Indie-rock singer-songwriter Alex Bloom meets us at Echo Park confectionery Valerie to discuss his sophomore album Chaos/Control, distinguishing social media as a form of entertainment, and creating personal experiences with music.
So to start us off, you recently released your sophomore album Chaos/Control, wanted to say congratulations.
Alex Bloom: Thank you so much!
For those who have yet to discover it, care to share a little bit about what inspired the lyrical themes and instrumental elements that you chose to feature?
Alex: Yeah! So, there’s a lot going on in there…
Such as life. *both laugh*
Alex: Basically with the first record, I was kind of just doing what I knew how to do, and then I felt with the second one, I was exploring other influences and going unplugged. Like, I have a song called “Cigarette,” and we felt like it sounded like a Nirvana unplugged type thing. I was producing stuff like that, and it would also be depending on what the song was calling for, I wanted to just do what sounded right. I tried not to have any limits in terms of how this album should sound, it was more about each song being represented in the way that I was trying to hear it in my head. I feel like maybe the through line of the album is my acoustic guitar, because it’s on pretty much every song except for “Elevator.” So that’s kind of the through line because I’m always playing my guitar. And then the production elements are what I’m hearing around that song. And then with the lyrics, a lot of these songs I wrote while I was living in New York. I’m from Los Angeles, but I moved to New York for a year, so when I was there I was just feeling out of my element a little bit being exposed to a lot of new things and kind of living in a very dirty environment. I kind of felt like in order to express that, I ended up writing these ‘dirtier’ songs in a way. That song “Cigarette” was about this street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where I lived, and it was like, I would see these people smoking cigarettes who looked like they shouldn’t be smoking cigarettes, you know? There were people in wheelchairs and people who looked ragged and they were smoking cigarettes, and there was something about that that made me have this empathy for them, but I also shouldn’t feel too bad because it’s out of my control. It was a way for me to be like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot going on in the world that we can’t control.’
And which song would you say was your favorite to write and to then record, if they’re two separate songs?
Alex: Hmm, let’s see. A favorite song to write and then record.
And it can totally be one song too if you had one that was just the motherload. *both laugh*
Alex: Every song is so different, you know? The song called “Sight” that on the album, that one I actually recorded most of it myself. It started from the actual demo because when I was writing it I was recording it at the same time, so the recording on the album are the original guitar and vocals. I feel like it was really cool to start off with something that I did in my bedroom a few years ago, and then have it become part of what I was imagining in that process. I just I love looking back on that and seeing my growth as a producer and engineer. My vocals had sounded a certain way four years ago, but now I put drums over it or I’ll have someone play drums. It’s like a little time capsule for me as an artist.
Yeah! You’re showcasing your growth and that’s awesome! It’s so easy to stay, kind of what you were saying, within stuff that you already know. But you know, life happens and you’ve got to grow the best you can.
Alex: Yeah. My first album was recorded with a friend, and I didn’t really know about recording that much, but then after that I really wanted to record everything myself, so that’s what this album was for me. I mean, it was still me and a friend recording it, but I was engineering it, and it was both of us actually doing a lot of what I would do myself. My other favorite song record was “93” because the lyrics are like, ‘How are you going fuck it up at this time?’ Basically, we did this technique where we left two mics in the same place that were ear distances apart, and we left them there. I came in and recorded acoustic guitar and vocals with those two mics, and then we had a bass player play upright bass, he stood to the left of them, and the drummer came in, he set the drum kit back there, so in a way it automatically mixed itself because they were all being recorded on the same two mikes when I was playing the piano. I really liked that process because when you listen to this recording, I feel like there’s a huge space there because those two mics were there. That was a really fun process, and even just working with musicians that are amazing and my co-producer Cary Singer. It’s fun to not have to do everything yourself, it takes the load off.
It’s so easy to want to do everything ourselves. We just have to lighten up sometimes and let people in. It’s like, ‘I trust you can do a good job. Help me out please?’ *both laugh*
Alex: I learned so much things from those guys too. They were awesome!
So with the way that modern music listening has been focused on the streaming aspect and shorter style releases as opposed to full-length albums, why do you think that is nowadays?
Alex: I think attention span is so short, and there’s so much content out there that you have to grab people’s attention as much as possible. I think at the end of the day for me, I like creating what I want, so I try not to be influenced by that kind of pressure. I did release a few singles for this album, but that was really more because I like getting feedback to see what people liked or didn’t like. The first singles were “Elevator” and “Cigarette,” and they got a pretty good amount of streams. But then with the third single, people were like, ‘Nah. I’m good.’ But yeah, I feel like we’ve just got so much content and we have access to pretty much everything, but for me, I would just rather not be influenced by that if possible.
Don’t conform to the trends!
Alex: *laughs* At least try your hardest not to.
Now with social media pretty much being the most prominent form of marketing right now, do you think that it’s made it easier or harder for artists to make a name for themselves?
Alex: It’s interesting, because I think for some people it really benefits them, like, I’ve had friends who’ve been really successful with social media life, and it feels that social media is its own form of entertainment in a way. That’s to say it’s not hard. It’s still its own separate job. I’ve seen people spend their whole day on social media just to get exposure, and the music becomes kind of secondary to that. So I think it’s both, but I think, if you’re like me, I don’t personally love social media, but I know that it’s kind of a necessity in some form since I’m independent. Right now I’m just doing it all by myself, but I’d rather not. *laughs* If I could, I’d bring on someone else to do all the posting so I don’t have to worry about it and not feel like I’m spending so much time on it. But even though there’s good in doing it, I also feel like there’s been a lot of stress that it causes to other people. It’s bad when you’re basing all your success on how well you’re doing on social media because people are only seeing the most positive things. They’re not seeing the full picture of someone’s life.
