Once described as ‘the internet’s best hidden singer/songwriter’ Alex Giannascoli has spent the last few years carving out his own online niche. Like his contemporary Will Toledo – who records under the name Car Seat Headrest – Giannascoli has embraced the internet as a way to share his music. As talented as he is prolific, his bandcamp page is stuffed with heartbreaking tune after heartbreaking tune.
Though many have been quick to compare Giannascoli to Elliott Smith, in truth he is a different beast entirely. Mixing up the mad with the melodic, his music has an experimental bent that marks him out from Smith and other melancholy crooners. Alex G is unafraid to make the odd choice – to craft the tune that upsets, that surprises.
We spoke to Giannascoli about his brilliant new album Beach Music, the joys of touring, and the experience of working with a major label. Oh, and nudity.
Joseph Earp: How are you and where in the world does our interview find you today?
Alex Giannascoli: I’m fine. I’m in Buffalo, New York. We are on tour with Title Fight.
JE: Beach Music, your newest album, is about to be released out into the world. How do you feel about your records when you’re done with them? Do you ever listen to them back?
AG: I listen to them a lot before they are released to make sure I am satisfied with it. After it’s released I don’t bother with it anymore.
JE: How did you find the experience of working with Domino on Beach Music as opposed to the experience of self-releasing your earlier stuff?
AG: It’s cool. The record is getting noticed by a lot more people because of Domino.
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JE: A song like Bug has such a beautiful layered sound. When you start writing a song like that, do you hear the full thing in your head, or is it more a process of discovery?
AG: I don’t hear the song like that in my head. I write the chord progression and the melody initially. After that I guess you could call it a process of discovery.
JE: I love the affected vocals at the end of that song. Is that you singing? Did you always know you would have that in the work?
AG: Yeah that’s me. I thought it would make for a good ending.
JE: Kicker has those beautiful looped melodies, but it also has some incredible lyrics. I love the lines: “What’s the word? Right I forgot/quiet is the closest thing we got.” What was the inspiration for those lines? Did the lyrics come first or the melodies?
AG: The melody came first. Glad you like the lyrics. I guess I was tired of talking about stuff so I expressed it in those lyrics.
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JE: Remember, off your first album RACE, is such a beautiful song. What was the process of writing that song?
AG: I wrote and recorded the guitar part first, then added the banjo and the tambourine and etc. The lyrics were something I had written previously.
JE: Did you ever have a ‘eureka’ moment when you realised music was what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?
AG: No. I still don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life. Hopefully music will get me through the next few years.
JE: Do you still work a day job?
AG: No we make enough money from tour and stuff to last us when we are not on tour.
JE: You have stated that James Joyce’s work has been an influence on you. Are there any other literary figures that have impacted your work?
AG: I’ve only read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Not in particular. I like to read. I can’t name an author that has been particularly influential.
JE: Tell me something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
AG: I’m naked.
Beach Music is out now.