Interview: Alexander Biggs

Interview: Alexander Biggs

We caught up for a cuppa coffee with Alexander Biggs ahead of the release of his debut EP ‘Still You Sharpen Your Teeth’ (out today 15th). The Melbourne indie-folk producer has only gone from strength to strength, scoring some huge support slots as well as touring his own live show. With a bunch of dates coming up in support of the EP including a couple of showcases at BIGSOUND, we wanted to sit down and have a chat about all the Bigg(s) things

We caught up for a cuppa coffee with Alexander Biggs ahead of the release of his debut EP ‘Still You Sharpen Your Teeth’ (out today 15th). The Melbourne indie-folk producer has only gone from strength to strength, scoring some huge support slots as well as touring his own live show. With a bunch of dates coming up in support of the EP including a couple of showcases at BIGSOUND, we wanted to sit down and have a chat about all the Bigg(s) things


Firstly, congrats on the EP! I’ve had a chance to give it a couple of listens, it's really nice.

Oh thank you! What did you think?

Yeah, it’s really cool. I find myself getting lost in it, the tracks just wash over you.

What’s your favourite?

I really like ‘New York’, it’s just such a millennial musing isn’t it? Like “What if I was somewhere else? Would my life be better?”. What about you, if you had to pick a favourite?

I’d say ‘Gone Again’ is my favourite, I just love how the arrangement came through. I had a bunch of demos done before I retried the EP with John Castle, and yeah, I thought I had a really good version then we did John’s version and it was great, I loved it, love the vibe of it. But ‘New York’ is a fave too, and I think what they both have in common is that they’re really honest and introspective I guess. With the other ones, they’re a little more universal, still honest but yeah.

Do you find yourself in your writing sometimes wanting to be a little more universal but inevitably falling back into that honest style of writing? Like playing to the market a little bit?

Yeah when I write universal songs, like I can do it, especially in co-writes it happens, but it’s so much harder for me to enjoy it when it’s universal as selfish as that sounds, because I write a lot and I started writing for me, so I love when I can write a song that’s both very personal and can have people relate to it – it’s like my happy middle ground because then I enjoy playing it and releasing it because it’s like a little piece of me but everyone else can still get something out of it.

How’s that been in the last few years actually releasing your music to the world and having people engage with it?

Yeah it’s been cool - it’s been scary, but mostly cool. It’s exciting and I just like to think that 18-year-old Alex and 16-year-old Alex would be really happy I’m doing it.

So you’re heading up to BIGSOUND festival which is so exciting! For your sets will you be playing solo or with a band?

Yeah I’m excited. I’ve got two showcases and there’s so many good acts going and between good friends and good music, it’s gonna be awesome. I’ve got my earplugs so I’m road-ready, not gonna go deaf so that’s great. Yeah I’m taking a few mates who’ve been playing with me for a bit at a few of the big shows, I’m so keen to play with a band again and make the sound a bit bigger. I’ve toured solo for a bit now, but yeah definitely keen to give people something a bit more.

Anyone you’re looking forward to catching?


Yeah so many! Angie McMahon, Hayden Calnin, Braille Face, Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird, Tom Stevens. There’s so many people. But there’s actually a lot of clashes which I’m disappointed about.

 You’ve racked up a few notable support slots in the past of Julien Baker, Frightened Rabbit and Evan Dando, how has that shaped how your live show looks now?

Well those shows were really good in that I cut my teeth a bit, and I kind of figured out how to perform to the best of my ability. It translates to BIGSOUND in that I feel a bit more adept at performing, but then it’s also different because the band will be there.

Speaking of teeth, how did ‘Still You Sharpen Your Teeth’ become the name of the EP?

I was just looking for a name, and I was thinking “what’s most relevant to all these songs?” and the lyric ‘still you sharpen your teeth’ refers to a nagging thought that kind of sticks with you, especially when it’s in relation to someone you miss, and I just figured it was a really good broad stroke to put across the EP.

So obviously the process of writing an EP is pretty intense because you have to choose your final work, pick which ones that you like the most that also speak the most, could you give me a bit of an insight into what the writing process was like for you?

Pretty much all the songs on the EP came out in one hit, and I find that the work I enjoy the most is work that’s kind of come out in one flow of consciousness. I don’t know, every artist has got their name for it – it came from God or came through them through the back of their head, but I think everyone can identify with ‘the zone’ you just happen to be in, and you might not notice until the song is done. The harder I have to work consciously, the less I find I enjoy the song. The process is really just sitting down on the bed and play, hopefully be alone – solitude I think breeds the best art.

