Beach Slang Wants to Make Friends, Not Fans

Philadelphia's Beach Slang has spent the past few years writing songs that are so emotionally charged, raw, sincere and thoughtful that they transcend mere rock and roll. The name of the group's latest record, The Things We Do to Find the People Who Feel Like Us, may be long — but the sentiment speaks directly to where the band is coming from. Listen to Beach Slang's music and you'll hear plenty of heavy influence from the likes of the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Jawbreaker. It may even remind you a little bit of Exploding Hearts. But Beach Slang isn't about imitating a sound of years past; it's about real human connection.

“I'm not trying to make fans, I'm trying to make friends,” offers singer/guitarist James Snyder.

If you take a look at the newsletter that Snyder writes and sends to fans, you're immediately struck by its vulnerability and ability to articulate a willingness to feel fear, weakness, love and humility in the face of whatever life throws your way. There is no bravado or misplaced defiance in Snyder's words; they are informed by a deeply felt compassion for other people that he learned from his mother and took to heart as a credo of his own, even a lifestyle.

“I think the place I'm writing from at its [core] is that you're not alone,” explains Snyder. “Based on letters I'm getting in return, I'm finding it helps — and that means everything to me, so I'm not stopping. [The letters] get very heavy pretty quickly. 'I've lost a parent.' The breakups are pretty common. 'I just came out and I'm having this horrific backlash.' It's all over, and it's all been heavy pretty quickly. Like, 'Oh, man, I just didn't want to get out of bed today, and I read this and it helped.' It's been really these big sort of life-changing moments. I think that's when you're most looking for comfort. If there's a little sliver of that for people, it's really humbling to me.”

Snyder and the other members of Beach Slang came up through the DIY scene in Philadelphia, and still feel the need to have a foot in that world. After its first four shows, including one at well-known Philadelphia DIY space Golden Tea House, Beach Slang found itself being asked to tour with the likes of Modern Baseball, Cheap Girls and Cursive. But all along the way, Beach Slang would play a DIY venue or a dive bar earlier in the day to keep connected with its roots.

“Everybody on our little team and our booking people knows that we're going to go off-script and play house shows and do that stuff on tour,” comments Snyder. “They applaud that, and they knew they were getting that when they came in to work with us.” 

As a recent nod to the band's musical and overall artistic roots, it performed a set of Jawbreaker covers at The Fest in Florida on October 30. “Before I ever played guitar, I wanted to be a writer,” reveals Snyder. “But [I was] young and restless, so guitars, right? But Jawbreaker was the first band I heard where you could be really literary and really raw and loud and put those things together. That spoke to me, and it really clicked for me how I could combine the two things that meant the most to me. So [that was] a nod to the little thing that helped build this.”

Beach Slang performs with Lithuania, Worriers and Dan Aid (of Wiredogs) at the Larimer Lounge on Friday, November 6. Doors open at 8 p.m., with the show starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 advance/$15 day of show; it is a 16+ event. To purchase tickets, visit the Larimer Lounge website.

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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.