadelphia underdogs finally put out their debut studio effort, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us. After anxiously waiting for this full-length to see the light of day for months, I knew from the get-go that The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us was going to the top of my personal list for Album Of The Year. Hooked onto serene tracks like “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas,” “Ride The Wild Haze” and “Young & Alive,” Beach Slang continues to stay true their esthetics and belt out raw and captivating anthems that speak right from the heart.
Just a few day before The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us was officially released, I had the pleasure of having an inspiring and enlightening conversation with frontman and guitarist, James Alex, about the anticipation leading up to this record’s release, the personal connection that is taken from Beach Slang’s blissful, musical delivery, as well as supporting Taking Back Sunday on their Second Annual Holiday Spectacular. It’s safe to say that I couldn’t help but have the biggest grin on my face throughout our entire conversation.
One of the biggest highlights of my week was receiving my vinyl copy of The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us in the mail, and needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this release for a very, very long time. What would you say is the most rewarding feeling about having this record see the light of day?
Yeah, well I think it’s that… you make this thing, and then it sits for months, right? And you’re just sort of buzzing inside, like bubbling over it. Then, you’re finally able to leak this thing out, and you first start getting letters, or notes, or sayings from people that have heard it, and it’s just like, “Oh, we weren’t just being delusional,” you know? “Maybe we did this thing, and maybe it will matter a little bit.” We’re just starting to see those little flickers of things, and that feeling is really sweet, and soft.
Before this release, you’ve only had two 7″ EPs under your belt. Considering the anticipation and excitement surrounding this record, did you guys expect the immediate response of The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us to be larger than life from the very get-go?
No man, not at all. Two things sort of factor into that: we have this humility to guide the ship as the captain. So, I remember feeling this way before we put EP two out [Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street] where you have that fear of, “Are people still going to be attached to the previous work? That they’re going to be open to anything new?” Fortunately now, with a first EP [Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?] and a second EP into that, we haven’t fallen victim to that. But that fear is always there, and those nerves and stuff. I think that’s a good thing, right?I don’t know, I feel like you should have that healthy anxiety, you know?
Yeah, especially with putting out your first full-length. I know many bands are anxious about experiencing the “sophomore slump,” so I can see where you are coming from with that.
For sure, we’ve done well with managing expectations. We’re not trying to get caught up in it because it has been a rocket ship trajectory for us. It’s not lost on us how lucky it feels. It’s like in the same breath, we’re not sort of overly subscribing to hype, or buzz, or whatever those labels might be that are getting sort of tossed our way. We’re just like, “Heads down, keep doing good, honest work,” and that’s sort of the thing that really matters. And then all this other cool stuff that is happening are these cool little sprinkles on top. But at its core, man, we just want to stay true to what it exactly was when we started, and I think we’re really doing that well.
One defining quality that I’ve always loved about Beach Slang the most is the youthful spirit that your music evokes. How does the theme of this record resonate with fans from a personal and musical standpoint?
Right man. Well I think, to circle back—I think that’s where honesty becomes this really beautiful trip throughout the record. It’s not like we’re trying to manufacture an image or a gimmick from record to record. So, I think the nice thing about that is for those people who have connected with EP one, and EP two—I think the connection is built in right…for LP one.
Because lyrically, I’m certainly still exploring those same themes. That sort of sense of belonging, or that sort of disenfranchised, and embracing life—like all of that spirit, and sort of… those themes, and stuff are still here. Because like I said man, there is no “making a product” from record to record—it’s like, being true and consistent with who I am as a writer, and who we are as a band from every record. So, I think people jumping on board, and getting behind this… and like I said, if you already dug the first couple of EPs, it should be pretty smooth into LP one… to be determined. The early ballots are in, and it’s making sense for people.
Most definitely, I totally agree! So, you will be making your return back to New Jersey opening for Taking Back Sunday’s Second Annual Holiday Spectacular. How did this opportunity come about?
Yeah man, this opportunity just came organically. We got an email from their [Taking Back Sunday’s] camp, asking if we wanted to do this. And we were like, “Fuck! Of course we do.” It’s being really cool because we’re getting these one or two degrees of separation—that they really do dig the thing that we are doing, and that feels, you know, really cool, right?