Do you think is also kind of adds on a pressure for artists to constantly have something going on, like a show or a new release?
Alex: Oh definitely, and it can be really annoying too. It’s almost like a constant, ‘Hey, look at me! I’m doing this cool thing!’ But I think the nice thing about social media is that you can find like-minded people and it’s also great for networking and stuff like that. It’s almost like a huge contacts book basically. *laughs* But I think an extreme of anything is bad, and that can easily apply to social media.
So a fun question for you, if you could go on a world tour and take three artists with you, who would they be and what would you name your tour?
Alex: *laughs* That’s a crazy question. Would I be headlining it?
Sure! Why not!?! It’s your dream tour so you can put yourself wherever you want on the lineup! *laughs*
Alex: *laughs* Good to know! And do the bands have to be alive still?
Luckily we now have the technology for holograms so you’ve got free reign!
Alex: Oh man! *laughs* I can the Tupac hologram at Coachella and that was so weird! But let’s see, who would I want to go on tour with? Hmm. I really like Andy Shaw, it would be so cool to tour with him. I feel like his music is in the same vein as my music. I would love to be the opener for Neil Young, that would be insane. I saw him perform at Coachella and I feel like he sounds better now as an older man than he did when he was my age. So Andy Shaw, Neil Young, who else? I just came across this band I really like called Men I Trust. Like, if I could go on tour and be listening to artists that I love play every night, that would be the best thing. So yeah, that’s who I would want for the tour – Andy Shaw, Neil Young, and Men I Trust. And then the tour would be called, hmm, gosh, I don’t know, I have no idea! *laughs*
‘Music That I Like Tour’ 2020! *both laugh*
Alex: I mean, that’s pretty much what it is at this point. *laughs*
I’m surprised no one has used that name yet. *laughs*
So how do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Alex: I feel like I don’t really because they kind of just blend together. *laughs* My songs are so personal that my life feels like it’s very much the same thing, and that’s fine because I like writing songs about my experiences. I’ll write songs about my girlfriend and sing them for her too.
That’s like every girl’s dream to be serenaded every day. Or every guy’s dream, we’re all-inclusive here. *laughs*
Alex: *laughs* As long as it’s a positive song, right?
That’s very true. I’ve gotten an angry song sang at me before and it’s definitely not the situation you want to be in. *laughs*
Alex: *laughs* I dated a girl a few years ago, and she was a songwriter, so we would both write songs about each other and sing them at shows. It was like being in a musical, like, she wouldn’t be open to saying certain things, but she would be able to put them in song. That was our way or communicating sometimes.
I mean, they do say that music is things that we can’t put into words.
Alex: Absolutely. Just put it in song and we’ll get it. I work as an engineer and I play shows, so my whole life is music. But it’s nice to have it this way because I feel like it’s helped me achieve a professional balance.
And if you could give your younger self advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far in music and in life, what advice would you give him?
Alex: I’d probably tell this younger version of me to keep working out and stay on a good diet. *laughs* I’d also say to keep making as much music as possible, just don’t stop. I think the thing I regret is not putting enough music out. I had been working with someone for the past couple of years, and this person kept telling me to wait for an opportunity to come to release this stuff, and because of that we stopped working together a few months later. Nobody knows the answer to success, so the best thing to do is to just get the music out there.
Absolutely! And everyone’s definition of success is different as well.
Alex: Exactly. Just as long as you’re happy doing what you’re doing.
Yeah! And what do you hope your audience away from your music?
Alex: There’s a lot of songs on this album that are about me dealing with these existential crises and coming to terms with the fact that we don’t have any control over a lot of things. And that’s ok, because even though there are times when I’m more stressed out or more insecure about some things, it’s a way for me to express those feelings from a place of comfort. I hope that anyone who listens to this can take away that everyone goes through these fears and issues.
And to end us off, apart from riding the highs of your sophomore release, what big plans should we be expecting from you in the near future?
Alex: I’m working on a video for “Control,” which is the last song on the album, and then I’m also working on a ton of other music as well. I don’t have exactly what shape or form it’ll take, but I’ve got a ton of songs and my goal is to just put as much music out as possible.
About Valerie Confections:
It was the year 2004 when self-trained chocolatier Valerie Gordon (along with partner Stan Weightman Jr.) founded the elusive Valerie Confections. Since then, the brand has received much deserved recognition with Gordon striving to grow her list of artisanal recipes and goals to collaborate with a wide variety of modern innovators and organizations such as Planned Parenthood, No Kid Hungry, and many more. Echo Park is the home of the Valerie neighborhood cafe, and boy oh boy is there plenty of mouthwatering edible and drinkable options to go around.
Apart from a rotation of all-day fresh baked pastries, Valerie cafe offers a unique blend of delectable delights for a reasonable price. From breakfast croques and egg scrambles to lunchtime soups and sandwiches to daily house specials (like the bacon cheddar quiche that I was blessed with on the day we were there), there’s no doubt that you’ll find something to make everyone’s belly happy and full. For their beverage choices, you have everything from your classic espressos to an assortment of teas from the green, black and pu-er family to a variety caffeine-free drinks, so choosing the perfect drink to pair with your choice of food is just as important for your visit. I love myself a Liverpool Latte, and luckily they were featured on the menu. Make sure to get there early to snag a seat so you can enjoy the full Valerie experience.