‘The Reluctant Beatles Fan’

Going Psychedelic with Alejandro Rose-Garcia

Words by Audra Tracy
Photo Credit: Greg Giannukos

Stop the presses – Shakey Graves has a new sound. No, he didn’t fall into a death metal phase, or try his hand at a flashy K-pop song. But something is definitely different on his latest release, Can’t Wake Up. Harder, louder, and sometimes psychedelic, the album introduces a thicker, richer, layer to his sincere and storied songbook.

With this deviated sound comes a batch of newly orchestrated live shows too, including a stop at New York’s Terminal 5 on September 22. In between gigs, the man behind the myth, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, checked in from Austin to talk about The Beatles, David Byrne, and what’s in store for fans who stay along for the uncharted ride.

“I always think it’s weird even trying to compose press releases because, I guess things like that have to be mentioned”, he says of his new direction. “It’s like the only way to sell something partially is to make it seem controversial. For me, I didn’t feel like it was blasphemous or anything. I just played what I wanted to hear”.

And what he wanted to hear while writing the new record was some good ol’ fashioned rock n roll. Rose-Garcia attributes his broadened musical horizons to his ever-growing collection of vinyl, and a new-found admiration for the Fab Four.

“I’ve definitely been a reluctant Beatles fan growing up, just because I always felt like it was explained to me that I would like The Beatles, as opposed to anybody letting me figure it out on my own”, he admits. “I’ve just had moments over the years that kind of culminated into me being more open to really wanting to seek out records of theirs. So I was listening to The Beatles a bit, and definitely a lot more 50’s and 60’s psychedelic music.”

While The Beatles may have influenced his songwriting on Can’t Wake Up, Rose-Garcia credits his parents for the ability to captivate a live audience.

“I was raised in theater”, he shares. “My dad is a set light designer and my mom is an actress and a playwright and a director, so my comfort zone and home is like working in theaters. Or even music venues, it’s the same thing – it smells the same and it feels the same.”

And it’s in this comfort zone that Rose-Garcia continually strives to create a multi-dimensional sensory experience at his concerts. He has been ‘compulsively hunting’ for new design concepts for this latest tour, recently finding inspiration in the mesmerizing work of Talking Heads founder and art rock icon David Byrne.

“I’ve been reading his book, How Music Works, all year and it’s been a real big influence on my creative concepts, and applying them to the shows that I do”, he says of Byrne. “When I saw Stop Making Sense, that always stuck with me in a way, to have band members come and go away. I think that’s really effective, especially with a solo thing that has other members. I don’t want people to be like, ‘great, here’s an hour and a half of just good jamming’. “No, no”, he assures, “it has a story to it. Every set, every night has a different story perhaps.”

Fans can watch the various chapters of Shakey Graves’ musical journey unfold right on stage this year; he assures his audience that while his sound has evolved, he’s still the same ‘Gentleman from Texas’ with a kick-drum suitcase.

“We’ve been playing the new songs for about five months maybe now, so it’s really starting to get into our blood”, he says. “At times it’s a louder and definitely more psychedelic take on stuff…I love loud music and always have and always will, and I feel a compulsion to play aggressively on stage, so instead of denying it, you know, I’m going to explore that while I’m on the road.”

“But I always try to root it back to where things came from”, he concludes. “I still play a large portion of the set by myself, and I do the one-man-band thing, I play acoustic songs. It’s all storytelling I guess, so I try and have that be what the show is like, too.”


TheWaster.com | Austin