Alex Lahey - An unfinished jazz degree, a fire EP & a bit of Springsteen

By Laura Kebby

The best thing about writing is that you can be allusive. No one really knows you’re a writer until they ask why you’re staring off into space like that, or a question spills out of their mouth like “hey where did you go just now”. I think the same can be said about your mid twenties. I’m currently there, smack bang in the middle actually, thinking about exactly what to do next. I think as a creative, you kind of get to the point where you start to watch all of your mates become adults and you’re kind of sitting there with your arms folded just shaking your head at the prospect of purchasing real estate and joining the 9-5 grind. I feel as though there is no substitute for passion, and thankfully there are many twenty-somethings pursuing what it is they are passionate about through any means necessary. Alex Lahey is one of those people. I was lucky enough to meet with with Alex at her studio in Collingwood to talk Sad Grrrls fest, and why Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen will forever be an inspiration to us all.

            “Tell me about Splendour in the Grass?” I asked after walking up the worlds most narrow staircase and grabbing a spot on one of the many couches in the studio. It’s one of those rooms where you feel tucked away from the outside world. I looked around at all the mismatched furniture that somehow all seemed to match, and felt lost (in the best possible way) in a creative space. “It was a really really awesome experience. Not just the playing side either, I guess a big part of it is that they are really forcing you to prepare for that kind of standard of a show, which is incredibly important. I think we were prepared which is exactly what we wanted to achieve and it turned out really well”. In terms of translating a much smaller, pub sized gig that Alex and her band might used to be playing, to possibly the biggest stage in Australia, there was a lot of work that went into producing the incredible set that the youth of Australia were privy to and Alex spoke about what I considered an interesting revelation. “The challenge for me, is that I’m not really a guitar player, I couldn’t just wing it, I really had to think about getting everything in order and being prepared”. I had a brief think about the guitar sitting in the corner of my room and the fact that I recently high fives myself for nailing the first five lines of Nirvana’s ‘Polly’. It is all relative.

            On the back of a killer performance at Splendour and buzz from the incredible Triple J unearthed team, in the eyes of fans, the “Alex Lahey Phenomena” seemed to appear out of nowhere. But as with most successful artists circulating through our radio waves, the notion of an overnight success… It’s just not really a thing. “I’ve been playing music my whole life, my first instrument is saxophone, I started a jazz degree at Uni (I didn’t finish but I gave it a red-hot go)… I was in a band called Animaux… which is really where I honed my song writing skills and got an idea of what it meant to be a working musician. Seeing what touring was like, playing gigs, learning how to set up a line up and put out a record and all that sort of stuff… The Alex Lahey project though, started just over 2 years ago, and happened really by accident.”

            An accident or not, the debut EP - B Grade University, is a killer record, full of catchy pop songs backed by a punchy guitar and a killer down beat, but it’s really the lyrics that drew me to this incredible artist. But where did they come from? “It’s just all about the shit that’s happened to me. Like it’s very much written by someone in their early 20s navigating their way through university, or their first proper relationship, and first proper breakup and just going out with friends having a good time. I think that one of the most quintessential things about being in your early 20s is that the only person you’re responsible for is yourself, it’s definitely reflected in the record… I guess it’s almost like an accidental concept record.”

 

            The more I listened to the EP, the more I found strength in numbers. It was as if the pressure of “where you’re meant to be” suddenly began to fade away. “Ivy League” is an open and honest ode to the ‘9-5 heartache’, in an almost open letter-esque style, the song ponders decisions made in terms of what some would consider ‘the right path’ or ‘the right way to go about things’, but is there ever a right way? “Let’s Go Out” is of course a clear standout favourite on the debut EP, but it’s it’s the cruisey west coast vibe of “L-L-L-Leave me alone” that had me hitting that repeat button.

            Influence wise, Alex prefers the old school approach, listing Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen as two of her biggest inspirations. “They are just two of the best songwriters ever, Dolly Parton in particular is unbelievable. Like the fact that, as much as she has these big boobs and the big hair, she’s a feminist, and the best thing is, is that she makes no apologies for that… The unapologetic nature of her songwriting is so awesome and so special and brave as well”. And Bruce Springsteen? “He’s just a man of the people, I was brought up on his music, he writes some of the most incredible stories with the most vivid imagery”.

            It seemed as though the hard work that not only Alex but her band had put in over the last two years was beginning to pay off. The debut EP has been really well received and with a killer set at Splendour, I quizzed Alex on being a crowd pleasing wild card for the Sad Grrrls Fest lineup. “We were a late edition… but I had already seen the line up and saw that it was at the Reverence and I remember thinking ‘fuck this is cool I’m going to go’ and then we got the call from my manager saying that we had been asked to play, actually I don’t even think he got the words out before I said ‘yep Sad Grrrls whatever is is we will do it! I’d seen what it was about and what it represented and it definitely resonated with me, and the line up is just so good, it’s going to a fucking great day of music so I’m just excited to go as a punter let alone play”.

Well… if that doesn't make you want to cash in your cookies for a ticket to Sad Grrrls Fest I don’t know what will. Don’t just listen to “Let’s go out” on repeat and hang out at home, take Alex’s advice, dig around for some couch/jean pocket/centre console cash and hang out with a bunch of really cool incredible artists, including the ever charismatic Alex Lahey, at Sad Grrrls Fest in October.