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  • The Hotel Alexis
    Monday, January 29, 2007

    Talking to The Hotel Alexis' Sidney Alexis, quickly do you realize that this is a man who is both talented and passionate about the music he makes. Though our conversation was brief, I really felt that the man's on a constant journey to explore his muse and to take his music to different levels of sonic perfection. The band's latest album, Goliath, I'm On Your Side, is a hauntingly beautiful and dark record, full of songs that are, in his words, 'sort-of' country songs, but with the added element of musical exploration--a vast departure from the band's critically-acclaimed debut record, The Shining Example is Lying on the Floor. Take a moment to listen to his music--just make sure you listen with headphones, to get the full spectrum of his band's gray-shaded musical stylings.

    I noticed that this album is a much darker record for you...

    (Skeptical) Much darker? Hmm...

    Well, it seems like it's a darker, more experimental record, with deeper emphasis on atmospherics.

    It's more experimental, for sure. But darker? I think the first record was pretty dark. I think there are elements that are certainly darker in on this record. But yeah, it's definitely a more experimental record. I think that, as a band, we've always been much more experimental than what was represented on the record. I think the first record was...I was trying to do a very specific thing. I was trying to make this dark country record that was pretty spare. But I think the new record more accurately represents the more experimental mindset of the band.

    Did you spend a lot of time in the studio this time around?

    We didn't spend any more time in the studio than we did the first time around, no. What we did this time is we went and took the tracks we recorded with Jim Reynolds at the Estate studio. He's got this great studio that's located on this old estate. It's a turn of the century kind of place. It's just one of the most amazing studio locations I've ever seen in my life. It's really beautiful. So we recorded three or four days with him, and then I took the tracks and I brought them home--which we didn't do on the first record--and that's where I think it became more experimental. I was able to take my time and do things that you could never do when you're on the clock and paying for a studio. So that's sort of where that came from.

    What I like about the new record is that...well, it seems like the first record was much more traditional; like you said, it is a dark country-ish record. But I was really more impressed with the second record, because it seemed like though you were retaining elements from the first album, you were intentionally messing with the formula, and you were delving deeper into the elements which made the first record darker.

    I think, on the first record, we just wanted to be pretty straightforward. I'm certainly not a purist in any way, so it wasn't like we wanted to do a traditional-sounding record. To me, I think it probably sounded more traditional than we wanted it to. I think there were places on the first record where it wasn't as traditional; those things were more lyrically than sonically. On the second record, we just wanted to tweak it a bit and make them sort-of country songs, but with a lot more atmospheric things going on in the background.

    That's what I meant in terms of it sounding darker. I've heard a lot of so-called "dark" country over the years, and when the first record came out, it didn't really strike me as a dark record at all; it's sort of a relative thing, my impression. But the new album, the darkness was most definitely a noticeable thing, and it was obviously more experimental--the fact that you have an 18-minute song ("Hummingbird/Indian Dog") smack dab in the middle notwithstanding! (Laughs)

    (Laugh) One thing I didn't realize at all, but it turns out to be kind of cool, is that because of the way iTunes works, it can't offer that song. It's kind of neat; you have to buy the record to get that song. I think it worked out rather cool that way.

    Tell me a little bit about that song. It is kind of an enigma among the rest of the record.

    That really does represent a lot of what we do live, and a lot of what I do on my own. I'll just spend hours and hours with a looping pedal. The album represents what we sound like live a lot more, as well as what I've been doing for years, in terms of making musical collages. We'll also kind of interpret our songs pretty liberally live, adding on longer passages and experimentations.

    "I Will Arrange for You to Fall" appears on the first record, and "I Will Arrange for You to Fall II" appears on the new record. Will this be a theme that will continue from album to album?

    I don't know. If you listen to it closely, you'll see it's the same as the first record, except we slowed it way, way down. It was a song I did for the first record, and then it sort of came together in the form on the second record. I don't know if it will be something that will continue, but I really like that idea of having a thematic continuity across albums. I really like the idea of serialized content.

    What will you be doing next?

    We're going to tour in the Spring; I think we'll do an East Coast tour, though right now I'm living in Seattle. I'm thinking we will go back east and do a tour. We may do some shows with Nat Baldwin, who is also on the label. I don't know if you've ever heard his stuff, but it's great. He plays upright bass, and he's been compared to people like Joanna Newsom, kind of freaky, weird experimental pop. He's put out two records on our label so far. I started the label initially to put out the first record, but it's really grown into a much bigger thing, and will be putting out more in the coming year. We also had this weird thing happen where we had a song appear on NBC's Crossing Jordan the night before last. They bought one of our songs from the first record, "The Comeback Kid." It was used in this bizarre scene where a little kid actually kills himself while the song is playing. (Nervous laugh) It was pretty disturbing!

    Did it work for the scene?

    I think it worked really well, yeah! I was surprised, and I was surprised that a song of ours would ever be on a TV show at all. It was pretty surreal, but it was definitely interesting.

    Does this open you up to wanting to do more soundtrack work?

    Oh man, I would love to do more soundtrack work. I've always felt like our music fit well with that sort of thing. But also, it seems like it's the way to go these days. It's hard for a band that does the things we do musically to get on the radio, so licensing is the way to go. It's one of the few ways to make money anymore.

    In a way, I'm kind of glad I missed out on your first record because, honestly, I like the second record a lot more. I don't think I necessarily would have been as receptive had I heard the first one.

    Really? So you like the second record more than the first? I'm glad to hear that, because...well, the first record was pretty well-received critically, and this one's been really mixed. For the first time, we've had some pretty negative reviews, and a lot more mixed reviews, which, in a way, is good. If you're doing something interesting, it's not going to be something everybody likes.

    Plus, you can't grow as an artist until you've had some bad reviews.

    I agree. At first, of course, I was the typical sensitive writer, so when I'd hear something negative, I'd feel a bit bad about it. Because you're never really sure yourself about how good you are. So when some people whose opinions I really respect come out and say they really like it, which evens things out. Of course, there have been some people who obviously just don't get it, the "Oh, how can you put an 18-minute song on a record?" types. That's just silly. Why the hell not?

    Goliath, I'm On Your Side is available now on Broken Sparrow

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 10:14 AM  
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