Beach Slang is a band that’s garnered a lot of attention considering that they’ve only released two 7-inches, 2014’s Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street and its companion, Who Would Ever Want Something So Broken? Refreshingly this Philadelphia-based act have built their hype the old-fashioned way, without any gimmicks or marketing teams, which makes sense when you consider that frontman and writer James Alex cut his teeth in the Pennsylvania pop-punk act Weston while drummer JP Flexner and bassist Ed McNulty also play in buzzed about projects such as Ex-Friends and Crybaby. However there’s something indefinable about Beach Slang’s music that evokes the spirit of punk and juxtaposes it into something that’s as brutally honest as it is infectiously catchy.
Beach Slang’s most recent release is a song titled “Too Late To Die Young” featured on the new Lame-O Records’s Strength in Weakness compilation benefitting United Cerebral Palsy.
Tonight they return home for a sold-out show with Cursive at Union Transfer. James called in (from the Cartoon Network HQ in California) to give us an exclusive interview. This is– Part 2! Enjoy The Eargazm!
Zach: So, Beach Slang just has a very visual element to a lot of the, like, the way that the lyrics come across and, of course, with you creating the album artwork, it feels like of inextricably linked to qualities in the music. And you guys have a great blog. Your Tumblr is very wide-reaching and has kind of a unique approach where you share visual elements alongside your lyrics. Who is updating that? Is that all you?
James: That’s me, yeah.
Zach: And where did that concept come from?
James: The idea or the photographs or…?
Zach: Just the idea and how did you decide that this is how you guys were gonna connect directly with your fans?
James: Yeah, I mean, it was kinda super organically, right? I just…very little backstory here. Like I’ve always wanted to be a writer, right? That was the first thing I sort of tried my hand at before I saw I was doing the same thing on a typewriter, right? So, words have always been super important to me. And just very organically, like once the records kinda started to come out, I would see kids quoting, like, the things like be it on their Facebook pages or their twitter and I would be like wow, I go to their page and it’ll say like whatever it might be, right? ‘I need the struggle to feel alive’ and I was like wow. These things I’m writing are meaning something to people beyond me, right? I mean I write these things. It’s sort of this cathartic process. It’s actually proving itself to be of some value to people getting turned on by these records. And that concept really resonated with me ya know? And I was like there’s a thing here where these words are connecting and I was just…Tumblr was this really visually pretty way to kind of do it. So, yeah, just this was sort of like pho-polaroid moment where it just like nicely designed and again, it’s almost like the way I do album art – a simplified version, of course. Just like how these photographs sort of punch at your…punch at you a little bit in a way that you feel something, ya know. And then just partnering it up with these lyrics that I thought connected with the imagery.
And it came very organic. I would’ve never been like – like had that sort of started under its own volition – like had that not happened, I wouldn’t have been sitting at home in my little studio space thinking like ‘These words are so important. They deserve to be out there’, right? It had to happen because somebody else said ‘Hey, this is worth something to me.’ And then I made the first one not knowing if anybody would really care and it just sort of like felt like a little match got struck and I was like ‘Ok, there’s something to this’ and people are getting something out of this and it’s like to me that’s worth continuing.
And my day job – I’m a designer. And I work at a branding shop in Center City Philadelphia. I’ve learned many things there, but one very important thing I’ve learned there that I’ve been able to carry over into Beach Slang is that everything’s interconnected, right? So, it’s like – I’m almost like – I feel like I’m just this sort of like – like little octopus in this Beach Slang world. It’s like I’ve gotten my hands on everything because I understand how this Twitter post informs this album art that connects to a Tumblr post that connects to a song lyric… it’s all Beach Slang. And I just don’t want anything to be misrepresented. I mean, I suppose at some time, at some point things are going to fall out of my hands a little bit but I’m going to damn sure make sure that doesn’t happen any more than I can help it. And not to continue to praise Polyvinyl, but that’s one really beautiful thing so far out of the gate. They’ve been – it’s just been like ‘We don’t want to change your sound, we don’t want to change your art, we signed you because we dig exactly what you’re doing’. You know, because you always have that nervousness when you kind of make a level jump in terms of labels. It’s like where does it become you start to have to compromise a little bit? And I can safely say like right now the compromise is absolutely zero. And that’s a really beautiful thing because at the end of the day the art and the sound and the words – that’s what I care about. That’s the thing I do. You know, I have this one life, ya know, and the thing I’ve chosen to do is make records and I just – I want to be able to be true to that and they’re certainly allowing that to happen.
