Alex Lahey remembers the first time she heard Hot Fuss by the Killers. The debut album from the Vegas-based rock band had a monumental impact on the indie rocker born half a world away in Melbourne, Australia.
“It was the first time that I heard a record that was perfect,” says Lahey on Zoom from Dallas. “I remember hearing it as a child and every song was cool and I would listen to it in order. Instead of skipping around to find the perfect song, I would listen to it for 40 minutes and have a great time.”
Killers notwithstanding, Lahey says, “music was sort of an omnipresent thing in my life.” She played saxophone in high school, which she says led her to other instruments, and eventually, a career in music.
“Music was sort of an omnipresent thing in my life,” says Lahey. “My saxophone was the biggest thing that got me into music. I played in the high school band, and fell in love with playing music with and for people. From there naturally you peel off from the school thing, and you form your own band with your friends and that kind of stuff. With that, you write your own songs and that kind of shit, and I discovered my love of writing songs. That’s all I wanted to do is write songs and play them. I’m lucky that this is how I get to spend my days.”
Melbourne, too, proved to be a great incubator for Lahey’s musical interests; she says the growth she experienced early in her music career is due in large part to the abundant opportunities she had to play music and experience music in her home city.
“Melbourne is awesome and was a great place to grow up,” says Lahey. “It’s probably one of the best places to grow up playing music, especially in Australia. There are so many live music venues, and if you want to play a gig, there are gigs to be played. You don’t have the best band or be the best musician to play a show in town, which I think is really important. You get to practice, work on your craft, build a fanbase and get used to performing, which I think is really cool.”
As far as Lahey has come as a musician since then, you can still see some of her roots; she still plays her saxophone in her song, “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself,” and now lugs the instrument to every show—including the upcoming one in Asbury Park at House of Independents on May 5.
“I was recording the song, and my producer Catherine Marks was like ‘Why don’t you put a saxophone solo in this song?,’” remembers Lahey. “I did and I deeply regret it now because I have to bring my saxophone with me every time I play a show. But now every time the sax comes out during the show, it’s a real centerpiece of the set. I always joke that whenever people see a saxophone they hear white noise and get so excited. It doesn’t matter what you play on it, and it’s cool to see the human response.”
Those who make it to the Asbury Park show can expect to hear songs from Lahey’s previous records, the debut I Love You Like a Brother and the follow-up, The Best Of Luck Club. A lot has changed in the world since Lahey made her recording debut, but she looks back on the experience of recording the first album fondly.
“You only make your first record once,” explains Lahey. “I love that record and I have positive memories of that process and that time in my life. Just being totally unknown and having no expectations of what it was going to sound like. It was this beautiful thing that came together. There’s something raw and naive about that record, and I’m glad that naivety in my life [that I had] and still probably have, is captured in that record.”
With her second record, The Best of Luck Club, the production was more polished, and it was focused more on Lahey’s travels, and time spent in Nashville.
“I had written a lot of the songs while I was traveling, which is something I hadn’t done before,” says Lahey. “With I Love You Like a Brother a lot of songs were written in my mom’s house or my room. A lot of songs with The Best of Luck Club were written on the road, and in Nashville and Sydney where I was spending a lot of time.”
With a new album set to be released in the near future, Lahey appreciates her previous records as timestamps for her life.
“Unfortunately or fortunately it feels like an artifact of my pre-pandemic life,” explains Lahey. “Before they would have served as periods of my life that I would bring up, but now they serve as a reminder to the pre-2020 world. The farther away from these records I get, the more I appreciate them. You make a record and grind away with touring and you don’t really think about it, and then you come out of it and you’re critical of it, like, ‘I should have done this differently,’ and you feel yourself grow out of it. You kind of have an adolescent phase with the record and start to appreciate it and see it for what it is. It’s almost like your relationship with your parents or something like that.”
Something that Lahey has gotten in the process of recording her upcoming third release is time. During the pandemic, Lahey had time to decide what songs she wanted on the album and what direction she wanted the album to go in.
“It’s sort of funny; you make a record and look back and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is what it’s about,’ and I still think I’m in that kind of looking back at it phase and figuring out what the album is about,” says Lahey. “I feel like I touch on social anxiety that I never really addressed before that keeps showing up on these songs. There’s definitely existential moments, which I’m sure everyone has had in the past couple of years, and things about growing up and the people around you growing up. I’ve been making this record for a while now and it’s almost, almost, almost finished.
“It’s been nice to make this record in a long period of time, which is sort of this weird luxury the pandemic gave us,” Lahey continues. “It’s been great getting into the weight of this record. I’ve been tasked with making music as opposed to like, ‘We need a record by this day and here are the dates that you need to make it.’ It’s been a more free-flowing process, where it’s like I have songs that I have written that sound really good so I’m going to record for an album. Will they make it; I don’t know, we will see? There’s a song that I released recently called ‘Spike the Punch’ that was one of those songs I brought into the studio with me to be part of the record and I recorded it and I was like, ‘’Spike the Punch’ is a really good song, but it doesn’t belong on this album so let’s just put it out.’ You can kind of do things like that.”
Along with “Spike the Punch,” Lahey released a high-energy cover of “This Kiss” by Faith Hill, a song that Lahey has longed to take on.
“I always wanted to do a cover of that song,” explains Lahey. “I love that tune and it has two key changes in it which I think is amazing. When a song is that good you can kind of dress it up however you want. The heavy lifting is done and you just have to decide how to do it. I thought for a long time that song with an indie-rock execution would be really cool and I went ahead and did it.”
Lahey is currently on the road with the Regrettes and is appreciating her time touring in the States, even if things are different due to COVID.
“It’s been great to be on the road and it’s been really unreal,” says Lahey. “It’s been three years between drinks and playing shows. It’s good to have genuine fans here and it’s been moving and heartwarming. But I’ll be honest with you, touring is definitely different to what it was before the pandemic. Touring is less social like when you go out on the road and get excited about seeing your friends in town and now you don’t want to get sick. You feel a sense of responsibility to not get COVID and have to cancel shows. It’s a little less social, which is a bummer especially for someone who traveled a long way like myself, but the shows themselves have been fantastic and that’s why I do it.
On May 5, Lahey makes her first ever performance in the Garden State, and it will be a special one for Lahey. She will be playing in Asbury Park, the historic stomping grounds of one of Laheys idols.
“I have never played in New Jersey, and I’m really excited,” says Lahey. “People in Australia think of Bruce Springsteen and The Sopranos when New Jersey gets brought up. Jersey seems like a really fun spot and it seems like there’s really great food and culture in New Jersey. I’m excited to play in Asbury Park, and as a big Bruce Springsteen fan, that is going to be really cool.”
Alex Lahey will be playing at the House of Independents at Asbury Park on May 5 with Not Yer Baby and Beauty. Ticket information can be found here.