When we talk to artists like Alexander Bean, the mind behind our latest feature, the alternative rock project The Freaks, we can’t help but get the urge to grab the world by the collar and shout why everyone should learn about this guy, and why they should be rooting for him with all their hearts. Bean puts it quite well when he describes his journey through high school, that while school provided the tools and structure to excel in passions like sports, it didn’t necessarily provide as much for a kid just trying to record his first album. But Bean was persistent, he scoured eBay for studio parts and eventually built his own home recording space, bought instruments and taught himself how to play all of them, and painstakingly continued to reevaluate his songwriting until it was good enough for his debut, home recorded record, Actual Reality.
Alexander’s drive is absolutely apparent, but not in your face. It’s a passion to learn, to improve, to be a true student of music, and we just can’t help thinking how much better the music world might be if every artist we came across operated like this guy. And while his sound is certainly reminiscent of PEV’s favorite musical era (90s alternative), he doesn’t hesitate to include influence beyond Green Day and Blink-182 – he’s just as into who he calls the real rock stars of today, rappers like xxxTentacion, Travis Scott, and Lil Pump. Bean, who moved The Freaks from his hometown of Atlanta to NYC (sometimes jumping to LA to play shows with bands he’s been supporting) did finally record that debut collection, Actual Reality, and we had a chance to ask him about it. He told us, “In the end, I’m overjoyed I was able to finally release Actual Reality because I loved making this album, and I think people are really going to enjoy listening to it. Also, releasing it is going to allow me to start focusing on this new music. Overall, this album is also a pretty big milestone because I basically taught myself how to play every instrument, how to record music properly, how to produce an album, and how to mix music. I’ve learned more from making this record than I have doing anything else in my life.” Click to www.thefreaks.net to check out Actual Reality and more from The Freaks – with all that he’s learned, the next record from Bean is already brimming with potential. Now, keep reading, and learn so much more about this artist in all the answers to the XXQs below.
XXQs: The Freaks
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Alexander Bean (AB): The Freaks’ sound is pretty angsty and pop-punk. But we stand out from other bands in this genre because we have a totally different goals. While our sound is based of off rock music from the 90’s and 00’s, a time where alternative, emo, and pop-punk totally dominated, we don’t want to merely join that genre because its glory days are over in a sense. Instead, we want to evolve rock music, by juxtaposing a nostalgic sound with modern themes. I’m heavily influenced by all those bands like Blink-182, Green Day, Nirvana, New Found Glory, My Chemical Romance, Radiohead, Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park, Yellowcard, even up to more contemporary indie pop-punk bands like The Story so Far and Man Overboard. I’m taking what I can from these groups, but ultimately moving on to create something that not only empathizes and resonates with myself but with today’s youth. Another thing that makes our music stand out is the fact that I’m super obsessed with Angels & Airwaves, which is Tom DeLonge from Blink-182’s other band. This has gotten me into landscape, romantic, and orchestral-sounding stuff. Arena bands from the 80’s like U2 and The Cure did a lot of this type of stuff, and I love it. I don’t see many bands, if any, trying to be the next U2 or Angels & Airwaves, so there’s that side of my music too. You can see this influence on tracks like “It Cannot Be Interlude”, or “Let Go of the Pain”, which are basically soundscape pieces full of yearning and romanticism.
I’m also super inspired by a lot of the rappers that are out now believe it or not. To me, they are the real rock stars nowadays, while the artists that are still trying to play guitars and play “rock” music have almost disappeared from the public light and have gotten super apathetic, lethargic, trippy, and hipstery, which can be seen with guys like Mac Demarco and Chris Parker of Tame Impala, while rappers like xxxTentacion, Travis Scott, Lil Pump, Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, and Migos have come out with music that is raw, angsty, and massive sounding. These guys to me are the real rock stars now and make me feel how Nirvana, Green Day, and Blink-182 used to make me feel. They have definitely helped me to fill that emotional and aesthetic void, don’t know how much they’ve inspired me on a compositional level though. I think in more subtle ways like arrangement, structure, and feel. Not really harmony and melody.”YuNG BrAtz” and “King” by xxxTentacian are some HEAVY tracks, definitely My Chemical Romance-esque in a funny way (laughing).
I think the evolution of rock music is going to have a lot of influence from these hip-hop guys in terms of entrepreneurship and aesthetic, while also taking that 90’s and 00’s alternative rock sound to the next level. These no doubt that modern hip-hop has changed the way that the industry operates, and I think for the better honestly.
Lastly, streetwear fashion is going to be incorporated more and more into The Freaks. I don’t see many bands partnering with dope brands, and to me that doesn’t make any sense. Clothing is such an interesting way to make a statement and spread a message. It’s like music you wear on your body.
