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How (Sandy) Alex G went from home recording to working with Frank Ocean

How (Sandy) Alex G went from home recording to working with Frank Ocean
Photograph: Courtesy Tonje Thilesen

Alex Giannascoli is disarmingly modest for a guy who in the past year played guitar on two Frank Ocean albums and released a critically acclaimed record of his own, Rocket. Like Ocean, he has a devoted following, with an active subreddit that picks apart his every move, shares rare songs and analyzes lyrics in minute detail. At a sweltering album-release show in NYC in May, Giannascoli—who returns to NYC for two shows this week—gamely hung around to sign autographs and shake hands with excited fans. Talking on the phone, he demurs about the attention. “I feel like those people who are coming up to me asking for autographs…I dunno, like, I’m just a fucking dumb-ass who plays guitar every day,” he says. “It feels really good, and it’s also a little bit funny, too, because who the fuck am I? But it’s cool.”

For Giannascoli, 24, the new record is his eighth and most fully realized, reflecting his progress from productive home-recorder to increasingly high-profile indie rocker. With a foundation in bedroom pop, Rocket ranges from alt-country and moody dream pop to raging metalcore. It has synth-driven jazzy interludes (“kind of a troll move,” he says), banjo-and-fiddle runs and experimental sound collages, with a punk energy and a refreshing lack of concern for coolness. But it’s Giannascoli’s lyrics—poetic, cryptic doses of Americana (“Don’t ask me questions, pa / You know I’m a big old fish now” goes one chorus)—and homey aesthetic that tie it all together.

Part of the collaborative approach may have been influenced by working on Ocean’s Blonde and Endless. Giannascoli was invited to record with the pop recluse in London and L.A., and his guitar appears in several songs on both albums. “I worked with [Ocean] and saw that he was open to letting other people put their ideas in the song, and he was comfortable with that. That was kind of inspiring,” he says of his own recording process. “I gave a little bit of direction [to my bandmates], but they came up with [their own] parts, for the most part. Then I kind of chopped that up and rearranged it, almost like Frankenstein.”

If his music is a Frankenstein’s monster, it exists mainly to entertain its creator. At sound check for the album-release show, the band found itself jamming on some ubiquitous, slightly corny ’90s songs, including Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching.” “We were playing it as a joke, and I couldn’t even breathe ’cause I was laughing so hard,” he says. Naturally, they made it the encore that night.

(Sandy) Alex G plays Music Hall of Williamsburg Thursday, July 6 and Bowery Ballroom Friday, July 7 with Japanese Breakfast + Cende at 8:30pm (bowerypresents.com). $16–$20.

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