Published Sep 23, 2016Kids were getting the lyrics to Beach Slang songs permanently inked on their skin before the Philadelphia band even released their debut album, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, last year.
"When that started to happen, it really knocked me back," frontman James Alex tells Exclaim! ahead of the release of the band's sophomore LP, A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, out now on Polyvinyl. "You get Jawbreaker lyrics tattooed. You get the Smiths lyrics tattooed. So when people were getting Beach Slang tattoos, I like 'Wow, something's going on here.'"
That enthusiastic devotion to music isn't lost on Alex. The unlucky heir of a "crummy childhood," he credits music with creating a world where things could actually seem okay.
"When you're trying to figure out where you belong and when where you belong is supposed to feel safe and alright and it isn't, you have to find somewhere else that is," he says. "I got really lucky to fall into punk rock and that scene, and that became more than just community to me, it became family."
The sheer power of those memories, even now, is enough to blur some of the less than happy moments from his younger days.
"I think maybe because I'm such a subscriber to glasses being half full, I romanticize the past and maybe that's just survival and selective memory, but it's all sort of good stuff," he says. "You remember getting knocked down, but I think I tend to lean on the getting-back-up bits."
That sentiment screams out at listeners on the majority of Beach Slang's songs, which bristle with youthful energy and shout-along accounts of love, booze and rock'n'roll. As the title of the new record implies, Alex is still fixated on writing about those electrically charged adolescent feelings — decades on from experiencing them himself. Comparing his songwriting process to soundtracking a John Hughes film, he says he's drawn to keep writing about those teen years because of the intensity they still hold.
"It's that first taste of freedom or the first time you're finding your own voice or you're falling in love or, yeah, you're getting drunk or you're getting in a fight — just all these intense firsts are happening," he reflects. "I think there's an importance in not letting go of that feeling, that first thing that makes your bones shudder a little bit, that let's you know that you're in this thing called being alive."
And, sure, everything about adolescence might be "a little more dramatic" and "a little more turned up," but Alex isn't ready to retire the feelings — good or bad — that come along with that.
"I don't want to exist quietly," he says. "When I am eventually huffing my last breaths, I don't want to have the conversation with myself that's like, 'I wish I would have.' I want to have done it."
With an attitude like that, it's not surprising that the recently readjusted band tried out some new things for their next record. Alex metaphorically wears his sonic influences on his sleeve (and often on his lapels, in button form), embracing the frequent comparisons to his heroes like the Replacements and Jawbreaker. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want to push Beach Slang's sound forward.
"I tried to go for a bit more of that Britpop, shoegaze stuff that I dig a little bit more," he says. "I love the Replacements stuff that we get a lot, but what I'm trying to be is Beach Slang, you know what I mean? I never want to Xerox work, I never want to get stuck in a gear, and I don't want to be thought of as just this one thing. So certainly, or I hope, it sounds like a Beach Slang record. It's not a wild left turn, but I think there's a push to expand what we do."
Check out an explosion of those teenage feelings in the video for "Atom Bomb" below.