Central Coast native Joel Alexander came into the KCPR studio and played some dreamy songs for us.
Joel Alexander, formerly known as verydeadly, is a one-man show — just Alexander, his guitar and an impressively complex pedal board.
For consolation, he doesn’t go by verdeadly due to the awkward, weirdly threatening show introduction: “Hello, I’m verydeadly.”
After a quick tour of Alexander’s social media bios, it’s clear that he is very proud of falsetto. He has the right to be; Alexander is known locally for being able hit beautifully high pitches similarly to those of Thom Yorke.
Independent of any band mates, Alexander uses his loop pedal to make up for lost space. He creates all of his instrumentation that way, including vocals, percussion, rhythm, and melody. Watching Alexander’s process is mesmerizing; one guitar riff transforms into multiple loops, creating a beautiful, ethereal portrait.
Alexander slowly transforms the sound from a soft, gentle rhythm to an escalated layer-cake of hypnotic melodies from atop a stool with his tortoise electric guitar. He wears no shoes (mismatched socks only) and ritually clicks the pedals. Alexander only recently started performing live around San Luis Obispo, so do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for him at your local house show.
Check out the transcript of our interview below:
Hi! I’m Olivia Surnow, we’re here in the KCPR studio. We just finished a live session with Joel Alexander. Joel — welcome!
So what was it like growing up in the central coast music scene?
Joel: Well, I got into music in middle school, probably around sixth grade. I went to the Fine Arts Academy for Middle School and I had a teacher — a drum teacher — he taught African drums, his name was Mr. Labrizzi and so during lunch time he would let me and my friends play in a rock band in his room ‘cause he had all these speakers and everything and all this equipment. So we did that for like three years until 8th grade. And so that was all my music experience, just like playing instrumental music. And so eventually I started singing, and after a long while, after I started doing that, then I started trying to play shows, so I only recently got into the local music scene, I guess — into the SLO music scene — and it’s been pretty good, it’s fun!
Awesome. Your sound is like very dream-like and kind of ethereal. What would you categorize your genre as?
Joel: Really not sure. I don’t know, I just call it I guess alternative most of the time. Usually I look on the Wikipedia page for Kid A by Radiohead and see the genre tags on that and just copy that.
Yeah, you have some awesome Radiohead and Kanye covers on your SoundCloud.
Joel: Ah, yeah, I do.
Would you consider both Thom Yorke and Kanye influences of yours?
Joel: Uhhh (laughs) yeah — more so Thom Yorke, less so Kanye West. But there definitely is an influence like when I just listen to — when I have listen to — his music, I just like automatically, subconsciously pick up things for when you’re recording and producing stuff, just different ways of adding effects onto things and getting different sounds, so he’s a bit of an influence, yeah.
That’s awesome. So how has your sound developed from when you first started out to now?
Joel: Yeah, well, originally I would make instrumental music on my mom’s laptop, just with like electric guitar, and I don’t know, I went through different phases of music like metal and also like classic rock, and so just doing a lot of guitar stuff and making instrumental songs with lots of different quick changes in the different sections of the song. And so overtime, after I started singing, it would be more stretched out and so it’s not so abrasive of music anymore. And also, adding lyrics — choruses and verses and stuff. And so that changed a bit.
Nice. So the last song that you played in the session was a new one, untitled. So is that going to be part of an upcoming project?
Joel: Yeah, it will be. Right now, I used to be called verydeadly, I used to go by that alias, then it got kind of awkward at shows where I would like want to announce who I am, and I would feel really weird saying, “Hi, I’m verydeadly.” So I’m trying to drop the name, and went for my original name. So right now I’m working on another album under the name Joel Alexander, and that song will most likely be on it. And also, I’m trying to work more with actually drums. It’s harder to work with drums ‘cause you kind of need like a sound room so it doesn’t sound like shit, but it’s difficult so…
Yeah, I noticed you did the drumming yourself on the guitar — that’s awesome.
Joel: Yeah, when I play live, I have to do percussion on my guitar like that, and sometimes I bring it into the recordings but not so much.
Well, awesome. Thanks for coming in for the session.
Joel: Yeah, thanks for having me — it was a really good time.
Olivia Surnow, who conducted the interview and wrote the copy, is a KCPR DJ and In-Studio director. She’s also a Cal Poly anthropology & geography senior. She’s on KCPR’s airwaves Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., accessible via KCPR San Luis Obispo 91.3 FM and KCPR.org.