The first thing I ask Alex G when I get the prolific indie-rocker on the phone on a recent Friday afternoon is why in the world he’s now known as (Sandy) Alex G. After all, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter (born Alex Giannascoli) seemed to be making a name for himself in the mainstream in the wake of 2015’s critically acclaimed Beach Music, the sixth full-length album (amid many more singles and EPs) that he’s recorded on his own dating all the way back to high school.
Much of that music was posted initially on Bandcamp, and along with Car Seat Headrest, Giannascoli ranks among the independent music platform’s biggest success stories. He gradually built a big enough following with his impromptu, shaggy-dog tunes to convince Queens-based indie label, Orchid Tapes, to put out Giannascoli’s breakthrough LP, D.S.U., in 2014. Last year, Giannascoli received an even more significant PR bump from Frank Ocean, who enlisted him to play guitar on Endless. Now, he’s about to release Rocket, an eclectic collection of heart-rending country ballads, beatific electro-pop, pure noise, and loose-limbed rock that stands as the best album Giannascoli has yet made.
So, again: Why add that strange (Sandy) to his moniker? Is it a reference to one his earliest songs? If so, why now? Unfortunately, Giannascoli can’t comment on the record about the name change due to an ongoing legal proceeding. (It seems safe to assume that the existence of another Alex G probably has something to do with it.) But Giannascoli hasn’t let this hopefully short-term headache dampen his natural stoner-dude affability or his restless creativity.
As with his previous records, Giannascoli made Rocket at home using Garage Band software. But in other respects, Rocket signals a new maturity in his songwriting, moving beyond the obvious ’90s rock influences (most notably Elliott Smith) of his previous work and toward folk, country, and avant-garde music. (Steve Reich is a recent favorite.) Lyrically, Giannascoli eschews literalism, classifying his instinctual approach as “phonetic” writing. Nevertheless, Rocket is imbued with a reflective melancholy radiating from Giannascoli’s slack vocals and his insinuating melodies.