We had the pleasure to meet up with musician Alex Vargas as he visited Norway for a short stay. Vargas was raised in Denmark and is now based in the UK with various projects in music. In our recent interview, we got to sit down in a comfy sofa to chat about his wide range of influences, those ideal concerts, sneaking into an intimate Prince concert, former drawing skills, and the interesting theme of his very own genre Noise Soul. Later on in the evening we got to hear a bit of his music played live, and there is no doubt at all that this boy got the right sound for us. Follow along on the interview to let us introduce Alex Vargas.
AMBY: Hi Alex. Thanks for taking some time off to meet us here in Oslo today. We are quite happy to have an interview with you. So how are you?
Alex: Thank you. I am good. I am a little bit tired, because I was up at six this morning, but I am good.
AMBY: Okay, and you travelled from London, right?
Alex: Yeah I travelled from London. We just got back from tour in Europe. So had a day off and just came up here.
AMBY: Now, how would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Alex: That is an interesting question. Well, my name is Alex Vargas. I write and produce songs. And then I perform them. I am 27 and very happy to be in Oslo. And eh, I think the rest is just best to go online and listen to the music, that is sort of the best introduction I think. (Laughing)
AMBY: But then my next question is, how would you like to describe your own music?
Alex: The funny thing is, I am trying to get better to describe it, but I find it really tough these days. The genre is completly intertwined and there is like no sort of, either you need to like figure out a new name for a genre or you need to add all the influences that you have. There is kind of no bounderies. You know, you are not sort of picking a side anymore. You don’t have rock’n’roll, soul, r’n’b, it’s not like that. It is a lot of different things. I think electronic music with a sort of live guitars and soulfull melodies is one way of describing it. It’s quit sort of beatsy. We mix our drums quite loud. Yeah again, you gotta listen to it.
AMBY: You mentioned you maybe have your own genre. What would you like to call it in that case, if you could?
Alex: Well, I see where you are getting at. I actually didn’t come up with that. I am not in any way saying I have invented the wheel or anything in what I am doing. But that would be cool. I am definetly heavily inspired by lots of different things. I asked my friend, what he would call it. He is a very talented producer and he called it Noise Soul, which actually, I think works. Maybe sort of Acoustic Electronic Noise Soul.
AMBY: Yeah, that is pretty nice. So that is your own genre. So what have been those inspirations? You mentioned they have a quite wide range..
Alex: It does have a wide range. I mean lately I have just been listening to D’Angelo constantly. I got properly obsessed just before his new album Black Messiah came out and Voodoo is sort of the one that really got me. Yeah, but now he came out with this incredible album after 14 years. I have also been listening to a bit of Flying Lotus, I can’t listen to it too much, it is very intense. Hiatus Kaiyote is a fantastic Australian band. But then I am also kind of stuck in older records. Sam Cook, Aretha Franklin are still and have been for years my all time favorite singers. Jeff Buckley.. Well I don’t listen to Grace that much anymore simply because I was listening to it that much and I started to getting compared with him that I realized that I am very heavily influenced by what I am listening to. So I have tried my best to sort of mix it up and find new music.
AMBY: And where do you find inspirations beside all the music?
Alex: Yes, that is more lyrically. That is more in my life in general. I can’t wait to get back to the studio, because a couple of weeks touring has been hugely inspiring. So I can’t wait to get back to write and we have a shitload to do before we can actually write new songs.
AMBY: Oh, and so you are working on new stuff at the moment. What I could find online is that you have released an album called Howl and a couple of new singles. Tell a bit more about the new stuff.
Alex: Yeah, working on songs all the time. Howl is from a couple of years back and it is very different from what we are doing now. I don’t know if you have heard some of the new recordings? Till Forever Runs Out and Solid Ground, is with much further production. Well to be honest Howl is something Tommy and I did because we needed to do so. I had such an urge to finally get something on tape after not putting something final on tape for a long time and it made it available for people to purchase if they wanted to. It was a project I did, very much for myself and due to financial restrictions and my still set as a producer not being as it is now, then we made an acoustic and very stripped back album. With sort of hints at where we were wanting to go and a few days after we finished that, then we went into the studio and started to play with a more contemporary sound and the first song we wrote was Solid Ground. So since then we have come a long way as producers I feel. Now we are ready to put some new stuff out.
AMBY: Nice. We can’t wait to hear more of that! Then currently you have also been touring a bit in Europe.
