As one of the more polished songwriters coming out of the burgeoning bedroom pop movement, Alexander Glantz sets himself apart from a crowded industry full of kids-on-keyboards trying to make hits in their parents houses utilizing lo-fi equipment and sample sounds. Channeling his multi-instrumental talent, he uses everything from drums, bass, guitar, and piano to create music that feels a step above the rest. Written under the moniker of Alexander 23, the resulting music sounds far closer to fully-formed pop than the majority of his bedroom counterparts. Alexander’s first release, “Dirty AF1s,” made an immediate splash hitting Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist in mid-March, and the song continues to gain traction across playlisting and the blogosphere.
Signed to Interscope in 2018, Alexander 23’s music also caught the attention of fellow singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin, who’s hit song “Let Me Down Slowly” spurred a sold-out North American “Outrunning Karma Tour” – and he tapped Alexander 23 as his opener. Since then, Alexander 23 has been playing out his new music in front of a rabid Alec Benjamin fanbase of 16-20 year olds, who have immediately accepted the 24-year-old into their circle with open arms.
Intrigued by the song and his energy, I caught up with Alexander before his April 11 show in NYC at Irving Plaza, to learn more about his project. Read our interview below and check out the brand new music video for Dirty AF1s that dropped today:
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
EB: Tell me about how you got into music in the first place. I know you’ve done a lot of touring and you’re a multi-instrumentalist, but where did it start?
AG: I saw my dad playing guitar when I was 8, and I was like that looks cool, I wanna do that, I think girls will like that. I tried it and I hated it, so I quit. Then the next year, I picked it back up and started a band with my friends. That was kind of it, that was all I really cared about since then. I did other stuff, I played basketball growing up and I loved that. But I was never good enough to make that a career. So I just played in bands my whole life, the most recent one broke up a year and a half ago and I was writing and producing full-time.
Then one day, I just couldn’t really take it anymore and needed to start writing more music again. In August, I stopped doing all that and since then, I’ve just stayed in my house by myself and wrote songs about things that I’ve experienced.
EB: You’ve got your first single out, Dirty AF1s, this year. Tell me the story of the person that inspired Dirty AF1s.
AG: Everything in the song is exactly true, and was all written the day after a certain special girl left my house in LA. She actually left her toothbrush hanging in my bathroom, and I just looked at it – and this sounds so corny, but I looked at it and went to my studio setup in my dining room at the time, and just went there and did the song all at once, it just all came out.
I moved from New York to L.A. a year ago today. I actually went back today to the apartment I was living in, which was a crazy experience. I moved away from someone who I really loved and cared about. She came to visit, then went back to New York, and that’s how the song came about.
EB: What was it about writing in a band that you didn’t like, compared to having your own solo project?
AG: I am a huge fan of collaboration, but if you’re in a band, you’re equal parts and you don’t have full autonomy over the creative stuff. Which is sometimes a fun challenge and is sometimes incredibly frustrating. So it’s nice to be the final yes/no power on your own.
I haven’t really worked with people on this music so far, but if I were to, to have that final yes/no power is something that I need personally and creatively.
EB: Do you feel like when you sit by yourself in a room, you can branch out more than if you were in a band?
AG: Definitely. I think especially with pop today, everyone is so much more open to genre-less blending culture of music. It’s super exciting for me as a pop artist, because pop is finally returning from – it used to be there was the genre pop, and now pop really does mean ‘popular’ again, which is so exciting as an artist because I can do whatever I want because if it’s cool and people like it, that’s pop.
EB: Has pop has broadened from the general population idea of every single person knows the music, to having different pockets of fans in this day and age?
AG: Definitely. I think the internet is the biggest reason for that. I’ll stumble upon massive artists with millions of followers that I’ve never heard of. These people have their entire careers built, and are completely going and are a hundred billion times bigger than me and I haven’t heard of them. That’s the coolest thing ever. There really is room for everyone, it’s not how it used to be where there were x number of radio spots and if you didn’t have one you weren’t killing it.
EB: Who are some artist whose careers have inspired you over the years?
AG: As a kid growing up in the suburbs playing guitar, John Mayer was always the number one. I learned every song of his and played them. I think I learned consciously and subconsciously about songwriting from doing that. And then, as I got more into production, when I hear something and I like it I ask myself if they produced their record. Kevin Parker from Tame Impala became a huge inspiration, Mark Ronson too. It’s definitely eclectic, I grew up listening to a lot of different music.
EB: I think a lot of people appreciate good songwriting, but don’t really realize how difficult it is to form a song. For you, where did the inspiration come from to really focus on the songwriting aspect rather than just performing?
AG: I like to say, I think it’s – not “easy” – but I’m going to use it for the sake of this expression – I think it’s easy to write a good song, and I think it’s near impossible to write a great song. I don’t think many other things are like that outside of the creative world. You can do a good book report and a great book report, and maybe it’s not that different. But a good song, okay, what does that do for you? A great song could break your career.
I play guitar, piano, bass, drums – but I’m not a super-savant at any of those instruments – It’s never been my superpower. I consider songwriting my talent. Also to go back to the genre-semantics side, I can make the beat in pretty much any genre, because I know that my personal taste and songwriting will tie it together, and it’ll sound like an Alexander 23 track no matter what. I have some songs with real drums, no drums, 808 drums, no guitar, all guitar… but I think the songwriting of course is what ties it back together.
EB: What’s the earliest memory you have of belting a song out in the car?
AG: I actually have a good one. I was going home from baseball practice one day, and my friend’s dad was playing “Free Bird” in his minivan, and we were driving down this road – you know the automatic doors? – he opened up both the doors on the side and the wind was coming in, we were all just screaming “Free Bird.” That’s definitely the earliest memory of screaming a song that I have.
EB: Scrolling through your Instagram, I can definitely tell that style is a part of your brand. How would you describe your own personal style?
AG: I would describe it as if you could combine a grandpa with a fifth grader. I like to say that a lot of my style musically is professional DIY, too. I like to make stuff but I like to do it up a little more than the DIY. Cleaned up. I want people to think “That could’ve either taken ten minutes to do, or ten years to do, and I don’t know which one – but it was definitely one or the other.”
EB: Where do you stand on artists having outfits for performances versus just going up there in whatever you’d been wearing for the day?
AG: It’s just up to you. Whatever the music calls for. I love style, I love making my own cover art and lyric videos and stuff like that. It’s all solely driven by the music, so whatever the vibe is, matching it is always cool.
EB: You’re wearing a necklace with 23 on it, obviously a nod to your artist name. Where did the 23 come from?
AG: I was born on the 23rd, that’s the first reason. I’m from Chicago, and I grew up loving basketball and playing basketball, so that’s the second reason (Editor’s note: Michael Jordan wore the #23 for the Chicago Bulls.) The third reason is I was 23 when I started writing all of these songs. That’s kind of when everything started getting traction, so I decided to commemorate it and combine everything into one.