The Sweet Seduction of (Sandy) Alex G
We talk to the prolific musician and producer about his acclaimed new record and learning to collaborate.
Photographed by Deirdre Lewis
As I walk into a tiny cafe in the Lower East Side of New York City to meet Alex Giannascoli, the musician known as (Sandy) Alex G, a mash-up of sugar-themed songs plays over the speakers. “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies segues into Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and I laugh. Not simply because these songs smashed together sound ridiculous; but because it feels serendipitous.
(Sandy) Alex G is preparing to release House of Sugar, his ninth album of songs that weave together haunting indie pop-rock, experimental electronica, occasional bouts of brooding noise and whimsical Americana into a confection so sweet it’s habit-forming. Giannascoli began his sweet seduction in 2010, when he uploaded his first album, Race, to Bandcamp. Since then it seems even he hasn’t been able to control the stream of music that’s poured out of him since he was a teenager; House of Sugar’s title was inspired by excess.
“I was thinking about sugar as this symbol of indulgence,” Giannascoli says carefully, squinting in the midsummer sun. We’re sitting on a bench in Allen Malls, a narrow park that runs down the middle of bustling Allen Street, where we wandered after Giannascoli downed an espresso. Traffic hurtles past us on both sides and it gets comically loud for a few seconds, causing Giannascoli to speak even more slowly. “I just thought sugar is a good symbol for all of these different types of vices.”
The album’s final track, “SugarHouse,” a live recording of a Springsteen-esque song Giannascoli wrote at the end of the recording process, shares a name with a casino in Philadelphia not far from where he lives. This, coupled with the many lyrical explorations of excess – concerning drugs, greed and gambling – suggest the album as a whole was inspired by Giannascoli’s occasional visits to the casino with his brother (who plays saxophone on the song).
But while it may seem like the characters peppered throughout his album were inspired by gamblers and grifters he encountered in real life, Giannascoli insists they came purely from his imagination. “I named it House of Sugar, and then people kept being like ‘oh, ‘cause of SugarHouse!’ but honestly I wasn’t really thinking about it. I just liked the way it sounded.” He says the song “SugarHouse” is “kinda playing with the casino theme,” but the rest of the album isn’t. “I don’t want it to come across like it’s some concept album about that casino, ‘cause it’s not. It’s just random. I go there for fun sometimes, but I’m not a gambler.”
Anyone who’s ever set foot inside a casino will be familiar with the strange allure that they provide. They hold a palpable darkness that’s also present on House of Sugar. Bright, sparkling moments are juxtaposed with a foreboding feeling. On the song “Sugar,” droning bass recalling The Velvet Underground underscores vocals that are pitched up to the point where they sound like a swarm of aliens serenading us from their spaceship. Giannascoli says, “It’s just life. Like the other albums, I’m not thinking about anything, really. I just write it as it comes to me.”
Try a cup on us
Order A Sample