Back in May, Cooking Vinyl Australia welcomed Philadelphia pop punk band Beach Slang to the label and convinced them to release a two-in-one down under.
Broken Thrills compiles their first two 7″ singles; Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street and Who Would Ever Want Something So Broken? on to a mini album.
The four-piece, made up of James Alex, Ed McNulty, JP Flexner and Ruben Gallego are starting to create a buzz here in Australia, after generating a veritable explosion in The USA.
That’s some pretty high praise, so The Upside News asked front man, James, how he responds to such admiration.
“Probably with an awkward laugh,” he laughs, awkwardly. “Because you can’t buy into that. Where do you go from there? It’s incredibly flattering so I’m trying to keep it as a thing to bump me up if I’m having a day where I can’t get a song out of me. But, mostly, I’m trying to keep it guarded and in check. But be it true or wildly false, it’s really sweet!”
Beach Slang came together through the Philly music scene and quickly made a name for themselves, despite only having two releases.
The combined release of mini-album Broken Thrills in Australia is receiving plenty of attention too, according to James.
“So far, the response has been great. I think the most common thing we ask ourselves in Beach Slang is, ’how is this happening?’ because it’s been this really cool trip. I’ve been doing things like, I literally won’t play with a different guitar pick because I don’t want to jinx anything! Everything just feels so right. Superstition is becoming the fifth member of this band,” he laughs.
“Both the two American EPs on one was Cooking Vinyl’s idea. We thought it was fantastic, because it wasn’t this overly considered thing that we had done in America to break them up, it’s just how it was. But people wanted something that had a little more playing time. That’s the biggest thing we get, in terms of critique, is people ask when are we putting out more stuff, which is a great critique to get! So it’s a really great thing to do as we start to introduce ourselves to new parts of the world, because it’s got a little more substance and a little more to bite into.”
Broken Thrills is certainly substantial, with full riffs, plenty of fuzz, and meaty melodies; demonstrating the band’s versatility.
Although they arose from the live punk scene, Broken Thrills has sophisticated elements of heartland rock, and reflections of the legends of the 1970s music scene, which James attributes his passion for music to.
“I went to see a theatrical version of Tommy by The Who and I was blown away! Then I had some really cool older relatives who were playing records like The Ramones and The Buzzcocks and I felt like, ‘I could play that!’ It didn’t sound like Yes or King Crimson, which I couldn’t even wrap my head around. It was young and angry and had energy,” he says.
“I used to play along to Ramones records; probably very poorly, but I felt like I was doing the thing, you know? Then you eventually stop playing along with the records and you start writing songs, but you’re just ripping off those records trying to write those songs, and then you start finding your own voice. But the initial spark was seeing Tommy on stage. I just thought it was the coolest thing. Townshend has been a huge influence on me.”
Since those beginnings, James Alex, who is a freelance designer by day, and musician by night, has become a skilled songwriter, and admits to deliberating at length over his compositions.
“I write the songs and do some pretty extensive home demoing. A lot of people write a bit and then go in a room and go at it until it becomes a thing, but I work the opposite of that. Maybe it’s part of my meticulous nature, whether I’m doing visual work or sound work, I need to hear or see the whole deal, so I make the whole deal,” he says.
“So by the time we all get into a room, it’s not me on my dumb little acoustic on my little recorder at home, we’re all in the room making it loud and big, and it sounds like Beach Slang. It’s a running joke where everyone else is like, ‘it only took us 35 minutes to write that song’ and I’m like, ‘man, I’ve been banging my head against a desk for a month trying to write that song!’ So by the time it goes into our rehearsal space, it’s pretty realised. But those guys give it a moxie that I don’t know I could give it. Beach Slang would probably be a hell of a lot sappier if I didn’t have their muscle,” he laughs.
And after much head-desking and deliberation, Beach Slang have just emerged from the recording studio having completed a brand new album, which they plan to launch at The Fest in October.
Following that, an Australian tour is possibly on the cards, which James would be absolutely thrilled about, should it come to fruition.
“I’ve never been to Australia and I cannot wait to come down. I’m being promised that this is happening but I don’t know when. I wish I knew because I have jokingly said (but it’s half true), I have a suitcase packed already, I’m just so excited!” he laughs.
“This would be the one tour where even our managers say they’re coming too. It’s super exciting. We played a festival in Berlin with [Melbourne’s] Smith Street Band and they were like, ‘come down in January/February because it’s summer then and it’s awesome’. So I’ve been nudging everyone in our camp and saying, ‘Smith Street Band told us we should!’
“I’m hoping early 2016. I have nothing to base that on, other than everyone is promising it’s going to happen, and I know I want to. I’m hoping to come and tour Broken Thrills and the new thing we have, and just be in Australia. This rock and roll thing aside, I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and now I get to go down with a guitar and make new friends.”
Broken Thrills is available now, thanks to Cooking Vinyl Australia, but stay tuned to The Upside News for Beach Slang album and tour announcements.
By Libby Parker