Zach: I think it’s working. I mean, I think that the cool thing about you guys’ blog is that it’s engaging new people who haven’t heard the music yet and they just see this image and it resonates with them and they see this line from a song and it just comes together and they’re like I have to know where this came from. You know I think that’s why – I mean, you guys played your debut Philly show at Golden Teahouse – Rest in peace. And now you’re coming back here March 7th opening for Cursive at Union Transfer while they play The Ugly Organ – like their seminal work. What does that mean to you as somebody who’s been doing this like you have, you know, for a period of time, to be able to – that album came out over 10 years ago now, right? Am I crazy?
James: Right, right.
Zach: Counting back in my head. Ya know? And now to be able to be out there with Tim who – this is his thing. Ya know? This is the album. Every other album since has been pretty great but nothing will ever have that same feeling…the immediacy of it. How does that feel to see him like that and to be able to support him during that time?
James: It’s indescribable. It’s that same balance needed. It like echoes the same way I feel about Polyvinyl, right? It’s like, I remember getting there the first day and just being, like, I’m going to watch them play The Ugly Organ tonight, right? And it was just like – and then it happened – and it was just like is this life? Ya know? It felt incredibly weird. And those guys – let’s move past the brilliance as like musicians and as a band. They’re just the sweetest human beings in the world. And it’s just been like – I’m actually doing an artist on artist interview with Tim [check it out!!]. I just finished the questions today, so it’s just been like…and we’ll just be like, you know, whatever it might be, goofing around backstage or just, ya know, there’s all these sort of dumb jokes going on or whatever the thing might be, but it’s just like –
And then, like, watching them sound check, I think of like, I think of just my friends back home, like what would they do to be sitting in this empty venue right now like watching Cursive play Ugly Organ songs just getting ready for tonight’s show?
And every night I’ve been taking that moment to really like pause and just sort of, like, really take that in. Right? Because it’s like, I’m pretty lucky, ya know what I mean? So like be inside of this moment and it’s like – ya know, this is the third Philadelphia show. We played – like you mentioned – Golden Teahouse and then we played The Fire, which was great. Like we sold The Fire out, and we were like ‘Oh my gosh!’. We’re like ‘Something’s happening here!’. And now it’s like…I mean our knees are knocking to go play Union Transfer opening for Cursive. You know what I mean? It’s just like – we never in our wildest, most awesome-est dreams, right, when this thing started, man, we just wanted to –
Zach: Like coming back home after college after you’ve been away for a while and showing all your friends like ‘Look what I was up to!’. Ya know?
James: Yeah! Ya know – I mean all of our friends are still excited for us. I really – I just feel like coming home and doing that show specifically is going to feel so special. Yeah, it’s incredible. And like, ya know, just watching Tim every night – I’m just learning so much from him. You know what I mean? I’m not sure if you’re going to any of the shows on the tour but it’s just –
Zach: I will actually be at the Homecoming show.
James: Oh yeah okay. They are just phenomenal live.
Zach: I’ll be there.
James: Ok, good. Good, man! You know they’ve got like the cellist out and then they’ve got so many varied instrumentalists. I mean with the trumpet and keyboard and sampler –and of course – the organ. It’s pretty incredible, man. It’s like, you’re gonna really be thrilled when you see this thing live. It’s unbelievable. And I get to do it for like 5 weeks. It’s incredible.
Zach: Well, I’m definitely pumped to see Cursive, but my last question is are you guys going to be playing anything from the new LP when you stop in Philadelphia?
James: We are! We’ve been playing two songs off of it so far. We’re going to try to have if not two, at least one more that we can play because, ya know, when you get home from these tours, it’s trying to get in the studio time, so we’re actually – I’m trying to show them the stuff while we’re out on the road. So, a little tougher than being at home kinda locked up in our rehearsal space, but we’re getting it done. So, yeah, we’ve been playing two live so far, and ya know, kids have been responding super favorably, so that feels good, ya know?