While I was researching artists I wanted to listen and talk to, Alex Rose came up on D0512’s ‘Local Bands You Should Be Listening To’ page. I instantly enjoyed her absorbing music that she shares on her Bandcamp, and asked her if she wanted to chat with me about it. She graciously said yes and here’s our cool conversation
First question for you, how long have you been making music?
I started writing songs in college. I was living in Seattle, so I guess… about 12 years now.
Have you been recording much over those years?
I have. Those early recordings probably, mercifully, have taken a dive into different computers crashing, technology failures. Those songs may exist on some old hard drive somewhere. Ever since I started using Garageband there’s always been some sort of rough version of whatever song I’ve been writing. Do I catalog them and store them properly? No, not all the time (laughs).
With the most recent recordings you’ve released, were there any particular artists that influenced you while writing your songs?
I feel very inspired by other female songwriters. It’s a really great time to be a woman and play music. I really look up to Angel Olsen right now. I think she’s super cool, talented, and transcends this unfortunate ‘singer songwriter’ title that a lot of us [women] get. But she just makes it cool, and makes it sound so much more.
I think I’m also inspired by the people who play music around me. I think despite what genre they are, being around people who write music and create things is actually inspiring. A friend of mine here in Austin, her name’s Alex and she performs under the name Dope Dungeon. And it sonically sounds nothing like my music. But it’s still inspiring to me. She’s different. She’s just writing and performing, and I think that’s really cool.
Your recent tracks you recorded out in California, did you fly out there to record the tracks or did you just happen to be in the neighborhood at the time?
I actually grew up here in Austin but I was living in LA about a year ago. I had met my friend Alex [Kemp] through some mutual friends, and he owns a recording studio behind a surf shop in Venice [California]. We had this instant connection and totally nerded out about music. He’s been playing in bands since the 90s, one being a great band called Small Factory, and I was a fan of his. Through being friends he was kind enough to offer recording with me. We didn’t really have a process setup, we just got together for a couple of afternoons and recorded those two songs. I hope we get to do more, but it was kind of a one off at the end of my time living in LA.
Did you record a lot of the other instruments on these recordings? How much were you and Alex contributing with the instruments on ‘Sherbert Colors’ and ‘Unwound’?
I played guitar and sang, then everything else you hear on those recordings is Alex. He’s a super talented producer, multi-instrumentalist engineer. When you work with someone who is just so good at what they do, they make it look so easy. He was playing drums, recording all the instruments, and then mixing and mastering everything. I wrote the songs and brought them to him and he really brought them to life.
There’s quite a difference in sound between these new tracks and the recordings of last year’s ‘Grandmothers’. Were there any influences that kicked this change into gear?
I’m a big fan of experimentation, I don’t think I’d want to ever be labelled as just a ‘folk singer’ or something like that, because my tastes are all over the place. And when the opportunity came up to do this fully realized band sound, I jumped at the opportunity. I’m feeling the next release will be back in the direction of a minimal sound on electric guitar and vocals. Probably no drums on the new release. It’s funny how it was a little detour that will be bringing back to a sort of minimal approach on the next recordings.
I can see that on your Bandcamp page you list your genre stylings as Folk, Chill, Harmonies, but also Rock songs and Surf. In fact, Surf is always a funny genre tag to describe. How would you explain what the sound of Surf is?
I think of it simply as “wipe out!”, that groovy rhythm and guitar sound. I think for me, when I listen to the songs that I worked on with Alex, it reminds me so much of California and that sunny vibe. Even if the lyrics are a little bit of a brush off, they still sound positive and they capture the spirit of ‘surf pop’ to me. That kind of vibe.
I hear in your tracks ‘Sherbet Colors’ and ‘Unwound’ you’re sticking to simple guitar riffs, creating this captivating, hypnotic sound. ‘Sherbet Colors’ is a couple of groovy of chords that groovingly rotate . When you were writing and playing this song did you think “This sounds great, why change?”
I wouldn’t say I’m proficient at the guitar, I’m still learning, but I really started playing the guitar to accompany myself singing. It’s very rare that I sit down and play the guitar and I don’t sing with it. I think that’s definitely reflective in the kind of guitar parts that I write. Usually pretty simple, repetitive, so that I can focus on the words and on the melodies. I’m so pleased with the way that ‘Sherbet Colors’ came out. I referenced a Neu! song ‘Hallogallo’, it’s really motoric and surges forward. You know this all it makes me think of? Like a video game, where you’re just soaring on a rainbow road, through states or something. Propelling me forward, but you still feel protected in a little cocoon (laughs).
I love that description! Like a magical Mario Kart or something. Do you have an EP or album planned? More songs in the works?
Yeah, I’m working on a longer EP. It’s going to be between probably 5 and 8 songs when I’m done with it. I’m actually having a meeting with this girl who is going to help me record it. It’s all written and ready to start recording. I’m hoping for a late spring/early summer release on that.
Are there any local Austin artists that you’re enjoying listening to or playing with?
I think Jess Williamson is very talented. I met her when we were both living in New York a long time ago and she used to serve me very strong, free drinks at a bar she bartended at in Brooklyn. But we both ended up in Austin, and we’d both worked here before. She plays with a full band, and they’ve got a really cool vibe. Another guy I grew up with plays under the name Shaky Graves. He’s an old friend of mine and I think he’s such a captivating performer, he’s probably one of my favorite performers in Austin.
When you’re playing some of your new songs live, do you have a band performing with you?
No, I’ve been playing solo. I’m still in the process of working on this album, and my album is going to be more of a solo endeavor. That’s where my focus is right now. Though I think it’d be really fun to figure out a setup with a band. I’ll probably do that at some point. But I’m going to keep playing solo now until I get bored of it. Or I hear people complain (laughs).
When you hear the term kiwi do you first think of the bird or the fruit?
Actually, the country of New Zealand is what comes to mind when I heard the word ‘kiwi’. Or the fruit, because it’s delicious.