Alex Lahey

Taking Care

Dec 14, 2017 Issue #62 - Julien Baker Photography by James Loveday (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share


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Alex Lahey is honest on her debut album I Love You Like a Brother. "I've gained weight and I drink too much, maybe that's why you don't love me as much," she speculates on "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself." "Am I scared of losing you or am I scared to be alone?" she asks on the biting "Lotto in Reverse." And then on the following track "Let's Call It A Day," a recounting of a relationship that was quick to fizzle, Lahey does not waver as she sings, "I don't want to see where this could go."

It's with the same steadiness that the Melbourne, Australian artist tells me how unconcerned she is about the candidness of her songwriting. "Why be ashamed of something that you're going through when it's very likely that other people close to you have experienced the same thing," she says.

"I think that if we're honest about ourselves to each other then I think we all get on a lot better. Don't you think that if a lot of the people making the decisions about the world were actually honest about the way that they feel, maybe there would be a higher level of understanding and a greater capacity for change? I think that's awesome."

Born and raised in the suburb of Albert Park, Lahey was interested in music from a young age. When she was three, she told her mom that she wanted to play the saxophone. Her mom responded by enrolling her into a music focused playgroup where Lahey was taught percussion and the basics of reading music. At age 12, she finally picked up the saxophone and began teaching herself guitar and by 14, upon hearing the older kids perform at a high school big band music competition, Lahey knew she wanted to have a career in music.  

In her late teens and early 20s, Lahey played in a jazz-pop band called Animaux which was an important stepping-stone in her career and was, as Lahey describes, an "awesome time." At university she enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Music simultaneously and studied communications, international studies, and jazz saxophone. After finding the structure of the music program to be too restricting, Lahey shifted her focus to her B.A.the title track to Lahey's 2016 EP B-Grade University tracks this academic trajectory. "I feel like I had this whole life of playing music that I didn't actually listen to," she says about her time playing jazz music. "I was playing in a big band at school and I had fucking Ramones posters on my wall. It didn't make sense. Maybe that's why I didn't connect when I went to jazz school."

While the enthusiasm of her solo music echoes the ebullience of Animaux, Lahey's music is rough and is occupied by heady distorted din and whining guitars; it's scraped knees and tequila hangovers. I Love You Like a Brother recounts a rocky period of change Lahey went through in 2016 that included a breakup (see "Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder" for details) and extensive touring in response to the attention B-Grade University received. She visited a psychiatrist to check-in as a new chapter in her life began.

And yet, when the throbbing headache and the sting of raw flesh dissipates, Lahey is okay. Album closer "There's No Money" is one of the clearest indications of this. It's Lahey's version of Sharon Van Etten's "Every Time the Sun Comes Up" from Van Etten's 2014 record Are We There, which Lahey cites as a perfect album closer. Like Van Etten, Lahey tries to come to terms with the unpredictability of life and eventually offers this declaration: "I have nothing to lose."

"Right now, I feel good about being me," Lahey says. "I am convinced that I am a good person and that I am worthy of my own time. If other people don't think so, that's totally fine." With a laugh, she adds, "But in those times [after a breakup] when you're like, 'oh, how could you do this to me!?'that's when the songs come out."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.alexlahey.com.au

 

 

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