"Lyrics Are a By-Product of Me Trying to Understand Things Outside Music" - An Interview with Alex G
Musical genius, critically acclaimed artist, lyricist of our generation—many serious adjectives have been thrown around to describe Alexander Giannascoli ever since he first emerged in the indie music scene with his lo-fi sound. His artistry has propelled him to the forefront of the alternative music scene, cementing his place among modern music greats. If you spend two minutes on any online music community, you'll see a cult-like following ready to dissect his lyrics and discuss his music on command, like war dogs. This ponderous admiration that I call the Alex G mystique comes as no surprise to me, as he fills his work with abstract concepts, characters, and layered stories that leave ample room for interpretation and curiosity.
When I recently sat down with Alex to discuss his music, I was surprised to discover that, despite this swirling chaos of admiration around him, he remains lost in oblivion. He raises his brows with surprise at one point in our interview when I tell him that there are many forums, Facebook groups and Instagram accounts dedicated to celebrate his music. He is unfazed by fame, uninterested in popularity, and merely concerned with his artistic expression rather than chasing after the fleeting glimmers of stardom.
As we spoke, it became clear that I wasn't conversing with a someone who was aware of the narration around his name. Rather, I was engaging with a quiet and passionate person, whose racing mind churned with profound and intricate thoughts that he struggled to articulate without frequently pausing to rephrase. He lives in his own mind, creating music to communicate a feeling bigger than him, free from ego's grasp.
You seem to work instinctively, almost under the influence of a feeling bigger than yourself. Does it make talking about your work more complicated?
Your lyrics are imbued with a sense of ambiguity. Is crafting lyrics that leave room for interpretation a conscious choice on your part?
I think I make an effort to write lyrics that are moving to me in some way. I'm not ever trying to make them deliberately ambiguous. If there is any ambiguity it's simply because it feels right to me that way.
Do you appreciate being able to interpret things your own way and them not being told directly to you when it comes to the other artistic works that you consume too?
For sure because then I can personally attach my story to it.
You write from the perspective of characters sometimes. Do you feel like making music is a form of self discovery or is it more about telling a story, even if that story is not something that you’ve experienced yourself?
It's both. It's mostly about telling a story but I never go into a song with a "plot" in mind, it just comes together naturally. I never have a clear decision of the those "characters" I just try to write something that is meaningful to me in some way and I see what it all means when the song is finished.
In your recent album the themes of God, faith and hope are quite present. Are you a religious person or does these themes interest you in ways outside their contextual literal meanings?
I'm not a religious person but so many people in my life have recently started being interested in it. I just felt the urge to explore it for the hell of it and I didn't have a clear idea of what the meaning was behind my lyrics or what I was trying to say. The lyrics are almost like a by-product of me trying to understand things outside of music. What I'm saying in this album doesn't really change my journey with religion. Do you know what I mean?
Would you like to explore other creative outputs? Maybe writing a novel or a poetry book?
I think about stuff like that all the time to be honest. I definitely would love to accomplish something like that but at the moment I don't have the discipline for it. With music it's different because you get propelled by the sounds and you can almost immediately understand if it's enjoyable. I guess I just lack disciple -laughs-
This album leans into a more unorthadox style of production that we haven’t heard in your previous works. What inspired this sonic experimentation?
It wasn't a conscious decision. I normally record all my stuff by myself but for this album we had access to multiple studios and having access to all those instruments naturally changed things. I guess when there is something available, I like to mess with it to see what happens.
After being able to experiment with all those instruments, what do you think pleases you more now ? Having access to all that or having a more DIY approach?
I'll probably do a combination of both where I could go to the studio and take all that home and edit the bits and pieces. I would still be able to spend time on my own working on it.
I think you have a specific vision of what your music should be as your process is deeply intuitive. Do you find it difficult to have collaborators?
It's definitely easiest for me to work by myself.
What astrological sign are you?
I'm an Aquarius
I don't know what characteristics it entails but maybe our readers would have something to say about that.
Yeah, let's see.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair was one of my favorite movies of last year and I was really happy to hear your music in it. What aspect of the movie made you want to do the soundtrack for it?
That's a good question. Jane, the director sent me a message asking me if I would be down to do the soundtrack for it. I guess there was just something about it that appealed to me, I don't know. I liked how unsettling it was.
Your soundtrack captures the horror of online culture quite beautifully. Is the eerie tone of the album representative of how you see the online world?
As far as that goes, I have mostly gotten directions from Jane. She would say "Make this eerie", "Make this sound melancholic." So I was practically following Jane's guidelines. As far as my opinions on the online world, I don't have one single opinion about that. It's both good and bad. We're all on there and it helps people, makes connections easier.
You have a huge following online, thousands of people trying to decipher your lyrics and talking about what kind of a musical genius you are. How do you not get sucked into that? Doesn't your ego want to go down that rabbit hole?
That's a really good question. It definitely does and that's exactly why I avoid it. Another reason that I avoid it is because I truly don't know what to feel about it. When I see stuff like that online I don't really know how to react or make of it.
That sounds like a very modest approach.
It's not even that it's modesty. It's very hard to explain. You say that you would like it but I think if you saw people saying stuff like that about you online you wouldn't have reacted the way you think you would. It's kind of unsettling. I'm very grateful about the support though, it's how I can support myself. I have nothing negative to say about it it's just that I don't buy into it.
How does being described as a “critically acclaimed” artist make you feel? Do you care for reviews or interviews?
I like when people like it and I don't like when people don't like it. If a critic was to say that my work sucks I'd say "Ah, bummer" but I don't have any profound feelings about it. Reviews and critics just feel like job security. I would still make music even if I was or wasn't making money but dude, making money and being able to support yourself does feel awesome. I'm hoping to keep it alive.