James Alex has always worn his influences on his sleeve. Since his band’s inception, Beach Slang has drawn easy comparisons to the Replacements. Nevertheless, Beach Slang has developed a loyal following, with honesty and catharsis being front and center for Alex’s songwriting and ethos. He is revisiting his anthems, stripping them down and laying everything bare in what amounts to an experiment he calls Quiet Slang.
“I’ve wanted to do a project like this since I started getting into the Magnetic Fields,” Alex says. “The piano and cello thing is something I’ve had bouncing around in my head for forever, but it didn’t occur to me until recently to do it with Beach Slang songs.”
He goes on to lament the doubt he experienced at first.
“In the beginning, you know, I didn’t really think I had the chops," he says. "I thought I needed to be a musician longer to pull this off.”
Alex has been playing music for the better part of 20 years, with origins in the '90s punk group Weston. Far be it from him to be pigeonholed by himself or anyone else.
“I never wanted people to think that Beach Slang could only be just one thing," Alex says. "That’s really what I’m trying to do here.”
He says Beach Slang is evolving, and he’s taking the scenic route.
“The people who have heard home demos for the new LP are telling me, ‘This is the place we hoped you’d arrive at,’ and to me, I view the Quiet project as sort of spring training for this metamorphosis," he says.
Like anyone, though, Alex is a little unsure and a little fearful of the change to come.
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“At the end of the day, I want to be inspired as an artist," he says. "I was fearful, to be honest. I wanted to do this record to challenge myself and to grow. I learned a lot from this experience, and it’s gonna irrevocably change what Beach Slang will become.
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"I don’t want people who connect with this music to feel cheated. I can promise, though, that the music will always be anchored in what Beach Slang has always been. It’s always gonna have that spirit of plug in, turn up and go. Some nights it’s going to be glorious, and some nights it’s gonna be a wreck, but that’s the beauty of the whole thing.”
Alex is just as much out on a limb as his listeners, truly baring his soul for the first time.
“You know, my guitar is usually my little protective shield, and this time it’s not there," he says. "We’re not relying on any antics this time. It’s gonna be raw emotions with nowhere to hide.”