PEV: What kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
AB: Growing up, and of course I’m only 20 so I’m still growing up in a way, I was obsessed with Green Day. Like in junior high, I think for the entire 6th grade into winter of 7th grade, I listened exclusively to only five Green Day albums (Dookie, Insomniac, Nimrod, American Idoit, and 21st Century Breakdown). I only listened to Green Day because I only knew how to play power chords, and I didn’t want to listen to music that I couldn’t daydream along with. Every time I put on my earbuds I wanted to close my eyes and picture myself performing the song perfectly down to the specific guitar parts. So if the parts were beyond my understanding, then I couldn’t listen to that song because the daydream wouldn’t work (laughing). My first concert was, as one might guess, Green Day. I remember my older brother took me. It was fucking awesome (laughing). I had the time of my life, and I knew every word. My brother was the best for taking me even though he wasn’t obsessed with them like I was. After Green Day, I got into Blink-182 and gradually accepted simple riffs into my music, and then from there I explored all sorts of pop-punk and emo music. Angels & Airwaves spurred my interest into bands like Pink Floyd and Radiohead. I’m not a super religious person in the traditional sense, so Angels & Airwaves was like scripture to me (laughing). Seriously, DeLonge’s lyrics on those albums are unbelievable and really explore a transcendental mindset. I imagine he discovered that side of himself from being a freemason.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out? What was your first show like?
AB: So The Freaks is more of a homegrown project than anything else. I spent all of my high school years teaching myself audio engineering, songwriting, how to play a number of instruments, and singing. I would come home from school every day and either write music, practice drums and guitar, or read text books about audio engineering that I ordered on eBay. I built a small studio in my basement where I recorded The Freaks’ entire debut album, Actual Reality, by myself using overdubs.
I would also work and intern at local recording studios in Atlanta, where I’m from. I would record everyone and anyone at my high school too, including the jazz band and a cappella groups. One time I even went down to the Atlanta Symphony and learned orchestral recording techniques from their recording engineers.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Freaks show?
AB: As of now, I’m working on putting together my live band to start doing shows here in the city. But I’ve been performing as a drummer in the city for The Telescreens with friends of mine who are also at NYU Clive Davis, and I’ve been known to put on one hell of a rowdy show. As a drummer, one might not think that I would have the ability to really have a stage presence per se, but I sure do (laughing). The night usually results in me shredding off a good portion of my clothing, covering the drum set in blood, breaking most of my sticks or throwing them into the crowd, and standing on the kit to excite the audience. I like to have fun with it and take it as far as I can. There’s nothing better than being on stage and making other people happy.
So, a Freaks show would take this to the next level, seeing that I’ll be right in front of the people and with a microphone at my disposal.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
AB: How can I make every single moment of this count and ensure that the audience has the time of their lives? It’s never about you as the performer, and when it is, the audience will know and they’ll respond with indifference. People want to see someone who is comfortable on stage so they will feel comfortable watching them. I like to entertain people before anything else, even before the music sometimes. If people only wanted to enjoy the music, then they wouldn’t come to a show. Shows are for human connection. Music’s just a vehicle for expression, a means, not an end.
PEV: How has playing in The Freaks been different from working with other artists or projects in the past?
AB: The Freaks is an expression of me as an individual, while other projects I’ve been a part of tend to be more about helping someone else manifest their vision. Whether it’s mixing, engineering, songwriting, or producing, I always try to help the client or my partner birth their artistic vision, which is super cool. It has no doubt enabled me to express myself with increased clarity.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?
AB: The underlying inspiration for my music is simply a love for people and my desire to bridge communication gaps between people who would otherwise not be connected if music did exist. Of course, Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves is a huge role model. As for songwriting, my main source of inspiration usually comes from just being bothered by something. One of my favorite quotes is, “We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” Ray Bradbury wrote that, and it’s so true. Everyone just wants to move on when something bothers them because they don’t want to think about how it might have occurred. Problems and issues people typically have, have societal origins and are rarely due to independent circumstances. So when one begins to notice this it can be very overwhelming to become aware of how many fundamental issues there are with our world. As a result, I think most people tend to keep that type of stuff to themselves or block it out and let it fester subconsciously. With that in mind, the purpose of my music is really to uplift other people by giving them a voice to voiceless thoughts. Being bothered by something in the world can make you feel powerless, so my music is supposed to empower.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
AB: Getting to where I am now (and really I’m not nearly where I want to be yet) has been a challenge in a way. Pursuing passions like rock music and audio engineering is not going to be easy because most high schools don’t have after school programs for that sort of stuff ya know? While athletes have coaches, gyms, sports teams, schedules, etc…basically a system where all that’s required to succeed is hard work and dedication, I had to build a structure for myself and work relentlessly. It took me a long time to figure out how to build that structure and how to get involved with the Atlanta recording and music world.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?
AB: Firstly that I am an Eagle Scout, and secondly that I’m intensely passionate about reading.
