In a new interview, Domino Recording Co. artist Alex G of Pennsylvania talks new album "Beach Music" and how he's adjusted to increased exposure.
It wasn't long ago that Alex Giannascoli felt like the Internet's best-kept secret.
The prolific singer/songwriter, who goes by the moniker Alex G, has released emotive, '90s-tinged guitar pop songs near constantly online for the better part of a few years -- gaining the fandom of his hometown Philadelphia music scene, legions of Tumblr users and prominent indie acts along the way.
Now, however, the secret clubhouse doors have been opened. "Beach Music," Giannascoli's second album with a proper release, came out on Domino (home to acts including Animal Collective and Real Estate) in October. This year also saw reissues of two of his past releases. The 22-year-old stops at Ottobar Friday as part of a string of tour dates with Girlpool and Eskimeaux.
"It's cool. You see a lot of the country," he said. "I just like to be occupied, so it's a nice way to be occupied. You're 24-7 doing something, so that's nice."
The preoccupation with preoccupation continues to drive Giannascoli's musical output. "Beach Music" was written and recorded similarly to his past albums ("DSU," his first album to be mastered, came out on Orchid Tapes last year), with Giannascoli's 13 favorite songs making it onto the record. It's a weirder and more experimental outing but still distinctly Alex G, marked by vocal distortion, honest lyricism, hints of piano and memorable guitar riffs.
"I write whether or not I'm planning to put it on the album. Obviously now I'm making stuff to the album, but in the past, I've just made music in my free time because I just got really sucked into it and I loved doing it so much," he said. "I just choose the [songs] that I think are best; it's as simple as that."
Although Giannascoli said he has always been conscious of his music's reception and that awareness informs his work, his success means it's no longer possible to shield an unintended audience -- his family -- from songs. In a recent Reddit AMA, Giannascoli said he changed the original lyric "die" to "fry" in the song "Salt" because he didn't want to upset his mom.
"I never intended for my family to hear my music. I don't know why. It was something that I never thought about in that context, so that's something that gets in the way a little bit, but I think I'll get over it," he said.
Fear of maternal worrying is one of the few things that can give Giannascoli pause in his songwriting; for the most part, a trademark self-awareness serves his work well rather than holding him back.
"I think I'm like most people in that there's a performance I do for everybody in my life," he said. "I'm this person for this person, I'm another person for someone else and I don't want to [expletive] with that."
Like his songwriting and recording, Giannascoli's ambitions remain largely unchanged since signing with Domino. There's "nothing that I feel like I want to do that I can't already do," he said, though he's looking forward to having more time off to write music.
Giannascoli is wary, however, of a passion becoming his occupation. For now, it's better than the alternative.
"That is something that is stressful. I'm happier doing this than I was doing other [expletive]. So I'm glad to do this. But it is something that you can't help but think about, how this was once my method of escape, and now it's the thing that …" He self-consciously trailed off. "I don't know how to explain it."
Acceptable responses punctuated by uncertainties are commonplace when speaking to Giannascoli. He said the interview question he'd most like to be asked is, "Should any readers of this interview actually listen to what you said? And the answer would be no."
Careful not to sound ungrateful, Giannascoli said he's thankful for — but nonetheless finds extremely uncomfortable — self-promotional elements that come with being signed to a label.
That difficulty with self-promotion, however, speaks to Giannascoli's success; he works hard at making the music, but everything else comes across as effortless. It doesn't matter that he has trouble answering, for example, whether nostalgia informs his work.
"I'm not sure that I think about it often, but I know I try and make music that is especially moving to me, and so it's probably inevitable that I'll draw from my past and use sounds that I know will kind of evoke some kind of thing in my brain," he said. "It's just stuff that I never think about."