Philadelphia native and rising indie star Alex G made his name through simply self-releasing plenty of material on his own Bandcamp. His sound may be as mellow as his personality but that doesn’t stop his sleepy, lo-fi melodies from soaring. Now signed with the burgeoning label Orchid Tapes, his climb into street cred stardom is all the more assured. We spoke to him about the bands who’ve made a mark in his life, his songwriting process and why so many bands from Philadelphia sound so epic yet so relaxed.
SC: You have a lot of ‘90s indie rock in your sound. What are your favorite records by, say, Pavement and Modest Mouse?
Modest Mouse is the only one I really know. I only really know Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement. With Modest Mouse, my favorite is probably This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About. It’s one of the early ones.
A lot of your songs are pretty sad and melancholy. What have been some songs which have functioned like an arm around your shoulder? Songs that either comforted you by being present with you in your sadness or made you happy because they were upbeat and optimistic?
A lot of Guided by Voices and Modest Mouse. I used to play Guided by Voices on repeat. They’ve just got such a drive to their sound.
How do you manage to be as prolific as you are?
It’s just been over a long period of time. I had a lot more time to record when I first got started in high school. I started really doing a lot of it when I was about 15 or 16. I had more time because I was in school and had a part-time job, I wasn’t swamped. I put out a lot of it because it’s not a hard or odd task for me. I enjoy it. If you ask someone who loves to play video games why they love playing video games, they’re not gonna have an answer because it’s just something they like doing.
How long did it take you to write and record all the stuff for your most recent album, DSU?
That took me about a year. I would record a song about once every two or three weeks.
So do you play all the instruments on that and your other records?
Yeah, I play all the instruments. I think, in the future, there’ll be longer gaps between all my releases because as you get older, you just have more shit to do (laughs).
Is there a record you’re most proud of, either that you’ve done for Orchid Tapes or just released yourself?
Honestly, I don’t really listen to any of them much. I don’t really enjoy listening to them, I appreciate them all, but I’ve heard them so many times through the process of writing and recording. So I don’t think there’s one I’m most proud of. I usually just put as much work into any project as I can and just let it be after that.
It’s sort of like that Aziz Ansari joke where he’s talking about how weird it was to be in Kanye West’s house and watch Kanye listen to his own records.
Yeah! It’s just like that. I’m the opposite. When I’m working on something, I listen to it a hundred times but then I hate it after that.
It seems like there’s a good sense of community amidst all the bands signed to Orchid Tapes. Have you become friends with more bands since signing to them?
I was friends with the guys from Elvis Depressedly already. The main guy had found my music on the internet and sent me an email saying we should play shows. So we hooked up a couple times to play shows. I sort of knew most of those people before I decided to release anything through them.
Is there one particular songwriter you really wish you could be? Anyone whose talents you envy?
Oh my gosh! Yes, there is! There’s a band called True Widow. They are the best. I was obsessed with them. I think they’re newer, the past five or something years. I only heard of them this past year but I am so in love with this band. It’s this three-piece band. Really minimal and perfect songs.
When it comes to your own lyrics, what do you feel you’ve written about the most? What sort of experiences do you tap into?
I guess there’s certain people in my life who weigh on me a lot and I just write about that. I know people like music where it feels like the artist is venting and I know it’s good to vent. It’s not heart on your sleeve music but that’s what I tap into to make it worth it for people.
One thing I’ve noticed about a few bands from Philadelphia, whether it’s you or Kurt Vile or The War on Drugs, is that you’ve all got a sort of mellow vibe to the stuff you’re putting out. Is there anything about growing up in Philly that made you cultivate that aesthetic?
You know, it’s funny you say that, because we do. I only heard of Kurt Vile recently when he really blew up and I noticed we’re doing similar things. I’m sure he’s been doing it way longer than I have. I don’t know if it’s Philly or not but the people I hung around with had a sort of “no bullshit” kind of attitude. The artsy-fartsy kind of stuff isn’t frowned upon but I feel like people sort of see through a lot of it. Philadelphia’s got a lot of art shit going on but they see through a lot of shit very easily.