There's a good reason you've been hearing about Beach Slang as much as you may have: because they're really fucking good. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-derived quartet play songs with an instant, warm air of familiarity, without sticking too derivatively to its influences. Obviously, these guys have played in bands those young and old to the PA punk scenes might be familiar with, from '90s veterans Weston to more recent acts like NONA, Ex Friends and Crybaby. But they've come together here and found quick success with a pair of immediately gratifying, well-received EPs released last year; thankfully, they already have a full-length mapped out to record soon and release not long thereafter for long-running indie Polyvinyl.
Last weekend, towards the end of a month-long tour directly supporting Cursive, who were celebrating their beloved 2003 album The Ugly Organ, Brian Shultz was able to chat with vocalist/guitarist James Alex on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shortly after the band plowed through a quick headlining gig at at a local gastropub.
I was gonna ask how this Cursive tour's going, but I imagine you have nothing but positive things to say.
Yeah, yeah. For sure. It's been amazing. I mean, that's the obvious answer, but you know, it's been more than just the shows. Them as people -- like really, really incredible. Taking care of us, making sure we're fed -- all those good things. So it's really kinda trippy when somebody goes from hero to friend, you know? We're sort of in that mode now, which is really incredible.
It's interesting to me, because when this tour was first announced, I initially thought of it as a weird pairing. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, since you both are more or less punk bands, and you skew to a slightly older fanbase.
No, no, yeah, that's been completely accurate. When we play and when they play, there's definitely a continuity. Right, there's differences obviously -- they're kinda quirkier and weirder and their chords are dissonant and things like that.
Yeah, you think of them as an indie rock band.
Yeah, exactly, where us it's kinda like -- it definitely has those categories. But the pairing's kind of working. It has enough of a separation so it doesn't feel like a single note throughout the night, but it definitely hangs together in a way where people who are there are digging on -- giving us a shot, which is cool for sure.
The moment Beach Slang is having as far as opportunities, awareness and high praise from the small amount of people who know you guys -- I read in a previous interview with you that this had kind of happened with Weston as well.
Yeah, I mean -- it definitely did. To a degree, right? This really felt like, just…man, like a firecracker. It happened so quick. Weston definitely -- we worked a hell of a lot harder before it got like anything like this going. But I suppose it stood on the legs of that past hard work a little bit, so that kinda helped. It definitely has a lightning-striking-twice vibe to it in a sense, but this is -- there's a lot -- there's seemingly a lot more magic dust being sprinkled on the Beach Slang thing than the Weston thing. For sure.
You've demoed out all the songs for the full-length. How is this musically shaping up compared to the EPs?
I think it's…it sounds [like a] very stocky answer, but it feels like a natural progression. Two 7-inches, so there's eight songs there. It sounds like that voicing hasn't run out of steam, so I don't want to it to just be like, "Well, now we're gonna put out a full-length, so it's gonna sound different just to sound different." Those legs are still there for sure. It definitely evolves a bit. I think there's gonna be a bunch more shoegazey elements to it -- kinda Jesus and Mary Chain stuff, but it's definitely still -- it's firing from that Replacements rifle still for sure.
Are you coming at it from a different perspective lyrically at all?
Um…I think so. There's still that misfit voice thing happening for sure, but I've gotten kinda happy -- with all this stuff happening and in my personal life and stuff, so there's definitely some sprinklings of lovey-dovey stuff on this, which is cool, right? Yeah, man. But it still has that focused-energy angst kinda thing to it. But then it has those moments of like -- if that angst isn't leaning towards hope, what good is it? There's definitely -- and given a full-length, where it's a wider palette and canvas to work on, that hope's allowed to shine through a little bit more maybe than on the EPs.
You said your personal life is good, though?
It's going great, man. I have no complaints.
Did you meet someone?
Oh, I've been with a gal for a while. And she's -- she's a gem, man.
Oh, it was alluded to [during the set] you were married, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm hitched. She's a gem, you know? And you're out on tour and you're kinda like, "you really are a gem." You get that chance to sort of see it from a third-party perspective and how rad people can be. Touring's awesome -- I get to meet amazing people everyday. But then there's that solidification of your core where it's like, those people know you at your best and worst and everything, and it's sort of -- I get to frame her in a way where it's like, "Man, I'd be a mess if you weren't around." So it's super cool. She's a keeper, man.