And it’s a really good point that you brought up, these guys are colossal. They’ve done it! And to get invited onto this, as sort of the new kids on the block, it’s incredibly cool; we can’t wait, it’s organic. I guess they’ve heard the EPs and dug what we were doing, and wanted us to play a show them, which we were more than happy to do.
With the Taking Back Sunday show specifically, do you feel like you’ll be stepping out of your comfort zone by possibly playing in front of a whole new audience who may not be familiar with Beach Slang?
Oh sure man, of course. But you know, there is something beautiful within that—like, stepping out your comfort zone. We can keep playing shows and just sort of keep preaching to the converted, but that’s not going to grow the band. I don’t know if it’s that “Philadelphia underdog” kind of thing, but I dig the wind going up against us and having to win a room over that might not be familiar with you. I feel like with those shows, that you just gotta get hungrier, and just got to fight for it a little bit harder. I’ve always done that… I never want to get too comfortable in the thing that we’re doing.
So shows like that to me are super exciting. And it gives us a chance to bring some people into a little Beach Slang world if they might not have heard of us before, and I dig that, you know? We need to do that. We’re still a small kind of band, so we kind of try to crack the door open a little bit. We’re going to bleed out on stage for sure.
Oh yeah definitely! For me personally, I’ve always made it a mission to see you guys every single time you play in New Jersey, especially in Asbury Park. Just like myself, I know you’ve have shared many wonderful memories at the Asbury Lanes. Tell me a little bit about your personal connection with this iconic venue, and how did it feel to be graced with the opportunity to play there one last time before they closed down for renovations?
Oh man. That was overwhelming. Were you there that last night? Did you have the chance to?
Yes, of course! I was there right in the front row for your set man.
Right on! I mean, man, I remember the first time we played there, and it was just like… well, you’ve been going there for a long time—they have the sweetest staff in the world, and the coolest people come and hang out. Like, it’s just sort of everything, right? If you were sort of a little punk rock architect, that [the Asbury Lanes] is the kind of place you would build. It sort of had everything going for itself, and it’s completely devastating to see that place go.
I remember when that happened, it was like, “Where do we play now when we come here [Asbury Park]?” We just felt lost for a minute. But yeah, it’s a beautiful spot and I am so glad that we got to play there and spend the time that we did while it was there. That’s going to be one of those spots that the scene of the future is going to hear stories about, wishing that they could gone to, like CBGB’s or something. We hold it that kind of theme.
I totally couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen so many amazing shows there in the past, and so many memories from the Asbury Lanes that I will always hold onto. It was practically a second home for me there. On a final note, with the overwhelming feedback you’ve received from the record so far and an extensive touring schedule coming up, where do you see Beach Slang a year from now? What are goals that you would like to accomplish by this time next year?
Yeah man, obviously we’re touring super hard, right? So, we do the dates in December, and then we go Europe for a month at the beginning of the New Year. We’ve already confirmed a few festivals in Europe in the summer. So, we’re almost mapped out touring wise until August of next year. I know a lot of it is not posted yet, but we know that it’s happening. Somewhere in between, I have about half of the next LP sort of written already, so in an ideal world, before we even split for those festivals in June, we’d be back in the studio making the next record.
In terms of career aspirations, man, I can never think in terms of money. This was such a fun thing that means so damn much to me that I don’t want money clouding it. If I can keep the lights on by playing my guitar, that feels successful to me. The more important thing for me is to like, make things that I’m going to look back on and be like, “Okay, the little time I was around, I made these things that meant something.” If not to anyone else, they did to me, or if they mean something to someone else, even more beautiful.
Beach Slang will be supporting Taking Back Sunday at their Second Annual Holiday Spectacular show at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Dec. 18. Beach Slang will also be playing with Cursive frontman Tim Kasher and Field Mouse at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Dec. 17 and the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia on Dec. 19. The band’s stellar debut, TheThings We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, is available now on Polyvinyl Records. For more information go to beachslang.com.