In this weekly series, we spotlight the performers and other participants who will combine for the Emerge Music + Impact Conference on the Las Vegas Strip November 16-18. Tickets are available now at emergelv.com.
James Alex isn’t your typical romantic. In fact, he’s far from it. For years he has made a living playing heavily distorted guitar in dive bars and basements across the country. And yet, through his Philly pop-punk quartet Beach Slang—one of the best-known names on the initial roster for November’s inaugural Emerge Music + Impact Conference—Alex’s curious, emotional musings feel like a modernized version of 1800s Romanticism.
“We’re Beach Slang, and we’re here to punch you in the heart,” Alex said before launching into the existential “Throwaways” at Neon Reverb in Las Vegas last year. As the frontman and guitarist, he takes the fuzzed-out riffs of Dinosaur Jr., fuses them with bookish songwriting a la Jawbreaker and injects the swagger and attitude of The Replacements to form a cocktail with a wallop.
Beach Slang’s debut EP, 2014’s Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken, received considerable acclaim from indie outlets like Pitchfork and PunkNews.org, but it was the band’s first full length, 2015’s The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, that propelled the band to indie stardom—allowing it to hit the festival circuit and perform alongside such punk greats as Descendents and Green Day. Armed with an album’s worth of unreleased material, Beach Slang was poised for even more success … until it abruptly broke up in 2016.
Fortunately, it was only temporary. After parting ways with two members, Beach Slang returned—stronger than ever. Alex commandeered Mean Creek guitarist Aurore Ounjian and former Afghan Wigs/Cursive drummer Cully Symington to tour behind a new record, last September’s A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings. The album expanded on Beach Slang’s punk formula by introducing Britpop songwriting sensibilities and twinkling leads from shoegaze, as heard in songs like the driving “Atom Bomb” and anthemic “Warpaint.” The result is a diverse album as gritty as it is romantic.