Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings: Album Stream

In just 3 years, Beach Slang’s career trajectory has sky-rocketed, with countless devotees falling for the Philly troubadours’ heart-on-sleeve punk rock poetry soundtracked to buzz-saw guitars. We stream their second album, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, whilst frontman James Alex recounts the highs and lows of getting to this point

Remfry Dedman
Thursday 15 September 2016 11:57 BST
Beach Slang, from left to right, Ruben Gallego
Beach Slang, from left to right, Ruben Gallego (Ian Laidlaw)

Beach Slang have always been masters at making their audience feel they’re a part of something bigger; fans are regularly as much a part of the show as those on stage, with the band regularly inviting people up to play and be a part of the show. As such, Beach Slang shows regularly have the air of a punk rock frat party, where the vibe is tuned to sweetness and the amps are turned to 11. For the Slang’s second album, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, the band’s core devotees have influenced the record in ways that they themselves may not even know. You can hear for yourself as the new record is available to stream with The Independent below.

James Alex, the charmingly bashful frontman and songwriter behind Beach Slang, is the driving force behind these fist-pumping, throat-shredding 3-minute anthems of wistful sentimentality and optimistic romanticism. He’s aware of the momentum his band has gained in the underground punk rock community in just 3 short years, even if he often seems baffled by it. He really shouldn’t be; as practically every interview with him will tell you, James has an incredible gift for echoing the thoughts and feelings of down-trodden beatniks in just a couple of couplets. He wants to keep the Beach Slang show on the road for as long as possible, provided it continues to connect with people. With this in mind, the songs that make up A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings were written on the road, something the wide-eyed, wonderstruck frontman has never attempted before. ‘This was my first go at it and as it turns out, it was necessary, to hit the timeline that I wanted. For me, it’s important to put out a record a year. If you're in a rock n' roll band you really have two strings to your bow; you write songs and you play shows. It shouldn't be hard right? And I never want this thing to get stale, whether that be for us or people that listen to us, I always want this thing to be full of life. So, in order to hit the time line, we had to record it in this little window we had between tours, so I had to write it on the road and I loved it, I really fell in love with the process.‘

Writing on the road was an integral part to the creative process of A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, as James for the first time looked outwards for inspiration, adapting stories of people he met on the road and moulded them into three minute adrenaline-fuelled gut-busters that punch as much at the heart as the gut. It wasn’t an easy process but it was necessary to keep up the pace that James has outlined for Beach Slang. ‘It was tricky because the guys are going out and seeing all these beautiful parts of the world and I'm staying in and working but then I had this realisation that I could tap into that Jack Kerouac poet-troubadour kind of vibe. I think that head space helped with the way that I tend to romanticise life in lyrics. As silly as it may sound, there's something really romantic about the notion of being in a different country, meeting new people every day and writing about that. That brought something really sweet, loud and tender to the record that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Writing's usually an isolating process, typically I'm at home closed off in my room and I don’t think this record would've been what it is had I done that. The whole thing with Beach Slang is everything's organic, nothing's manufactured and that's how this idea came to be. It presented itself to me, there wasn't any grand stroke of brilliance it just felt like these stories are incredible so let me see if I can do right by them and a certain air of responsibility came with that. I'm not gonna take on this heavy thing that you opened up to me about and then let it fall flat, I had to really make sure it'd count. And I think that gave me some fight that maybe I wouldn't have had approaching the song-writing a different way.’

One such emotionally exposed example is the album’s final track, Warpaint, a chilling cry to a friend in need with couplets such as, ‘I know you’ll die sometime but it’s not now, Tonight could be the roughest of your life, I know you’ll wake dying to survive, Don’t be afraid to want to be alive’. ‘A dear friend of mine thought that she wasn't worth being around anymore, so she tried to change that’ says James. ‘She pulled through because she's a fighter and she deserves to be here but that was my very intimate rallying cry for her and a reminder that when that stuff starts to creep in again, shake it off and let's make sure you're still here, we've got a lot of good trouble to get into together! So that was the most personal and I recorded it in a certain way, it's just that one lonesome guitar with a very intimate vocal. I said to the guy that I produce these records with that I wanted it to feel like I'm sitting on her bed with her and playing this song.’

This cyclical nature of art inspiring fan, who in turn inspires art is a key ingredient to the appeal of Beach Slang. It’s a punk community spirit that is rarely found in other forms of music, where the audience is as integral to the whole picture as the band is. ‘There's something beautiful in the cyclical nature of a punk rock show’ says James. ‘I could make these records that no one would hear but I don't know if they’d have any meaning then. The people that have connected with this band are the ones who’ve made it matter and that's not lost on me. I want them to know how important their voice is. Just because I get to sing through a microphone and it gets put on vinyl doesn't make my voice any more important than theirs. I'm forever a knock-kneed cracked kid and my life’s been getting pretty sweet through this band but if I'm going to start dangling one foot in the stars, I sure as hell want to keep one in the gutter. Ego to me is the embarrassment of rock n roll and I don't plan on subscribing to it.’

