It’s (Sandy) Alex G: Interviewing the Philadelphia Star

There are few artists out there that capture my attention like Alex G. Please don’t look him up on YouTube; you’ll get a pop-cover sensation. Instead, lookup “(Sandy) Alex G” on Bandcamp or Spotify, and you’ll find an enormous arrangement of incredibly innovative recordings done by this Philly-raised songwriter, named Alex Giannascoli off-stage. The product of a guitar, a laptop, a microphone, and a brilliant mind, Alex G constantly pumps out new unique material, the latest of which is an album called ROCKET. I got a hold of Alex on the phone, and we had a great conversation all about recording ROCKET, his show at The Crocodile on June 20th, and the time he gave me a donut. Here’s how it went.

JM: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk! I’m seeing a lot more Alex G t-shirts, or I guess Alex G-shirts, on our campus every day.

Alex: Oh, that’s great!

JM: So, do you remember giving me a donut at your WXPN Free At Noon Session in Philadelphia two Decembers ago?

Alex: Oh, yeah! You have a 484 number, so are you from around here?

JM: Yeah, dude! I’m from West Chester, PA.

Alex: Awesome! Yeah, I remember that!

JM: Good, I’m glad! I was hoping you’d remember. I’m gonna brag to my friends so much about that. Anywho, congrats on releasing ROCKET! It’s super eclectic, and I hope you’re proud of it.

Alex: Yeah, well I think it’s better than Beach Music.

JM: You think so?

Alex: Yeah, I mean, I think I just like the more recent thing the most. That’s just how it ends up.

JM: What about it do you like a little bit better?

Alex: I guess I think it flows a little more as a whole, you know? It’s more of an album than Beach Music is.

JM: What was the recording process like for this record? Are you still doing it all by yourself on GarageBand (the free music software for Mac computers)?

Alex: Yeah, it’s still in GarageBand, and then I got it mixed at a studio. So I do it myself then bring the stems to a studio. The guy who works at the studio mixed it professionally.

JM: How long is the gestation period between writing a song and recording it on your computer? Do you leave a lot of room open to experiment with different instrumentations, or do you go straight for the computer right away?

Alex: It’s actually different song to song. That song “Alina” [off ROCKET]—for that song, I just woke up and did it right away. I didn’t really think about it; I just sort of jumped on the computer, ‘cause I thought of the melody in the morning, and I was like, ‘Ahh, I don’t want to forget this,’ and I just went for it. But then, a song like “Guilty,” I sat with forever.

So, it changes from song to song. I guess you can kind of tell how long I sat with it, based on the chord progressions. If it’s a little bit jumpier with less weird stud going on, then I probably went to record it right away. If the chord progression’s jumping around a lot, then I probably sat with it for a while.

JM: I love “Alina,” dude. For the “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday” lyrics, is that you using a pitch-shifter on your voice, or is that your friend Emily Yacina, who sings with you every once in a while?

Alex: It’s actually both me and Emily singing together. Our voices combined to make a really weird alien voice or something.

JM: How long have you two known each other?

Alex: We met in high school. She was a freshman and I was a senior, and we both liked music. Then I made this CD called WINNER that’s real old, but it’s on my BandCamp. So we were in high school, and we made that.

JM: Didn’t you meet your guitarist, Sam, in high school, too?

Alex: I met him before that; I guess we were both eleven. We went to middle school together, and we were sitting at the same lunch table.

JM: Back to your music, you know, it was good to hear what “Bobby” has been up to since we last heard about him in your song “New.” Do you find that it’s easier to write lyrics when you can base it off of characters like Bobby, Sarah, and Mary?

Alex: I think it’s easier to set a theme. You can present a character without beating around the bush. If you just have a name, you can say that this is the character. You don’t have to be like, “This is my boyfriend who has brown hair,” you know what I mean? It’s just a name, and whatever that represents to the listener.

JM: What inspires your more, for a lack of a better word, Satanic-oriented lyrics? I’m thinking, like, “I love him/And 666,” in your song “Snot” as well as the themes in “Gnaw.” What inspires those kinds of lyrics?

Alex: I guess it’s just an easy way to portray someone doing the worst thing they could do. It’s like, you say something like that, and you don’t know what they’re talking about, but you know it’s not something that people around them like, you know?

JM: Yeah, like it makes them cringe to think about it a little, but in an interesting way, right?

Alex: Yeah, right.

JM: I love your album artwork. My favorite is the RULES painting with the portrait of the woman. Is there a particular artist who does most of your album art?

Alex: My sister does most of it, but RULES is actually a painting of my sister that my mom painted. It’s funny, I think sometimes people think [my sister] Rachel made that one of herself, but my mom did that of her.

JM: Oh, cool! Who did the ROCKET ram?

(Album art by Rachel Giannascoli)

Alex: That was my sister. She did Beach Music and ROCKET. ROCKET’s is pretty cool; she did the back cover and the interior of the album as three separate paintings. They’re all really big, cool-a** paintings.

JM: Are you close with your family?

Alex: Yeah, they’re all pretty cool! I talk with my sister a lot.

JM: Okay, this next question is a two-parter. (Cue Jason’s nervous laughter.)

Number one: Are you sick of people asking you how you got connected with Frank Ocean? And if the answer is ‘No,’ then number two: how did you get connected with Frank Ocean?

Alex: (Laughs) That’s funny. Nah, it’s no big deal! It was pretty, like, not that exciting. He just sent me an email asking if I would come record in his studio, and I was like ‘yeah,’ and that was pretty much it. Then I just went to his studio a couple of times. It’s really funny. It’s so lopsided, you know? But, it’s cool.

JM: We in Seattle are real stoked for your show at the Crocodile with Cende and Japanese Breakfast. You’re touring a lot now, but you started out in the Philly DIY music scene. That’s such an incredibly supportive community. I was wondering, how did that scene shape you as an artist? Do you think your music would be different if you had come from another city?

Alex: Yeah, I think it definitely gave me a lot of motivation just to keep making music because there was an outlet for it. I could keep making music and know that there’s people who are interested in listening to really, like, crappily-recorded, amateur stuff. I guess, in other cities, it’s probably a shot in the dark whether somebody’s gonna give your stuff the time of day. It’s cool ‘cause you can kind of count on people who are just interested in hearing underground stuff, which is really cool. I don’t know if it’s the same now, I’m kind of out of the loop, but when I was growing up, that’s what it was like. It was just this whole crowd of people who are seeking out, like, punk-underground stuff.

JM: Yeah, I figured it probably would have had a huge impact on your music, which it seems like it did.

Alex: Yeah, I think I wouldn’t have made as much music if there wasn’t that scene for it.

JM: Totally. Thank God for that scene, if that’s the case. Well, I only have one more question written down for you, Alex. I’m not into that whole “What’s next for Alex G?” concluding interview question, so I’ll just ask you: what’s a cool, interesting fact about you that most of your fans don’t know?

Alex: Uhhhm… I don’t know, I’m pretty boring! Let me think… a cool interesting fact… Can you give me a category?

JM: Okay…what’s a food you’re really good at making?

Alex: Oh, okay! I’m really good at making scrambled eggs. I think that’s my specialty. Cheesy eggs.

JM: Ha! Awesome. Thank you Alex! We’ll see you June 20th at the Crocodile!

Alex: Thank you! I appreciate you calling. Thanks, man!

 

You can get tickets to Alex G, Japanese Breakfast, and Cende at The Crocodile on June 20th here.

 

JASON MCCUE | Praise be to Alex G-sus | KXSU Promotions Director

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