Beach Slang Is in Love, and You're to Blame

It's appropriate that Beach Slang is from Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, because that's how it conducts itself with the people who come to the band's shows — whether it's before, during or after the show or down the line. Frontman James Alex is known for answering letters and messages from people who contact the band directly. Now that the group has an international audience, Alex often finds himself responding to fans — nay, friends — of the band at any hour of the day. Beach Slang's managers have taken to occasionally asking Alex if he ever sleeps. He does, but the synergy between the band and the people who connect with it has been an inspiring and life-redeeming force for Alex from the beginning.

This special relationship between Beach Slang and the people who find themselves drawn to the music can be summed up in one of the recent statements Alex posted to the band's Tumblr site: “I am in love & you are to blame.” It's a statement about being in love with life and about the mutual affection between artist and what some might more traditionally consider an audience but which the band sees as those sharing in a collective experience.

“When I landed on that line, that really sort of summed up the last year or two of my life with this whole thing,” says Alex. “It's weird to be a shaken little kid, and you wonder what your worth is and you see nothing in yourself, and all of a sudden you think to yourself, I might have some value, there might be a reason the gods put me together. That's a real weirdo thing. I sit back and I know why I feel that way these days. 'I'm in love and you're to blame' is my little homage to this gang of gigantically hearted people that have surrounded this Beach Slang thing. I get these really sweet letters thanking me for things like that, and I just want to shout back as lovingly as I can, 'Thank you!' This is a totally mutual trip. If I'm saving you, know that you're saving me right back. Maybe it's just this soft little world inside my head, but I'll take that. I like being a resident of that place.”

Before Alex started Beach Slang with Ed McNulty, JP Flexner and Ruben Gallego, he wasn't walking through life with the kind of drive and passion displayed in his live performances or endearingly poetic newsletters and photo poems that can be found on the band's media sites. There's a striking sincerity and openness of spirit that is embodied in the music as well. The music has the spiritedness of punk and the thoughtfulness and essential humanity of the Boss and the Replacements.

Beach Slang's 2015 album The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us felt like a clarion call to all the weirdos (as perhaps best exemplified by the song “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”) and misfits of all kinds to love and appreciate themselves and the flawed humanity within everyone. In that way, its music reflected the sort of spirit hat people attributed to recently passed weirdo heroes David Bowie and Prince — the former of which Alex had a chance to pay tribute to on Beach Slang's Tumblr.

“The first time I heard Bowie, I was a kid and I didn't even really know what it was,” recalls Alex. “As I'm sure it was to other people, it was otherworldly. I see that in people, whether it's Bowie or Hendrix or Prince — that they weren't born in a hospital to parents and grew up going to school. They were just sort of beamed down for the singular purpose of changing culture. I just read Paul Westerberg's piece in Rolling Stone about Prince. That humanizing of him was amazing to me. But that circles back to the first time I heard Bowie. It wasn't like he was a real person, just an incredible force that is here to shake up the world for a while. That's how I felt forever. One of the first songs I learned on guitar was 'Ziggy Stardust,' and when I played just that opening riff, I felt like a powerful little kid.”

Beach Slang tours the U.S. through the end of May and will spend the summer months in Europe, with a July stint in Australia, before dropping its next album in September and embarking on yet another U.S. tour. Apparently for Beach Slang, sleep in any appreciable quantity will have to wait until the holidays.

Beach Slang, with Potty Mouth, Dyke Drama and Dan Aid (of Wiredogs), 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show, Wednesday, April 27, Larimer Lounge, 303-291-1007, $13 adv. /$15 day of show, 16+.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.