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Q&A: Two Medicine breaks in new solo project at SXSW

Q&A: Two Medicine breaks in new solo project at SXSW

Q&A: Two Medicine breaks in new solo project at SXSW
March 21
18:50 2019

Paul Alexander isn’t new to the music/interactive/film festival South by Southwest. As a bass player for the folk-rock band Midlake, Alexander played for the Austin crowd in the early 2010’s, even performing for the city’s other music festival, Austin City Limits. However, this year marks a new chapter in Alexander’s music career.

After a respite in Midlake’s activities, Alexander produced and debuted his solo album “Astropsychosis” in November of last year. Under the moniker Two Medicine, the nine-track album explores a more psychedelic and experimental sound. This year, Alexander played an official SXSW showcase at Palm Door on Sabine. We chatted with Alexander about the meaning of his album and what it’s like flying solo.

This is your first time at SXSW as a solo act. How does it feel to be on your own, compared to previous years when you were a part of Midlake?

It was pretty daunting at first but then other than starting at the  very beginning and the [album making] process, it’s a lot of the same thing. It felt pretty overwhelming but you get your bearings. My girlfriend’s a part of the band, so it’s kind of a duo now, which makes it a lot better. If I had to get up there just by myself and play the guitar, that’d be boring. It’s better to have multiple people. The record’s pretty acoustic,  but the live show had a bit more electronic elements and a lot more synths. As far as preparation goes, it’s mostly just trying to figure out the arrangement from more of an acoustic world on the album to a duo.

What factors attracted you to psychedelic and progressive folk music in this new project?

There’s just a lot of really good music out there. I’ve been in into [this genre] for a long time now, and I still find things about a lot of music that was created even before I was born. There’s so much stuff that you can discover. That’s one thing — there’s a lot out there. [Also], it’s so hard to have a full band now if you’re trying to tour or travel. It just costs so much money and you want to do it, but unless every single person is willing to just do it for nothing or really help pay for it, you have to make it really lean. So I think the electronic theme came out of necessity.We want to have a bigger sound but we can’t really bring the whole band anymore. It’s kind of unfortunate in a way because I think it’s cooler to have musicians with you, but it also opened up the door to be creative in a different way.

How did you go about prepping for “Astropsychosis”? What was the process like?

Eric Nichelson has a studio, he’s in Midlake too, and he let me go in there after hours and try out some of these album ideas I had. A lot of it was [what] I wrote just recording. A lot of people write their songs and then they go record, but I had a pretty great luxury which is that I could kind of try out my ideas in a studio setting and find out what it was sounding like. Midlake did that a bit too. We would write songs or arrange songs through the recording.  In 2019, there’s a lot of different themes out there. You’ve got to really find what your place is.

What was the most challenging song to record on the album and why?

They were all pretty tough in some way, partly because I had never really written. I had done a lot of arranging, and a lot of the aspects of making a record but I had never been responsible for writing the songs and singing them. It was all a bit intense. I think “SF” is up there. That was one of the ones where I had a lot of my ideas before I even started and I really tried to make them work. Even to the very end, I was changing the melodies, but I still like it. A lot of the times, when something goes through that much change, it’s hard to still like it or you change it so much because you were unhappy with something. Sometimes it’s hard to shake that, but I still think it sums up some of the sentiments present in the album as a whole.

For new and old fans, what message do you want listeners to take away from the new record? 

We’re living in a pretty strange environment, this earth. Especially with the stimulation that we’re getting and the constant bombardment of information, I think it’s a very confusing environment. If you’re normal in this world, you’re probably losing your mind. It’s pretty challenging, so I think if there’s a message, it’s to try to unplug from all of this. It seems like we’re very susceptible to being deceived in this environment. It’s like we’re just being conditioned and I guess this is just the overarching idea. It’s not a new thought but I think by the time you become an adult, you learned to unravel what all that’s been done to you. I think [the album] is kind of about that and looking for closure.

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Amy Roh

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