When I’m choosing music to play while I work at the UNF Organic Garden, I try to choose something that matches my mood. The morning after my satisfying but very tiring trip to Orlando to see Elvis Depressedly and Alex G perform, their fuzzy, weird brand of pop music was perfect for my unfocused mind. Their music has a deceptively simple sound with the traditional guitar, piano, bass, and drums, but underneath lies a strange and exciting current that can be endlessly explored.
The venue Backbooth seemed like the kind of place that prides itself on good service but has very little regard for the surface sheen — the place long having taken on a dark, woody, and smoky feel that welcomes punks, indie kids, and aging rockers alike. To some it may seem like a dive, but the small touches like refilling the paper towel dispenser and offering beer samples make this place a destination I could see myself frequenting.
As Alex walked on stage, I was reminded of how little separates me from him — we’re both 21-year-old college students involved in music — and I realize what a drag it is to get old and not recognize what makes you special. Thank goodness Alex has the drive he does because in the past four or five years he’s put out 12 releases, with every instrument recorded himself on GarageBand.
Without the strange and experimental sounds that his recordings are known for, Alex’s perfectionist attitude was replaced by an easygoing demeanor and a full band as he performed, which is exactly what the songs needed to thrill a live audience.
He ran from one song to the next, trading lead and rhythm with the other guitarist and creating textures and moments that blend together and build on themselves.
The cool, almost detached way he sang lines like “success for my buddies, success for my friends, success is the only thing I understand” made one wonder if he takes his music seriously. I think the answer comes from one of his most straight-forward-sounding songs, “Boy,” in which a nameless protagonist relays a story of two dogs to his girl. After his girl laughs at him for seeing what he wanted to see, he curtly replies, “I am not the boy you knew.”
These are the words of someone who wants be taken seriously no matter how strange or childlike his message might be. Alex finished the set and went back to the merch table where he spent all night talking to fans and enjoying tomatoes from the UNF Organic Garden.
The final band, Elvis Depressedly, came on stage. Leader Mat Cothran has been releasing music under different names for the past nine years, from “On the Couch” guest Coma Cinema, to solo music, to his current project Elvis Depressedly.
Both Alex and Mat’s music share a hazy lo-fi approach. But where Alex’s music and lyrics are very indirect, Mat’s work with Elvis Depressedly says exactly what’s on his mind, speaking on dark topics such as suicide, porn stars, and religion in a strikingly honest, straight-forward manner.
On stage he was joined by a drummer, a bassist, and a backing vocalist who also played keys. Watching Mat sing lyrics such as “getting off on death, crashing heaven’s trash, weird honey,” I couldn’t help but laugh a little at all the smiling faces in the crowd singing along to these odes to hate and depression.
Don’t think him too serious though. In person he’s funny and excited about life as only someone on a tour can be, and I had the pleasure of learning firsthand that he and the band are really good at faking accents.
They finished their set, and my coworker and I said goodbye to the people we met that night. We realized the bands were onto a new city with new crowds, and that we had jobs to do and new bands to hear. But for that one night we all agreed that the best place to be had been at Backbooth singing loudly and proudly that what we have is “always real, always right, always alright.”