Alex: Yeah, we have been touring with Bear’s Den. Fantastic band from London and really good friends of ours. They invited us along and we felt really, really privileged to be opening for them. It was an amazing, amazing, tour. Their crowds are brilliant and going round Europe is the dream I suppose. It was really, really great!
AMBY: What was the top moments on the tour, that you would like to share with us?
Alex: We ended the tour at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London and in that final moment for the last song we did this thing where everyone would come back on stage as support acts and friends. So we would come back with Bear’s Den and do this choir arrangement that we prepared in soundcheck with 20 people on stage singing like off the mics, stripped back, to 2.000 people. It was an amazing moment because it was so great to see how happy the Bear’s Den boys were and how humble they still are and how appreciative they were. They work so hard and have been touring pretty much non-stop for the last 2½ years, and it is paying off. That is so brilliant to see. No one deserves it more than they do. It was very encouraging. Very motivating. It made me sort of “I am fucking ready to do the same”.
AMBY: Awesome. So what is the ideal concert for you?
Alex: It is a funny one, because everyone when they decide that they want to actually pursuit the dream of being a professional musician, I think that everyone whether you want to admit it or not, there got be something in you that dreams of playing a sold out stadium, but I love an intimate show. I really, really, really love an intimate show. I think it is more like trying, it is actually a bigger challenge to some extend, because you are completely naked. If I am playing a song and I sit right next to you that is really fucking scary for me, you know. And probably for you as well, because it is quite intense singing right next to you, you know. It is a different way of connecting because I don’t need a microphone if the show is that intimate or a few people sitting around on the floor. It is something I have definitely playing around with. And ones I start doing my own headline shows, I will be doing some extra shows and some intimate shows. Prince does it. He does these aftershows. I was lucky enough to catch him at a 200 capacity venue on my birthday last year.
AMBY: That was the best!
Alex: That was literally the best show I have ever been to!..I am just.. Well, I am never gonna beat it! It was my birthday and he didn’t play once, he played twice! So what happened was I got to skip the queue, because I know some people there and my friend got me in.. It was my 26 birthday and the venue fills up before Prince and his band come on, they play, and my friend was like you know what, I have a feeling he is gonna do this again, so we hid in the kitchen, the venue emptied and filled back up with people that was queing outside.. and he did all again.. and it was not the same set.. He did something completely different for the next crowd. Oh my God, I cried twice! And it is not a lie! I have not cried at a gig before.. Actually I did shed a tear at The Bear’s Den gig the other night.. Ups!.. But Prince that was the first time I cried at a show.. That is the best show I have ever been to.. That is what I mean about those intimate shows, you can really touch someone, you can really move someone in another way because you are in a room with them, it is not you onstage and then the crowd, there is just something about it. Now that I have experienced it both as a performer and as an audience.. I am so thrilled that I have seen Prince like that.
AMBY: We hope to see you in show like that. That would be amazing. Okay, so to round up, we wonder what other talents do you have besides music?
Alex: What other talents do I have? – I don’t know! Well, I mean I am fairly decent at soccer, but that goes for any Danish boy. Like I am also okay at squash and badminton. Sports in general. Growing up I did a lot of sports, but I think I am avarage in like all of it. I wanted to be a proffesional soccer player untill I got onstage for the first time. The first time I was like, oh no, I am gonna do this! I think, well it is not like a real talent though, it is just.. I know how to kick a ball.
AMBY: Well, that is better than some.. others.. who.. can not.. (both laughing).. Well, but do you have some other creative talents?
Alex: Hmm.. I used to draw a lot and I don’t really do it anymore. I don’t take the time to do it anymore. But I would draw my own tattoos. Since I don’t draw now, I haven’t got the time to get new tattoos either in like a lot of years. So I miss it. So I do need to get stucked in with that again. The thing about drawing is that when I started drawing I ended up sitting all night. I ended up being stuck their for hours, because technically I am not good at it and it takes me a long time to reach the goal. I know what I want, but I don’t know how to do it, so it takes long time to figure it out. I ended up sitting there for hours. Maybe I should do it when I go on holiday.
AMBY: That does seem like you got some more talent there..
Alex: Well it is a matter of taste. I am not calling myself a brilliant painter in any way but if you give me a pencil and a piece of paper I can make a doodle for sure.. But it would take me a really long time..
AMBY: Well hey, what do we got here.. but oh.. I don’t think we got the time now.. (both laughing). Well that is it for now, thank you for the chat Alex. Nice to know you a bit better.
Thank you Alex Vargas, for giving us your answers!
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Interview and Photos by Jules Faurschou | @rockonpoets