Sitting with Alex, he seems perfectly content to be taking a rest after his tour, for which he acted as opener to renowned singer and songwriter Zoe Boekbinder. “She’s the next Billie Holiday,” says Alex. He speaks just as affectionately of his back-up band at Sarah Lawrence, which includes Trent, Travis Kaupp, Lauren Early, Jessica Butler, and Dom Boyle (all class of 2014), who you may recognize as the members of SLC’s own House Cat. Alex was aware of the group’s talent before arriving on campus. He listened to House Cat’s music over “the interwebs” and really loved it, and not just because he knew the people involved. “They are all super easy to work with. They all get it.”
Sarah Lawrence College is Alex’s last stop on an epic tour, which started out west in sunny California. After playing two shows, one in San Francisco and one in Monterey, he traveled across the country, making a few stops along the way. He has played in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Illinois and the “surprisingly awesome” Fairfield, Iowa, to name a few spots. In Warrensburg, Missouri, Alex and Zoe played at an old courthouse with no electricity and therefore no amplification. To illuminate the stage, a wall was lined with mirrors and candles were placed in front so that light could be reflected on stage. “Everyone loves Zoe, “ says Alex, “Opening for someone like her was good. It was nice having somebody to play before.”
Alex has been a musician since he started singing in a boy’s choir at the age of 7. From there, he learned the guitar at 14, with a high school repertoire that consisted mainly of Radiohead and Pink Floyd covers, or as Alex calls them, “heady beats”. Alex also learned to play the trumpet, after a friend accidentally left one behind at his house. When college rolled around, Alex moved on to a folk style, influenced heavily by Andrew Bird. He notes, “You play enough covers that you eventually realize you could do the same.”
Through touring and spending time together, Zoe encouraged Alex to record his own album. The result is called “Western Medicine”, an amalgamation of some of Alex’s old standards and a good number of new tracks. The cover art is a vintage photograph of his great-grandmother’s house in Hull, Georgia, a perfect representation of Southern nostalgia. The songs have a beautiful quality, with a full sound that’s a bit surprising due to the fact that Alex alone played almost all of the instruments involved. Alex’s sweet harmonies and symphonic interludes give the entire piece a quiet wisdom. The final track, “Goodbye, Beautiful”, which features a Daniel Johnston sample, is a hauntingly gorgeous ending to an impressively orchestrated album. Do not be surprised if you see the Alexanders hit “the big time” in the near future.
After walking around and visiting a few classes, including Karen Lawrence’s famous James Joyce seminar, Alex seems to have only compliments for Sarah Lawrence. And with a group of new and old friends, he appears to be in his element. Before wrapping up our interview, I asked Alex about his dream venue for a show, imaginary or real. I got a few answers, including a fantasy stage that would feature a gigantic set of him performing, in which the actual stage would reside in the hole of his guitar. Another ideal spot for Alex would be on top of a bluff that he once visited in the mountains of Sewanee, TN. “I pretended that the trees were, like, the heads of people. It’s like you’re on a big stage.” The Alexanders would most definitely serve as a great soundtrack in the stunning, Tennessee outdoors. I would go to that show.
The Alexanders will be performing tomorrow night, November 11th, in the Slonim Living Room at 8 PM. CDs will be sold so bring your hard-earned cash!
Image credit: Alex Thompson, Piccsy