Something Like Happiness: Alex G | Interview


Having first found prominence uploading self-produced tracks to Bandcamp and YouTube more than a decade ago and while still in his teens, Alex Giannascoli has gradually become a quintessential troubadour of the internet age.

It’s perhaps somewhat ironic, then, that an artist whose name was once so synonymous with the online world, with all of its communicative possibilities, has always seemed rather elusive – distant, even. It also makes it all the more surprising when Alex joins today’s interview with such positive energy, laughing and chatting patiently while the connecting Zoom call fights against the forces of feedback and teething problems. He’s at home in Philadelphia, a few days before he heads over to Europe for a run of shows and a couple of weeks later millions tuned in to watch his performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. With these accolades stacking up, Alex still carries himself with an approachable ‘slacker’ demeanor – a far cry from the jaded persona that could befit a man once dubbed by certain factions of the media as ‘America’s greatest living songwriter’.

His new album, ‘God Save The Animals’, is undeniably a product of the same prolific mind as his other releases, albeit with a few edges sharpened here and there. There are one or two lyrical touchstones that also feel new, most notably the titular subject, which makes itself known at multiple points throughout the album’s thirteen tracks, not – Alex clarifies – as a direct religious entity, but as a more generalized representation of faith. in something, or someone.

Famed for making all of his music in solitude, working with external sound engineers and studios for the first time on his ninth album offered Alex a new challenge to sink his teeth into. “It was kind of weird at first,” he recalls. “Cause it took a while to get used to working with engineers and figuring out a process that worked with the way I write.”

Where some artists seek drastic environmental changes or a fresh headspace in which to embark upon their next creative era, Alex has always thrived when working within manageable, controlled setups, with his finger firmly on the button. “I think that’s valuable because I like to let my mind go a little out of control,” he explains. “So, by executing ideas in a physical environment that I’m familiar with, my internal process can be less controlled.” He ponders for a moment whether his explanation might have come off as pretentious: “I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s how I see it,” he laughs.

Whether intentional or not, this manageable means of self-production has contributed greatly to the Alex G sound. Writing, recording and producing whole albums, and putting them online in a similar fashion to contemporaries like Car Seat Headrest or Mac DeMarco in his early Makeout Videotape project, put Alex among the vanguard of supposed bedroom pop or lo-fi artists: a label that follows him to this day, despite his heavy experience and record deal with indie powerhouse Domino.

“I guess it bugged me at first,” he says of the tag. “Even at the very beginning, I never understood why people called my process lo-fi, because I was trying my best to make it sound…” he thinks briefly, “… hi-fi, I guess?”

It may have seemed unthinkable during those early days of online pickup that these self-sufficient creatives would infiltrate the mainstream, but The Tonight Show, with a regular viewership of between one and two million, is nothing if not a marker of cultural standing. “Yeah, that was a really cool experience,” Alex responds. “On its own, the performance doesn’t necessarily mean much. But it felt good to see that people in my life who don’t understand what I do could see me on Fallon, and see that I’m working towards something, and understand it a bit more.”

And do these accolades go some way towards shaking the DIY tag? “There isn’t much I can do about how people categorize what I do,” he shrugs. “I’m just grateful people are saying things about my music. It’s nice that people give it the time of day, and there’s really no use in getting annoyed about that stuff.”


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