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Sets and the City: Interview with Alex Whitelaw of solo band ‘Sexy Girls’

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Sexy Girls. You’re interested, right? Well, that’s exactly what 21-year-old Alex Whitelaw, the creator of eccentric indie band Sexy Girls is aiming for. The one-man-band gives off that eerie 2 AM feeling that you might be the only person left awake in the entire world. With influences from The Strokes, the Born Ruffians, and bossa nova, it is guaranteed to have a unique and intricate sound. There’s something to be said about the simple lyrics that are accompanied by extremely complex instrumentals-which I must note are performed and recorded solely by Whitelaw himself. Whitelaw conveys the same feelings one might feel when listening to the haunting sounds of The Smiths without sounding overly morose. Rather, he creates the same relaxing, almost trance-like vibe that Bon Iver gives off.

Originally of Seekonk, Massachusetts, a student at RIC for a brief period of time and now an undergrad at UMASS Amherst, the ambitious yet boyishly funny musician is definitely a guy worth checking out. Previously in Massachusetts band Turkey Shoot featuring the locally known Cole Wulleimer of Kid Mountain, and a member of two other short-term music projects, Sexy Girls may just be Whitelaw’s best and most innovative experiment thus far. The English major spends an average of 30 hours a week as a chef at Bertucci’s in Amherst, Massachusetts in addition to his studies and focusing on his music career. “I wanna be famous,” Whitelaw told me. “I wanna be in a touring band, and if I could just make like thirty thousand a year off of that, then that would be my whole life. I would just like to make art, anything in that area. Or I would like to be a writer.” He then jokingly added “but writing a book is hard.” For such a busy guy, I was lucky enough to score an interview over the phone with him briefly this past weekend.

R: Where does the name Sexy Girls come from?

A: Honestly, when I first started writing for it I was going through a lot of weird relationships with girls and breakups. I thought that most of the songs that you’re ever gonna hear in your life and like are gonna be about someone important to you. Something will attract you about them.  A lot of songs are gonna be about attractive girls…why not dedicate a whole band name to them?

R: With a name like Sexy Girls, you must’ve had some funny experiences. What would you say is the strangest thing that’s happened to you thus far as a musician?

A: Not really, it’s kind of just worked out like a marketing ploy, kind of like the band Free Beer. I guess there’s a band called Free Beer and they usually sell-out because people show up because of the flyer.

R: I know that you have a history of working with music. What made you decide to go solo?

A: Um, I like to have creative control I guess. It was a way of practicing and making songs. I used to not be able to finish my thought process in making songs. Other people would influence me too much and it would get distracting. Sometimes when you write songs there’s a specific place you wanna go with it. You have a lot more freedom and you don’t have to impose your opinions on other band members.

R: Do you miss working with other people? Or do you consider yourself more of a lone wolf?

A:Sometimes I miss working with other people. Sometimes I wish that I could play chords and have somebody drum so that they could write the drum part so I don’t need to. And its always nice to have the live energy when you’re creating something. Me and Brenden (Brenden McCabe, currently a freelance drummer who attends Mass Art in Boston) used to sit and play our instruments and just come up with album after album because everything would just flow.

R:So, what other former projects were you a part of?

A: Oh, I was in Turkey Shoot, Sexy Girls, a band called Two Guys with a friend of mine. And, oh! I had a solo project called Friends with Wolves but I dropped that for Sexy Girls.

R: I know you do all of the music for Sexy Girlsyourself. How difficult is that?

A: Yeah. Sometimes its frustrating because I feel limited because I know that I may not play an instrument as well as someone else I know. At the same time I do like it, though, because its not like I’m trying to break off and show how good I am with an instrument, I’m just doing what fits the song.

R: What is the process like?

A: It can suck (laughs). Sometimes you’ll write a bunch of chords and you’ll have, like, a whole song figured out and when you go to add a bass line or something to it, it just won’t quite work out the way you wanted it to sound. But on the other hand it can be awesome because you’ll begin to play things you never thought you could. It can all come together and sound perfect.

R: How often are you working on your music?

A: Um, I have no idea. Whenever I’m not working or at school I’m working on my music. I’m never not working on it. I’ll even be in class and writing notes. Anytime I have a phone handy or a notebook] I like to try and remember the ideas I’d like to use.

R: Who would you say your main influences are?

A: Um, The strokes, musically. Born ruffians, mainly Luke Lalonge and his song writing. Bossanova music for its chords.

R: What inspires you to write the type of music for Sexy Girls?

A: I don’t know, I initially love the songs for their music, for its uniqueness and chords. I love going back and listening and thinking ‘oh there’s a weird string he plays right there’, and hearing the unique touches they add. I think it gives a song more depth. Makes it more fun to unfold and listen to.

R: How would explain sexy girls in your own words?

A: I love soundscapes so I always have like… noises in the background along with all of my chords. I really like when a song is structured but there’s a certain sloppiness to it at the same time. Uh, I can’t really describe it. Maybe surf/rock if it was mixed jazz and garage-rock type sounds. I actually love garage rock.

R: What piece would you say represents Sexy Girls the most?

A: Uh… Beware of the Wolves or the Last Castle Song. Beware of the Wolves actually isn’t up anymore.

R: How do you feel about performing live?

A: I love shows. If I could play a show every night that would make me happy. I would do that forever. Until I’m like 30…no one really wants to do it then (chuckles).

R:Since you do all of the instruments yourself, how do you work that out when you play a gig?

A: Well right now I just put together a bunch of kids I found on craigslist that also go to my school to be my “live band”. But before that it would be friends, or any musicians I knew. I would ask if they wanted to jump in and play a show.

R: Do you have any upcoming projects for fans to look forward to?

A: Uh, Yeah! Satan’s Hand is gonna drop soon. Brenden McCabe designed the album cover. I actually put a lot of money into it. Everyone should look forward to Satan’s Hand.

R: Have you gotten any awards or deals yet? Had your “big break?”

A:I’ve been on a few music blogs… other than that no one really gives a shit about me (laughing). A rapper I really like follows me on twitter, “Captain Murphy”. That may not be because of my music though (laughs). And for some reason when my Facebook was around I would have like 20 new people from India favoriting me each day. Or on Bandcamp you can see how people found you. I noticed a lot of people were just typing “sexy girls” into the Bandcamp search engine. Kinda creepy, but at least people find my music.

R:Is there anything else you’d like the world to know about Sexy Girls?

A: Uh………….”long pause”. I listen to a lot of rap music. Anything is possible (chuckles). Don’t really put that, please (laughing again).

R: Where is your next show?

A:My next show is in Middleboro, it’s actually the first show with the band I have now. It’s gonna be Friday October 4th at a private venue.

 

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