Solo artist embraces collaboration on new LP
Just a few years ago, Philadelphia songwriter Alex Giannascoli — aka (Sandy) Alex G — was making and releasing records on his own, using Bandcamp to connect directly with potential fans.
Fast-forward to 2016, and one of those fans is Frank Ocean, who asked Giannascoli to contribute guitar on albums Endless and Blonde. The experience didn't necessarily lead to song ideas for (Sandy) Alex G's superb new album, Rocket, but it did lead to a more collaborative songwriting approach for Giannascoli, who previously preferred to make his albums solitary endeavors.
“I saw how [Frank Ocean] had other people play on his stuff, but he still maintained control of it,” said Giannascoli by phone recently. “That was something a little foreign to me that I was able to take away — having people play on the record but being secure enough to say, ‘I'm going to use this or not use this, but it's up to me.'”
The collaborations are apparent throughout Rocket, particularly on songs like “Poison Root” and “Bobby,” which have folk-inspired arrangements that previously were not part of (Sandy) Alex G's bedroom-pop oeuvre.
“One of the first songs I made for this album was ‘Bobby.' It was a country song, and I was like, ‘Man, a fiddle would really pull this together,'” said Giannascoli, who hired Molly Germer to play violin on the album. “When I was first making music I didn't like having anyone else do stuff because I was insecure about it, but now I'm open to seeing what other people can contribute.”
Topically, Giannascoli said the songs on Rocket are “collages of random shit,” and he's not one to elaborate on a certain lyric or the inspiration behind specific songs. When it comes to (Sandy) Alex G, he believes there's strength in ambiguity.
“If you just saw a horror movie, and the main villain was really scary and terrifying and evil, and then you see an interview with him afterward and he's really jolly — the nicest, sweetest man — I think it would mess with your impression of the horror movie,” said Giannascoli, who will play a sold-out show at Double Happiness on Thursday, June 29. “I think it's the same concept for music, too. If you know what the song is all about, then the personal magic it has with you is gone.
“I don't want to say, ‘Here's exactly what I was thinking,' because what if I was singing about a tree, and you thought I was singing about something really personal and meaningful to you? And you're like, ‘Oh, he's singing about a tree? That's dumb. I don't care about this anymore.'”