The title of the EP was inspired by the birthmarks on Alex’s left side of his face, symbolising his first solo effort in the music world and celebrating that which makes us all unique in our own way.
The five-track Birthmark features not only bass parts composed and performed by Alex, but also sees him take on drums, guitar and lead vocal duties as well.
Here Alex talks us through each track on the new EP, and you can watch a Making Of Birthmark documentary at the end as well.
To The Fore
This song was written quite quickly and efficiently but still went through its fair share of changes along the way.
I was always unsure of how I wanted to start the song rhythmically, so it wasn't until the day I tracked the drums that I finally decided to have a drum and guitar intro. I remember showing my friend and booking agent Josh Terlick the demo of the song in it's infancy; he was immediately able to sing the chorus hook back to me after listening to it only once, which gave me confidence that it was able to hold a listener's attention. My favourite part of the song is at the end when the chorus turns from the minor to major key, giving it a strangely uplifiting, yet eerie sound, and Ben Matthews' polyrhythmic piano parts underneath are just perfect. I was listening to Jeff Buckley's Grace album religiously around the time I wrote this song and really wanted to capture a similar essence of the title track.
Mote Of Dust
I wanted to try my hand at a deliberately simple folky style song and this is what I came up with! haha. The lyrics for the verses in this song were particularly hard for me to write, as I was trying to distil the essence of life's journey as a whole. I'm proud of the chorus though, I think it's descriptive but also slightly abstract, thanks in part to Carl Sagan and his ever inspiring way with words. As this song is about life's journey from childhood to old age, I thought it'd be awesome to have my Grandfather (who's been singing barbershop for over 20 years) to sing the third verse as the main character in his more advanced age. Having him immortalised in the song makes it particularly special to me, and if I'm going to be the second-best singer on my own EP, I'm glad it's my lovely Grandad that's showing me up! If the intro is me wearing my unabashad love for Opeth on my sleeve, then the final chorus loaded with vocal harmonies is me tipping my cap to the Eagles.
For me, songwriting presents difficulties when the form and structure is quite basic. As I'm a bassist, guitarist, drummer THEN singer, my confidence is tested when it's mainly my vocals that drive the song. With Habitual, I played it in several different keys and tempos and when I heard it back it just never hit me like it did when I was physically playing it.
Ben Court who recorded the EP for me was the guy that pushed this one over the line and believed in it from the start, so if you like this song you can thank him for being able to hear it! haha. I tried recording drums for it and I just couldn't get the right feel, so Ben programmed the drums for me with a little Korg Volca Beats drum machine. The lyrics reflect a period of my life where I just felt so stagnant and unable to really make meaningful change outside of my music career. I had no desire to do anything other that perform music or act which was a major problem for a while.
In turn I felt kind of useless and in a loop of zero motivation and procrastination, but I knew if I just focussed on moving forward I'd be able to get out of the rut. I decided to make music more of a money maker for myself by learning 50 cover songs and started playing solo gigs to earn a living. I've been doing it ever since and it's helped me level up immeasurably as a musician. I guess it's fitting that with some persistence and faith in the song, it made it to the EP. I've also been told not to 'expect to know why' by the time I'm 55.. Ha ha.
What might be the best song I've written yet, Sorrowtar is an ode to my battle with depression. Sorrowtar is a word I made up to try and describe what I was feeling inside at that time. The way I visualised it was as if I had black tar stretched out like tree roots from the core of my being, spreading throughout my body and infecting my organs and bones like cancer. It literally impacted every aspect of who I was and how I thought about myself. The crazy thing is that there's always that little bit of Sorrowtar deep inside, I just need to make sure it's not being fed!
The song itself didn't take too long to write and Aidan Barton nailed the mix on this song. I literally explained what I wanted for it and he got it right on the first go. From the outset, Nine Inch Nails always came to mind as a stylistic inspiration for this song, particularly The Downward Spiral album. I first heard it when I was 11 years old and it has an especially dark aura to me which was what I was trying to replicate in this song. When played on acoustic guitar there are some sickeningly dissonant guitar voicing which I'm proud of. This song paired with the stunning video clip my oldest friend Matt Pitcher put together, I think it might be the standout track on the EP for me personally.
Dream A Dream
Written during a particularly heavy winter in a small village called Whitecross outside Falkirk, Scotland, this song was the catalyst for every song I've written ever since. I didn't think I was capable of writing a song from start to finish until this one happened to just come out of me. Repeat with beautiful chord voicings and melancholic lyrics ,this song satisfies the doom metal fan in me. The lasting impression of Opeth's Still Life and Damnation albums are obvious to any discerning metal head and the last minute guitar solo at the end of the song was me doing my best Simone Dow meets David Gilmour impersonation. For me personally this track is one of the most important ones to me, as it represents a musical breakthrough that doesn't happen often. The lyrics I penned on the Scottish rail system travelling up and down the beautiful country. It's a lovely reminder of that beautiful country and also to have a little faith in your abilities from time to time.