Q&A // Beach Slang

by SeanAtkinson
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on 08 January 2016 in Features

After a whirlwind 2015 for Pennsylvania punk rock quarter Beach Slang, 2016 shows no sign of being any different. The band kick off the year with a full UK tour, showcasing their 2015 debut record The Things We Do To Find People Like Us. Shout4Music spoke to frontman James Alex about the record and its reception, and what fans can expect from the upcoming UK tour.

Your debut album has been out for a while now - how have you found the reception, both online and on tour? 

It's been really beautiful — wild and humbling, you know? Beach Slang has always been steered by humility and really managed expectations. So, yeah, all this goodness has really flipped our wigs. It was pretty weirdo and perfect to be on tour and see it all sort of building in real time. I don't know, man, most of the time it feels pretty dream-state-esque. But, it's not. It's happening and that feels soft and lucky.

Did you have any expectation for the release coming up to it? 

I have hope, but never expectation. I hope I write songs that will matter to someone, right? I do hope for that thing. But, yeah, I never flirt with expectation. That's a slippery avenue to walk.

What's it been like working with record labels such as Polyvinyl and Big Scary Monsters for this release?

Perfect and easy and everything you hope working with a record label is going to be. Rock & roll can be a sweaty, seedy business. It's reassuring to know there are still honest believers doing the thing.

Is it a relief to get the album out there - presumably there's been a wait between finishing it and releasing it? 

There is for sure. I mean, you make this thing that has your whole heart shoved into and then you have to wait to offer it around. That part feels like an exercise in character building, you know? That said, I don't have a whole lot of room to sulk. The record was recorded in June and released (on vinyl, CD, cassette and digital) in October. How the labels got all those formats (specifically vinyl) turned around so quickly still feels like magic to me.

You've just completed a pretty extensive tour in the US - how's was it?  

Wild and sweet, loud and perfect.

What have been some highlights from that tour? 

I got gifts from people almost every night of tour. Like, the sweetest things — pins, poems, clothing, books, wine, letters, just really soft, meaningful pieces of them. We also had a fella call into each venue and buy us a round of beer while we were playing. I enjoyed every one of those things.  

What can fans in the UK expect to see from your shows in January?

Sweaty rooms, drunk sing-alongs, sweet hearts, loud guitars, charged hugs, late nights, worn-out lips, mystery bruises, bloody fingers, permanent smiles and belonging.

From your visits so far, what're your favourite things about playing shows in the UK? 

The energy. I mean, kids come to shows because they want to be at a rock & roll show. That stuff felt like drunk, sweaty church. It was perfect. 

Going forward - what does 2016 hold for Beach Slang aside from your European tour at the start of the year?

A full U.S. tour in the Spring, back to Europe in June, Australia in July, back to Europe in August, release LP2 in the fall and then another U.S. tour to finish the year.

You recently namechecked John Hughes, Bukowski and The Replacements as big influences in your songwriting, what it is about those three that inspires you?

John Hughes wrote coming-of-age stuff perfectly. It never pandered. It never sold out. And it captured, really captured, what that time feels like, you know? Bukowski put words together better than anyone I have ever read. The whole raw and beautiful, broken dreamer thing just super resonates with me. And The Replacements are everything good about rock & roll. Like, reckless heaven of something, you know?

Do you have any other influences?  

'Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky is probably my single biggest life influence. It has carved and healed every meaningful part of me. That book saved my life. I mean that. Musically, I dig into the Jesus & Mary Chain a whole bunch, Jawbreaker, The Magnetic Fields, The Who, The Smiths, Joy Division, yeah, all that necessary stuff.

Getting media coverage worldwide seems like a pretty new thing for the band, is it still surreal for you or do you begin to take the attention in your stride?

I make a very considered decision to not get too caught up in hype or buzz or whatever it might get called. I mean, yeah, I'm aware of it. You know, it feels wild and lovely that people have kind things to say about the thing you do. But I keep my brain on the work. I never want that part to start feeling flat. I never want the razor to dull. The writer in me is the same kid who never felt good enough. That's the spark, the thing that made me a fighter, the thing that keeps me hungry. So, right, I hide from the stuff that might soften that shine.


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