With all of the uncertainty and worry filling the world right now, JP resident Alex Alvanos is attempting to make it a lighter with the power of music.
Alvanos, who is the leader of band Alex and the People, will be releasing his debut album, titled ‘Boys Will Be Boys,’ on April 25, when it will appear on all major music streaming sites. A limited number of cassette tapes will be available as well.
The western Mass. native moved to Boston in 2004, and has always appreciated making music. Alvanos said his musical influences include Neil Young, the Strokes, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, and Green Day.
Although he had a band in high school, he didn’t start giving serious thought to making music until a few years ago. He is also completely self-taught on the guitar. When he’s not making music, he’s working at a local nonprofit foundation.
“I’ve been playing music since 2013; mostly just around Boston and in friends’ living rooms, jam sessions and that kind of stuff,” he said. “A few years ago, I started to get a theme for a record and talked to some friends about it. A bunch of people pitched in to bring it to life.”
The “people” in Alex and the People are a collection of Alvanos’ friends who have joined him in jam sessions and performances in local bars, but for this record, co-producers Terrance Reeves and Justin Bergeron as well as several other JP and Boston residents played instruments on the different tracks.
Alvanos said he started working on the album a little over three and a half years ago, and the recording process has taken place over the last year and a half. All ten songs on the album were written by Alvanos himself, after whittling down 500 songs that he tested at open mics around Boston. “The album is about boyhood and the parts of you that die too early or live on too long,” Alvanos said.
Recording the album came with its own challenges. “We blew out the electricity twice of a rental house on Cape Cod where Alex, and co-producers Terrance Reeves, and Justin Bergeron were attempting to get away and finish the album; we eventually had to climb between boogie boards in the basement and run an extension cord up to the living room to finish,” Alvanos said.
Much of the album was recorded at a music school for kids in Newton that was available late at night after all the lessons were over. “We found out pretty quickly that there was construction going on next door,” he said. “Quite a few times we had to scratch stuff and record it over to get it done.”
Alvanos said he has different favorite songs from the album depending on the day, but he said that recently he’s been resonating with “Bomb Shelter Blues,” as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 virus.
Many of the songs were written on Alvanos’ commutes on the MBTA, “humming melodies into his phone and scribbling down lyrics; his pen died on multiple occasions mid-song, only to be saved by a gracious passenger lending a new pen,” according to notes about the album.
Alvanos said his “weirdest” songwriting memory was writing ‘Hell’s Hotel’ while standing in line at the Roslindale Post Office after hearing an ambulance drive by. Though the song is not about the post office, he penned it as people moved up in line.
Other songs have unique backstories, too
‘Waiting for My Train to Come’ was written while waiting on an orange line platform on a zero-degree January night, Alvanos said, and on a more somber note, “Redcoats” was written in an airport after Alvanos learned of another school shooting. He was on his way back from visiting some friends when he heard about it. “I was angry,” he said.
“‘Gonna Try to Love You’ was written in a fever dream last year,” the album notes state. “Alex didn’t even remember writing it until a few days later when he found a voice memo on his phone of him whispering, half-asleep with the flu.”
Naming the album was another hurdle for Alvanos. “The phrase ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ feels like such an innocent phrase,” Alvanos said. “I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase and what it means. It has so many perverse implication for boys in men in society and what kind of responsibility” they have. “I’ve been thinking about what that means for me and how I’ve held onto parts of that; what are the patterns of things I can do and rethink that for boys and men in society,” he said.
Two singles from the album, ‘Broken Elevator’ and ‘Waitin’ for My Train to Come,’ are available now, and Alvanos is planning a virtual album release party as well. To listen to the singles and RSVP for the album release party, visit http://alexandthepeople.com/albumdrop.
Alvanos said he hopes to do some mini-tours around New England once the virus passes, but for now he’s looking into virtual in-home shows to celebrate the release of the album.
As a son of immigrants from Greece and Czechoslovakia, some of whom were gypsy violinists, Alvanos thanked his grandparents for helping him realize “the power of music and how it can really bring communities together.”
“Jamaica Plain is a beautiful arts community and it’s just awesome seeing different artists going online,” Alvanos said. “We’re still doing it and not just going into the shadows.”