PEV: What can fans expect from your debut release, Actual Reality? Tell us about the writing process behind this work.
AB: As I said earlier, making this was a one man operation: During my high school years, I made a studio in my basement using very inexpensive equipment where I would do overdubs and record the songs piece by piece. As far as the writing, it’s pretty funny because all these songs are SUPER old. The oldest song, “Feels so Right”, I wrote in 7th grade, the opening track, “What Are You Thinking Of”, I wrote in summer before 9th grade, and the most recent track, “Bad Luck”, is from my summer following 10th grade. It’s sorta annoying that they are so old because I am constantly writing songs and so many have built up since 10th grade, like I probably write at least one song or a bit of a song like a verse, a chorus, a riff, or something every day so I’m talking hundreds upon hundreds of audio clips and demos. Doesn’t mean they’re all going to turn into good and usable songs necessarily, but if you don’t shoot you can score. In the end, I’m overjoyed I was able to finally release Actual Reality because I loved making this album, and I think people are really going to enjoy listening to it. Also, releasing it is going to allow me to start focusing on this new music.
Overall, this album is also a pretty big milestone because I basically taught myself how to play every instrument, how to record music properly, how to produce an album, and how to mix music. I’ve learned more from making this record than I have doing anything else in my life. I think my next release is going to be recorded far more efficiently because I won’t have to learn everything from the ground up, I now have a solid foundation.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song or album is complete and you can sit back and listen to it in full?
AB: It’s awesome. I love being able to successfully manifest an abstract idea. Being a creator both from the emotional side and structural side is a cool thing. It’s like science and art coming together. Can’t say I’m not endlessly critical of my work, but there’s a point where you just gotta let it be what it is and move on.
PEV: What would you say is the biggest challenge for musicians trying to make a name for themselves these days?
AB: Individuality and drive. Now more than ever you’ve got to have insane drive to be successful because no one is handing out money for artist development. No band is going to get money from a label unless they already made a name for themselves. Also, labels may soon be a thing of the past, so figuring out what businesses to partner with and what that structure looks like going into the future is going to be a big challenge as well. Individuality is another huge thing with The Freaks. In particular, I’m trying to do something that doesn’t have a mold in the modern market right now. So I’ve got to stick to my guns and drive forward while retaining our individuality. I’m actually very excited about this band because is so different, but it is scary. You see tons of SoundCloud rappers who grind relentlessly and reach great success following a model set by their contemporaries, but the market is really saturated and individuality is becoming harder to find within that genre. For The Freaks, what we are doing is unique, but because of this we run the risk of not being marketable, however, I believe that it is going to help us stand out and provide a much needed refreshing sound.
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
AB: You’ll find me reading a new book on history, audio engineering, or a classic novel. My all-time favorite two books are, and will forever be, Catcher in the Rye and 1984. One helps me understand myself and the world around me on a micro level and the other one on a macro level. To me, both books are really about the same things in a funny way. Holden and Winston, the main characters from each novel, both express a deep love or adherence to truth and self in spite of the lies of society. Both characters are sane people living in an insane world. I find it incredibly liberating that these books even exist.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
AB: Can’t think of an artist today that I’d want to put on a Freaks track per se, but as a songwriter, producer, and engineer I’d love to work on music with xxxTentacion or Lil Pump. Those guys each seem super high energy, and I’d love to make something really in your face and grimy with them.
The Past would not be an artist, but the late producer Jerry Finn who made all three of the Blink-182 major records, Enema of the State, Take off Your Pants and Jacket, and the self-titled album. He also started his career mixing Dookie. Dude seemed like he knew what he was doing.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
AB: The Telescreens no doubt. I drum for them, and I was out in LA last month for some sessions for the new record. I think it’s going to be very experimental and people are going to have a really fun time getting into that stuff.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think you would be doing for a career?
AB: Really good question. I love politics so I’d probably be studying that right now in school. I also love helping people, so maybe I’d want to be a doctor. Who knows really? I’ve known I wanted to make music my life since I was in 6th grade, so I’ve not really entertained any idea except that one.
PEV: So, what is next for The Freaks?
AB: A lot actually, because we’re just getting started, I’ve got an insane amount of work ahead of me. The goal is, of course, to continue developing the band by having the existing music reach more and more people. But the main project I’m working on is getting everything prepped for recording a new album in summer 2018—one that is up to date with my songwriting as I have so many new songs and ideas that are endlessly exciting me. The work that must go into this along with the budget is pretty daunting so I’ve got to continue to build a really strong team, foster strong relationships with brands and companies, and get support from a label.
Stay up to date with us on our Facebook Page and site www.thefreaks.net. We’ll be rolling out all sorts of artistic content over the next couple months to accompany Actual Reality. Also, you can follow me on my Instagram to check out all sorts of Freaks related photos and things from my perspective: @alexbean11