Beach Slang, the brainchild of the musical talent James Alex have had a monumentally busy couple of years. Their record The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us was celebrated in late 2015, and became the triple j feature album, while also scoring the band a spot on the line up at Splendour In The Grass 2016. James Alex has just released a new EP, under a new name – Quiet Slang. This new name was chosen because the EP contains stripped back, acoustic and piano driven covers of Beach Slang songs, as well as acoustic cover versions of songs by some of their musical heroes, including The Replacements and Big Star.
The EP is called We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags. Due to the fact that the EP features covers of artists who have had an impact on the band’s career stylistically, we wanted to get an even deeper look into the musical inspirations behind Beach Slang. So, James Alex put together a list of some of their biggest influences, and explained why those influences resonate with the band.
This comes as a surprise to very few people but The Replacements. They were, are and will always be my favourite band. That goes for whatever (Paul) Westerberg is doing solo. I think he’s a genius in the way that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I heard him talk about his music once and he said, “It’s just a bunch of worthless chords,” you know? “Music is just a thing.” But I don’t know man. You’ve been the north star for a lot of people and for you to be able to just keep it in such a humble place and still believe that you’re not very good – it felt like it was a cool thing to hear from someone you think is other worldly.
Jawbreaker is definitely second. That was the first time I saw poetry knocked up against loud guitars and it could matter. You didn’t have to write poetry and be a folk singer. You could write something that really meant something and sort of annihilate a room with sound. It sort of felt like a wake up call. That was the first time I knew that you could do that. (Pete) Townsend is the reason why I play guitar – Jawbreaker showed me you could be pretty and raw at the same time and that it could not only make sense, it could be Jawbreaker – absolutely incredible.
When Beach Slang first started, the idea in my head was, “What if Richard Butler fronted the Replacements? What would that sound like?” That was, in my head, what Beach Slang was going to be. Now look, that’s a completely unrealistic goal but you have to lay a marker in front of you and that’s the marker I laid down for myself. There’re two voices in the world I always wished I had – Marvin Gaye and Richard Butler. There was no way in hell I was going to sing like Marvin Gaye but Richard Butler, I could at least exist in that world. My voice just sort of naturally fell in that place or so I’ll continue to tell myself, so that just always felt right. But I love, love, love that band. There’s not a record by them that I don’t love and I’m glad to see they’re still touring. I know they’re out right now with Bash & Pop with Tommy Stinson from The Replacement, which is pretty cool.
The Pixies for sure. The quiet / loud stuff, the weird drop out, that scream he has, the drumming is kind of weirdo, Joey Santiago’s leads are sort of simple but they’re incredibly weird and complex at the same time, Kim Deal’s harmonies, and just those basslines. Almost like when you talk about The Who, you couldn’t pick one member up and remove them from that band. They were all just brilliant and absolutely necessary in that part. The Pixies are like that for me. What an incredible band. They sort of met hanging a poster up saying something like, “You need to like Peter, Paul and Mary and The Stooges” – they meet in college based on that. When I heard that I was like, “That’s fuckin’ perfect.” That’s always super resonated with me.
The Magnetic Fields
If Westerberg is the messiah of loud, drunk bombast, Stephin Merritt is that to me for the tender, softer, dark humour sort of thing. I got turned onto them by their first records. I used to go to this record store and became friends with the clerk there and he just gave me that record – it was a double record of the first two Magnetic Fields records and that was honestly a case of something I’d never heard before. That was wild and weird and like when people say the first time they heard Pet Sounds or Sgt Pepper’s – your mind just sort of cracks open. And again, for me the Magnetic Fields was poetry. It wasn’t poetry and power like Jawbreaker but it was poetry in an Avant sort of approach to music, which I found incredibly interesting – specifically as I got older. I learned to play guitar listening to Ramones records. Once three chords started to feel like, “What else can I do?”, the Magnetic Fields were a cool band to have in my pocket.