We recently discovered Alexander Teller, who has just released his latest single, ‘I Got Free’. The single is the last to be shared before his upcoming album, Alexander Teller Is A Snake Oil Seller is released. The record reflects on some sobering and mournful narratives that are spun into compellingly artful indie-rock offerings, yet this particular single displays greater optimism.
Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?
It’s not my earliest memory of listening, but I do remember having a kind of epiphany after getting given a mixtape by an older friend called “It’s Not Easy Being 14”. It had Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm on there, and I remember thinking I’d never heard anything like Helicopter before. It was so brash and bold, both in the playing and production. Then you’ve got Kele Okereke’s vocals, shouting over the top in an unapologetically English accent. A lot of my most impactful records contain some aspect of “I didn’t know you were allowed to do that?!” in them. I’ll never know if its nostalgia of not, but I still consider that one of my favourite albums.
Funnily enough, years later I reconnected with that friend through playing the open mic in Camberwell. He’s now playing keys in my live band.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
I’ve changed my process many times. I’ll probably have to find a new trick for the next album, but I’ve all but abandoned trying to start with musical ideas. I write down any “spicy thoughts” (hey that’s a good band name) I have on my notes. That’s either a song title or perhaps a phrase or poem that has something to it. It’s an exercise in making sure that there’s a purpose to making the song. After that, you just have to follow where that idea leads. It informs the musical choices and the way you sing it. After all, if it can’t save your life, then what’s the point?
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I find it more difficult to write the picturesque. Some people are great at that, and invite you into their beautiful worlds. I’m a bit of shit so I’m more often shining a light on my more disgusting or pathetic thoughts and desires. Honestly, I think everyone should investigate their Jungian “Shadow”. What your subconscious is doing will manifest itself in some way or other whether you like it or not. I’d rather get acquainted with my fears and anxieties, and do so in a way that is not morbid or mopey. I have fun with it.
That’s just one way of trying to find some spice. You can write about literally anything, if you’ve got the chops.
As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?
Well I’m not internationally famous, so I’m either no good at the business side, no good at the art side (or both). My ego assures me it’s an artist.
There should be some tension between business and art, otherwise one will inevitably rule the other. However, I remember Taylor Swift saying somewhere that if she wasn’t a songwriter she’d be a marketing exec or something. But then again, she’s got 100% more yachts than me.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
I think if you don’t like both of them then you’re in the wrong business.
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
Well I don’t know if this is the most memorable. But I remember some guy at the open mic once said “you really lost yourself in that one”. Let’s hope it was a good thing.
What’s on your current playlist?
I’m currently seshing 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields. Right up my street. I only found out about John Prine a couple of days before he died. It adds a kind of melancholy to my first experiences of hearing his tunes. For some reason, I’ve been also listening to a lot of old Scottish and Irish folk.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m going to release an album. It’s going to be called “Alexander Teller Is A Snake Oil Seller”. Is the whole thing an exercise in narcissism? Perhaps.
Famous last words?
My irony isn’t nearly as clever as I think it is.