How do you think your shows will compare after the release?

I guess it’s gonna be cool in that hopefully people that come have listened to it and know the songs a little bit. Otherwise it’s gonna be pretty similar, maybe I’ll be more confident.
 

How did the songs that ended up on the EP make their way there? Were they all written around the same time or was it more of a cut-and-paste from different points in your life?

No, most of it is from around the same time with exceptions. Like, ‘Gone Again’ was written around two years before the EP kinda became what it was, and then a few were added last minute like ‘Figure It Out’, but they’re all from an era of my life so they still have a cohesion.
 

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What were your influences while putting together the EP? Was there anyone you wanted to take cues from?

Because I worked with a producer, I think the EP kind of just was influenced by the recordings I’d already done. So if we were referencing anyone it was my earlier work. But I guess people do draw conclusions, like an Elliot Smith or something with the double tracking, which I guess is an easy conclusion to make, he’s definitely been some kind of influence. I think mostly it’s just trying to get the sound that’s in my head.

How was your experience doing the video for ‘Figure It Out’?

That was awkward. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m an awkward guy. I came up with the concept a while ago when I was still in my DIY mindset and I just thought it rang true. I was really disheartened with how so many artists at my level then had to conduct themselves in the industry and kind of get stepped on. The concept just kind of came out of that and Michael [director] was really good with seeing that image out and catching a cool vibe, it was definitely teamwork.

Were you nervous making some kind of statement about the industry?

No I’m not worried to make statements, but I think that’s a pretty easy statement to make and most people agree that it’s a true sentiment – there’s not too much controversy in it I don’t think.

How’s the transition been from being a one-man show from your bedroom to now having a team that are facilitating your growth as an artist? Obviously, that can lead to opportunities like BIGSOUND and tours.

Yeah it’s awesome! Starting out it was just me and my manager, and then that’s grown to such a nice little team around me. It’s so supportive and I don’t feel like I’m pressured or I’m gonna be some big shot that throws away all their artistic integrity.

So no smashed guitars yet?

 *laughter* no, not yet.            

How are you feeling about your EP launch shows in Sydney and Melbourne in October?

Yeah I’m really keen to tour the band around and show everyone what we’ve got – I know that BIGSOUND isn’t really accessible for a lot of people so it’s nice to go to Melbourne and Sydney and show them the goods.

Do you notice a difference in the audiences between the two?

I’m slowly building up my friends in Sydney, but Melbourne’s gonna be great, the hometown show. Hopefully I can con Mum into coming - it’ll be good, I’ve probably got my biggest fanbase in Melbourne.

So what are your plans beyond the EP release and shows?

Music, just heaps of music. I’m really keen to just keep writing. I’ve never stopped, so it’s gonna feel good to just get back to my creative side because obviously you’ve got stages – having to promote your EP and all the fun things that go along with that. But I’m most at home when I’m writing.

Yeah it’s so difficult to keep that line between being creative and still keeping a structure.

Yeah exactly, it’s cool though, I’ve got a lot of mates, and thanks to my publisher I’ve had a lot of opportunities to write with people and in saying that I’m really excited to write ten times more next year. I love playing shows, and especially playing more shows with the band, I think there’ll be a lot more of that and it’ll be evolving as we move along.

So did you used to play solo and now you’re playing with a band?

Well for this project, yeah, it used to be solo. I used to play in a band though, and cut my teeth playing in bands around Melbourne. I love the small venues, The Worker’s Club is probably one of my favourites. But yeah I miss playing in bands. A lot of debauchery, the pre-show is a little less sad. There’s definitely a lot less drinking when you’re playing solo. It’s not medication when you’re in a group.

So we do a monthly playlist for Finding Figaro, what’s your top three tracks at the moment that should be on people’s radar?

Yes this is the time! Okay! So first is RAT!hammock's 'Mary the Chair’. My mate Oscar Gult I used to play with has a new band called Yes, Yes, Whatever and their track ‘Lacklustre’ There’s this band called Boy Scouts, I don’t even know if they’re a thing anymore. A track called ‘Dean’s List’, it’s really beautiful, lo-fi bedroom pop.

Awesome, we’ll chuck them in the playlist. Well thank you so much for your time, congratulations on the release, and we’ll talk to you soon!

Sweet! Thank you so much.

Have a listen to Alexander Biggs' new EP 'Still You Sharpen Your Teeth' out today!

 

Jess Hilton x

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