Sincerity is often lacking in our culture today, which makes meeting genuine and passionate people extremely exciting. When I walked into the Earl on Friday, I had no idea I was about to meet two of those people. Upon arriving for my interview with James Alex of Beach Slang accompanied by his best friend, tour manager and musical partner for this tour, Charlie Lowe, I immediately felt welcomed, as if I was the first person to ever ask to interview them (Read Bullet Music's first interview with James Alex last year at 2000trees in the U.K.). Despite performing as Beach Slang for five years now, James seems to still have a deep sense of appreciation for the support he gets from fans and media.
In recognition of that deep appreciation, James has flipped Beach Slang’s usual fast-paced, guitar-driven, punk rock sound on its head to deliver shows that are “small, intimate and as weird as we can make them.” To do this, James and Charlie have taken on an alter ego, Quiet Slang, to present stripped down versions of Beach Slang's greatest hits driven by piano, strings and other instruments you’d expect to hear in a John Williams score. Although James was nervous about how fans would receive the sudden drop in tempo and instrumentation, James said the response has “knocked [his] hair back.” Adding, “Even if they’re smaller, the feelings in the room are gigantic,” and in Atlanta, the feelings were the biggest they’d been on this tour.
The set design was an '80s prom theme, with large, cotton ball clouds, flowers on mic stands and candles all around the stage; James even donned a tux and cummerbund, while Charlie wore a nice dress that complimented the purple hues in her hair. Despite the prom-like appearance, the mood turned from school dance to after party quickly.
A fan came up with a shot for James, and as they were taking it, Charlie called him out asking, “Weren’t you here last time we played? Your name is Andrew, right?” Surprisingly, she was right, and continued to jokingly say, “You pinky-promised me you wouldn’t get him too drunk, and I had to carry him out of here. I never forget someone who breaks a pinky promise.” The crowd erupted in laughter as James and Andrew took their shots, but the takeaway for me was that they remembered a guy in the crowd from three years ago. That’s the sign of a band who cares.
As the night went on and the orchestral renditions had all been done, James reached for his guitar and began with a simple declaration, “Our favorite band is The Replacements, so we’re going to play a Replacements song.” He then launched into “Alex Chilton,” which we all sang along to. At this point, I expected the show to be over, but James ordered up another drink and kept playing anything and everything. Whether it was goading Charlie into singing Alan Jackson’s "Chattahoochee" or playing people’s favorite Beach Slang songs for a second time, just because we asked, it had all the makings of a high school, campfire sing-a-long and was exactly what James had hoped for.
The extended encore sing-a-long lasted about 45 minutes, and after the show, James spent time talking to fans. After doing many interviews, I have to say, James and Charlie were two of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. Not enough praise is given to kind, deserving people, but for James Alex, the highest praise I can give is that he’s the one guy with two first names you can actually trust.
Listen to the full interview with James Alex above or at Bullet Music’s Soundcloud
Photos by Robyn Johnson for Bullet Music