A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings was recorded in just 9 days, although James admits that’s less impressive than it sounds as his demos usually get to the band in a practically finished state, with all harmonies and guitar parts worked out in advance, so it’s really just becomes a case of laying the whole thing down. ‘That sort of reckless abandon works for us,’ he says ‘it's heavy labour when I'm writing, that's the blood, sweat and tears part of it but after that, it just needs to have this devil may care approach and I think the way that I demo allows for us to strike this really beautiful balance between the two.’

Beach Slang’s 2016 has not all been plain sailing though. On April 28th, the band played a show, as they do most evenings, although this particular show was laced with an atmosphere of icy hostility instead of the usual jovial, celebratory mood that tends to pervade over Beach Slang shows. James announced several times from the stage of that show in Salt Lake City that it would be the last ever Beach Slang show. Grainy fan-made footage, widely available and accessible in this age of the internet and camera phones, show a band rushing through their set, seemingly desperate to get off-stage as soon as possible; not something the band, who live and die in the environs of a live, loud punk rock show, could ever have been accused of in the past. A few months after the show in Salt Lake City, Beach Slang announced that drummer JP Flexner, the man responsible for encouraging James to form the band as an outlet for his songs in the first place, had left the band.

‘There's been a change in the guard as is very publicly known and that was a necessary departure’ says James. ‘You start something and like any relationship, you want to keep it how it was born and I think we put a band aid on a broken leg for too long; at some point, you want to fix the break. So we had a bunch of talks with him and we were like, ‘this thing’s happened and we've got to fix it because it's killing the band.’ Whether it couldn't or wouldn't change, it just didn't. You go back and talk a second time, you have that conversation a third time, a fourth, a fifth. Eventually you see it's just not going to change and it forced us to ask the question, does Beach Slang end or do we fix the break? So we fixed it. It was hard to do, none of us like to hurt anybody or say anything against anyone, but Salt Lake City was a wakeup call. This thing that we love so much was going to go away if we didn't fix this, we had to patch up the problem. I think until that happened, we felt like we could tolerate it or wear that weight on our shoulders but that wasn’t a realistic outlook. Things just feel beautiful now and that's with well-wishes to everyone but we can say with absolution that it was the right thing for us to do.’

Beach Slang performing in their home town of Philadelphia (Greg Pallante)

People leave bands all the time of course, but with Beach Slang, this presented a rather unique problem; they’d created such a sense of community, such a doggedly one for all, all for one mentality, that Flexner’s departure could have presented a threat to the perception of this united front. James acknowledges there was a fleeting fear that some may have seen things that way, as a fly in the homogenous ointment, but the situation with JP presented him with an opportunity to hone in on the candour that has drawn so many to the band. ‘Beach Slang is about honesty. It's about celebrating this experience of being human. There's glory and triumph and beauty in that but there's also scars and falling down and bruising and I never want to pretend that, just because we get to do this, that doesn't mean we don't have bad days, and we don't fight and we're not human. The internet so often presents a curated and manicured perception of a band; everybody's perfect, nobody has a bad day, nobody has a blemish. Well f**k that, things aren’t always that simple! So, what started as a fear in me turned into an opportunity to say ‘I told you, there's no separation between us. We’re flawed just like everybody else, we're broken, we're figuring it out, we're a f**king mess too! But just like I've been preaching to you, let's remember we fell down, but let's celebrate that we got back up again!’ It was a way to do that, not out of any political damage-control spinster stuff, it was an honest moment to say I don't only talk the talk, I walk the walk. Up to this point in Beach Slang, it was my most human moment; I can apologise for the people that were hurt but I can't apologise for being human. It's weird, sometimes in life things are presented to you that you don’t want but you need. That night was one of those moments for sure.’

Despite internal fractures, it seems unlikely that the Beach Slang train will be de-railing any time soon; as well as his plan to write a new studio album each year, James is determined to release a live album recorded at The Troubadour in Hollywood, a record of acoustic renditions of old favourites and a second mixtape (effectively, Beach Slang’s ongoing series of cover EPs) all within the next 12 months. This momentum is driven by one thing; fear! ‘Whether this thing flies or it falls, I want to be able to know that we gave it everything we had, that we swung until we were out of breath. I've tried other things in my life and nothing completes it like this does. When people talk about having a God hole in their heart, mine's shaped like rock n' roll! I just need it and for whatever dumb, magic, lucky reason, it matters on some level and people have connected with it. It's not lost on me how the odds of that are silly, so let's go all the way and see how far we can take this thing. If or when it runs out of steam, we'll bow out gracefully, I don't want to tarnish this thing that we've made, but right now, if that irons hot, I want to strike it!’

A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is released through Big Scary Monsters on 23rd September and is available to preorder now. The band start a tour of the UK and Europe in Glasgow on 7th November 2016.

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