Getting To Know You… Alex Calder

I’ve been a fan of Alex Calder for some years now, he’s played a key part in the chorus ensemble laden sound that has been originating from Edmonton, Canada. Known at first for his work with Mac Demarco in the ‘jizz-jazz’ outfit ‘Makeout Videotape’, Calder has since produced two full length LPs (Strange Dreams, Mold Boy) that have garnered attention in their own right, really setting the scene for Alex to be a key part of a movement that he has been a part of spear-heading. So, when I heard he was making his first venture out to Europe to play shows, there’s no way I was going to miss his first show in Brighton.

I turned up to the venue early and was lucky enough to grab an interview, we sat outside The Prince Albert and spoke over a few drinks, whilst he intermittently was able to talk to fans as they arrived, thanking them for turning out and making plans to see them during and after the show.

So, this being your first European tour, how are you enjoying England so far, particularly Brighton?

Brighton seems really cool, I got to see a little bit of it when we were driving in, but I don’t know, with the nature of tours it’s hard to gauge, I’ve only been here [The Prince Albert] for a few hours. I wish we had gotten here earlier so I could see the whole city because it seems really cool but we couldn’t go out for long.

Speaking of the tour, when I spoke to Craft Spells, they had to cancel a show in Paris because it was back in November but you’re heading there soon, have you put any thought into how it may be a slightly different reception to everywhere else on your tour?

Yeah we’re heading to Paris tomorrow, but if I’m honest, we really have no idea what the atmosphere is like there at the moment. We were in Brussels the other night and the whole city seemed like it was on lockdown and there was military personnel everywhere and there was a curfew on the city so it was a really scary environment to be in for the time we were there. Hopefully Paris won’t be scary because that can’t be the environment for a good show but I really don’t know. It’s my first time leaving North America so it’s hard to get perspective on a city that I’ve never visited before.

How have you found the reception for your music in Europe? Being that it’s the first time you’ve played here?

It’s been really good, like Germany was so crazy and so fun; the people there were so nice and hospitable.

Excellent! This next question slightly deviates, but it’s been just over a year since ‘Strange Dreams’ [Calder’s debut LP] was released, has the writing style changed between ‘Strange Dreams’ and ‘Mold Boy’, and between ‘Mold Boy’ and now?

A bit, we’re touring a whole bunch and I haven’t really been home so it’s pretty tricky. After this whole Europe thing I’m free for like two months so I’ll hopefully get another album done. I’ve recorded nine songs, so it’s pretty much done and ready to be mastered but I might re-record some of it. I’m trying to take my time more because I’ve really rushed some of the other ones, like the ‘TIME’ EP and then I recorded ‘Strange Dreams’ in the two weeks after that, but it took ages for that to come out.

It’s funny that you mention the ‘TIME’ EP because a friend of mine had it on 12-inch, and the labels on the record said 33rpm but because its an EP on 12-inch that speed made it sound really slowed down and distorted, so we found that it played normally on 45rpm, was that something you did on purpose? A bit of sonic experimentation?

Does it say that on there? What the fuck? [Laughing] I didn’t know that! That would’ve been sweet if I had thought of that, like almost getting two EPs in one. But no, there’s no way, I’ve spun that record and I never noticed it said that on the labels.

With this next question, I don’t want to ruffle any feathers…

No, no, go ahead.

Well, I used to revise psychology to the ‘Makeout Videotape’ album and I just wanted to ask if there would ever be a chance of a reunion, like a new LP or even an EP?

Erm, no, I don’t think so. Like Mac is just so, so busy at the moment and we’ve both got different things going on. But also, and I think more importantly, that is all Mac’s music, like I had a hand in it but not as much as people think, it was mainly Mac’s project. But we had great fun playing together for those years but we lived in different cities and Mac was doing his own thing and I wanted to do my own thing. But we did a big tour together and it was so much fun. I don’t know is the honest answer.

I alway like to wrap up interviews by asking what music you’re listening to at the moment?

That’s a good question. Sam Smith! No, no, no. I’ve listening to the Mild High Club a lot. Jackson Scott too. A band from Montreal called Eachother. There’s a new band from Montreal too called She Devils, they’re all really really good!

After I spoke to him, Alex and his cohorts went on to play a packed out show that made The Prince Albert’s gig room feel like a shoebox. They played great tracks from all of his releases and really whipped the crowd into a frenzy of laughs when they played a cover of ‘Pipeline’ by the Chantays for their encore, which lasted for about half an hour. They invited audience members to sing with them on-stage and really left a lasting effect of whimsies and silliness amongst the crowd. If Alex’s next trip to Brighton is anything like his first, it forecasts fun.

Words by Harvey Dent

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