Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Alex G: Pop-rock, Bedroom DIY, Indie-downer Rock, Creative Expression, Etc...

     Alex Giannascoli is a 21 year old English student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who is on break from school at Temple University. Although he has the profile of a typical 20-something, he has been featured in multiple music outlets as a prolific wunderkind and “the internet’s best kept secret.” Giannascoli has been self-releasing music under the name Alex G for almost 5 years, now having 12 releases out. Since he publishes his own music, all of his releases can be found on his Bandcamp page: His music is described as a lot of things: alternative rock, rock, classic indie, downer indie rock, pop-rock, pop, bedroom pop, bedroom DIY, and bummer pop. These various strings of closely related genres contribute to the overall perception of his music. His music is intrinsically appealing with hints of familiar qualities from other sounds; however the big-picture is nothing like you have heard before.

     Sticky melodies and catchy lyrics are produced by this genuine kid who takes his art seriously, with real investment in everything he puts out for the world. With his devotion and authenticity to his music, he has managed to humbly gain an army of loyal supporters.
     How does someone who began with Garage Band at age 13 end up being dubbed a prolific songwriter and musician roughly 9 years later? I will be delving into Alex Giannascoli’s creative process and how it relates to various determinants of creativity.
     Creativity has been studied intensely in recent history: what qualities does a creative person have? Is there a pattern that they all share? What is their creative process and is it similar to other great creative minds? This leads to bigger questions such as being able to identify a creative mind before they make their influential contribution. I suggest that Alex Giannascoli is projected for creative greatness due to the similarities he shares in work ethic and personality.
     His music is his passion. It is his primary creative outlet, something that he spends most of his free time doing. Growing up, homework and schoolwork were always easy for him. Therefore, he would breeze through assignments by doing whatever needed to land on the honor roll, and then spend the rest of his day making music on GarageBand. Frequently with creative people, they begin showing signs of intense creativity by producing impressive work at a young age. Although Giannascoli made countless songs, experimenting with combining different genres together like techno-goth, he claims it wasn’t good music. So how does the 21 year old now hold twelve quality releases under his belt? One reason can be attributed to the many hours he spends working on his music. Fostering creativity requires inputting hours thinking and making connections. Giannascoli has been doing this non-stop for nine years. Those are countless hours devoted to his passion.

     A common trait with gifted persons that usually coincides with the immense time investment is the never-ending tunnel of their creative vision. Nancy Andreasen, a leading neuroscientist, states in Secrets of the Creative Brain published in The Atlantic: “preparation, incubation, inspiration, and production” are an “iterative process” that help foster creative products. This is a process Alex Giannascoli goes through the motions of daily. Nothing is ever perfect or complete. In an interview with Laurence Day from The Line of Best Fit music blog, Giannascoli admits that even his most recent and popular release DSU is not perfect in his eyes. Even though he spent time making it “as perfect as possible” it still is not exactly everything he dreamed of. He does have a more realistic grip on low long it takes to work on producing content. He can recognize when the vital components necessary for the music to still be an accurate representation of his thoughts and emotions are present, but he is always looking to improve and reach a closer idea of a perfect product. However, from the outside looking in, his songs feel like he has reached a thoughtful perfection.

Alex G. prefers to work alone. He works inside his own mind, expanding and developing his own ideas and making his own creative connections. A lot of his songs contain traces of other sounds of music: with a rawness that is reminiscent of folk music, twisted sounds hinting towards crunchy techno, and funky beats that sound like they could be part of a 90’s TV show theme song (listen: first 60 seconds of the song Promise from DSU.) DSU is a dreamy sound, pairing nicely to the bedroom style recording, which elicits an intimate feel to the entire LP. Giannascoli turns inward for creative inspiration, making connections based off of experiences and previous failures, such as his stint with techno-goth. These connections on different levels, including the sound, lyrics, and quality, are carefully made to produce the feelings and emotions that he intends. It is this thoughtful dedication to forging connections musically that identifies Giannascoli as a creative artist.

     Giannascoli holds his music to a high standard of integrity: it is his passion regardless of its success. In a quote provided by Lochness Management, “personal obstacles have shaped [his] music but [none that he] would like to share.” He is satisfying the problem of trouble expressing himself therefore it must continue to be honest and true to who he is musically, otherwise it is no longer serving its purpose. In an interview with Dan DeLuca, an Inquirer Music Critic, Alex states that making music is how he defines himself. “If [he] didn’t do it, [he’d] probably be really lost.” This is another reason Alex chooses to work alone. He believes his decisions are more fluid that way and wants to be able to follow his own ideas, labeling himself a “passive control freak.” Although researcher Kevin Dunbar explains in Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up published in WIRED magazine, collaboration and discussion can open up opportunity for more creative ideas. However, the method used by Giannascoli of creating a product solo is not unusual for creative minds. Andreasen points out that because creative people usually think differently, “the standard ways of learning and teaching are not always helpful and may even be distracting, and that they prefer to learn on their own.” This is certainly the case for Giannascoli, as he finds working collaboratively frequently slow and distracting, taking away from his own ideas and mental connections. He also is uninterested in copying other sounds or finding inspiration from other musicians or peers. His music comes from his own mind, after spending most of his time experimenting and creating. He pulls inspiration from his own experiences and feelings. In Fader Magazine, he relates his creative method to the way Hemingway writes, all-the while-humbly pointing out that he is no Hemingway. Giannascoli: “[Hemingway's] method [is] giving you this thin strip of the iceberg, and hopefully the listener can pick up that there is something under the surface – they don’t know what it is, but they know it’s really scary.” This is also common with other creative minds, not just Hemingway and Giannascoli. Andreasen also points out that many creatives are mentally distressed and suffer from various illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorder. This is in no way meant to jump to conclusions and label Giannascoli as one suffering from a mental illness, as it is an extremely personal, private, and nun-ya-business illness. This is just more to connect that mental distress is frequently associated to creativity, even if the it is the less extreme distress that is associated to experiences of growing up. Frequently, creative connections and products are made as being an outlet for emotions that might be difficult to handle, something that does apply to Giannascoli. In Fader magazine, Giannascoli confesses that sometimes he is “really really high strung” and he uses his music as a way to “deal with the way reality is,” a way to match his feelings to his music. It is this honesty that makes Giannascoli a genuine and endearing creative subject; especially in a digital age where it is easy to be something you are not. This is extremely appealing and relatable to his listeners, who he mostly relies on to pass along his music.

Sonny Malhotra

     So far, this method has been extremely successful, as he is about to embark on a tour through Europe. Alex Giannascoli is an authentic creative, who still carries much potential in his music. With his creative characteristics, I have no doubt that this musician will continue to grow and develop musically and ultimately creatively.

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