A master of distraction and a man of few words.
“I was a very paranoid child. I was terrified of the wind, every time the wind would blow I would run inside scared.” Suddenly, the previous half an hour spent chatting to the 25-year-old Alex Izenberg is beginning to make sense. “Every time a van went by as well I thought someone would get out and kidnap me so I ran inside to the house too,” he tells me from his new home in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, some 20 minutes from where the now reclusive singer grew up.
It makes perfect sense because Alex is somewhat withdrawn in conversation, a master of distraction and a man of few words. I can’t tell if he is reluctant to share, or if the lack of engagement is because I got him out of bed. When I introduce myself he coughs loudly and tells me he is just hanging out drinking coffee, and later when I ask if he’s still afraid of the wind he tells me very slowly, “I have my moments, even now.”
Alex, like his music, I discover, has an enigmatic quality that’s hard to pin down. His shape-shifting debut album, ‘Harlequin’, has arrived on Domino imprint Weird World and it’s an immersive, off kilter journey full of dead ends, blurred lines and wide-open space.
There is a captivating childhood naivety to its make up, despite the rather adult arrangements that move effortlessly from track to track. Alex’s playful vocal’s take us down avenues of hope but never stray too far away from a dark path and much like this bizarre telephone call, the road to nowhere lies softly on his sat nav.
Why is the album called ‘Harlequin’? An early icebreaker gets the silent treatment. “It’s a secret,” he finally replies after a sip from his mug. The stunning body of work is Alex’s debut album proper but it also marks a culmination of half a decade’s writing and recording under various pseudonyms. “No comment,” is his reply when I try and dig further.
There are moments of light of course, and once engaged Alex is charmingly eccentric. He really springs to life when we talk through the recording process. “I finished making it a year and a half ago so it’s nice that things are finally moving in a different direction. My album has a lot of arrangements on it due to working closely with Ari Balouzian who produced and arranged the record. He knows the twists and turns of all my songs and is very adept with classical music but ultimately he is a kindred spirit, musically speaking. We’ve known each other a while, you know. I started making records at his house.” Then Alex stops. Another long drawn out pause. “We met through a mutual friend and he started helping me make songs as my recording set up is pretty limited where I live and he likes collecting gear and microphones. We are constantly showing each other new music.”