And she knows things are gonna be ramping up [with the band].
Yeah, and she's been certainly the most supportive girl I've known in my life.
Which you need when you're doing this.
For sure, man. Especially at the rate it's happened for Beach Slang. We never really got a chance to get used to it. It was just like [makes a quick whoosh sound]. It's been like…she's been awesome about it.
Did you guys book studio time yet?
Yeahhh, but it's kinda loosey goosey. We have a general timeline, because we're hoping to release the record [by The] Fest, like as our record release show. So in doing that, we sort of started to count back and piece the timeline together, and we'd need to be in by mid-June. So I've been talking to the same cat who engineered both of the EPs…
So that'd be the plan.
Yeah, most definitely, for sure.
One of the running themes of the EPs just seemed to regard that resonant feeling of hearing a great song or seeing a favorite new band in a small room, like that feeling it gives someone. What were some of the first bands that did that for you?
Oh, hmm, that's great, man. The first one I absolutely remember doing that to was the Smoking Popes. I saw them at a hall show, I'd never heard of them before, and I was just like -- I'd been playing shows and everything, and it was kinda punk, and just bands tearing through, and I heard them play and it was just like such crafted, loud pop. I was just like, "That cat can really write." It really knocked me back. I absolutely remember being the most blown away by a band at that age, because just going to hall shows and stuff, they absolutely stick out to me.
And I guess that is definitely the feeling you write about in the songs.
Without a doubt, man. Just that -- because moments like that don't kinda happen all the time. But moments, whatever it might be, maybe you've had just the right amount of beers, or just the right amount of laughs with your friends, you're just kind of in that moment where you wouldn't trade anything else for how you feel, right? I think I write about that moment more than any specific thing. It's the culmination of the band sort of blaring and the drinks loosening you up and the friends laughing and that glazed look in your friend's eye as everybody's getting turned onto the night -- I really love those moments. So, yeah. I definitely tap into that quite a bit.
Some of the bigger influences you cite, obviously like the Replacements or the Psychedelic Furs, they're from the '80s, but you have imagery that's very '50s or '60s-based. Where does that come from?
I just love all that old stuff, specifically skateboarding magazines from the '70s and stuff. All that Dogtown -- that stuff never looks bad. I try to pull from that, or even if we think -- how the Smiths did their records.
Keep a continued aesthetic.
For sure, man. Because it all, like, it all matters with a band, right? Because obviously the songs are the core of everything.
But you have that picture in your head whenever you listen to a band.
That's right, man. No doubt. Because I mean, think of when you're leafing through records in a record shop. You buy a record just because [you're like], "This looks amazing! I gotta find out more about this band!" We don't want to forget that.
Yeah, like you think of the Smiths playing the Enchantment Under the Sea dance or something.
Yeah, [chuckles], exactly. For sure, man.
So I'm sure -- at the risk of another stock answer, "We've done so much we wanted to do already!", but do you have goals for Beach Slang from this point moving forward?
Yeah, man. We're hoping it becomes the day job. Where we can just kind of keep doing it. We all like, do things to make money and get by and do all that good stuff but none of it's as fun as hitting our guitars or our drums, you know what I mean? So that would be the thing. We're going to Europe in May, and that was a serious goal of ours and it came on fairly quickly. Make the record. And once the record's out, we're gonna be touring like animals. But that's cool. That's what we signed up for. We just want to take it as far as it can go. We're gonna do it on our terms. However that may be. And kinda just see how far it goes. Like the day job thing is definitely the dream, but it's not worth it to me if we need to compromise what we love about it. So we're gonna do it in the non-compromised way and hope it still pans out.
Because you can make way more money compromising and working in an office, probably.
That's right, man. It feels good. We're getting the green light to chug ahead, so we're gonna keep doing that.
Probably do a mix of support tours and headlining stuff?
For sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because the support stuff's super great. We get a chance to play in front of a ton of people, but we've had discussions with our team and stuff and we don't wanna get caught in that trap, where you're just sort of a career support band, so I think the next tour we'll try to do will be a small headlining tour and see how it plays out.