Poetic Memory: Alex Kemp (List)

Up and comer Alex Kemp has been in three bands — The Godrays, Small Factory, and Assassins — that have taken him from New York City to Rhode Island to Chicago and everywhere in between. Now, the nomadic Kemp has set up shop in Los Angeles — this time to pursue a solo career.

In a short period of time, Kemp has raised eyebrows with his smooth, breezy grooves and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. He is currently preparing a series of limited edition, hand-screen-printed EPs for release over the next year, to be followed by a debut LP. Kemp was kind enough to take some time out from all that recording to share a Poetic Memory with us:

There’s a lot songs, tied to a lot of moments, that make up a sort of weird musical mosaic of our own personal histories. Everybody’s is so different though, so I don’t expect that anyone would see these song/moments of mine and relate, necessarily. But maybe they’ll go listen to the songs again, which would be fine, because they’re pretty fucking great songs. And we would have that in common — I’ll go listen to them again too.

Alex Kemp’s list of songs that have inspired his love for music is below.

David Bowie – “Sweet Thing”
I was thirteen, sitting in my brother’s room, listening to Bowie’s David Live at the Tower Philadelphia. He and I had been deep into our Bowie kick for about year or so, and we knew pretty much all the songs and all the words… and all the album titles and outfits and Peel sessions too.

It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, and we had just gotten home from school. New York City, fall, and the afternoon sunlight was coming in the windows from across the park, all confrontational and sideways. The song “Sweet Thing” came on, and we smoked cigarettes and snorted weak cocaine in the mean sunlight, and I put the needle back at the start of the song and listened to it again.

The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now”
When I was a kid I saw them play on the pier on the west side of Manhattan — they used to have summer shows there and it was awesome. I’d sort of assumed The Smiths were kind of wusses from only hearing the albums, but then Johnny Marr — with cigarette dangling from his lips — kicked some stage crasher in the head without missing a fucking note. It was violent. There was blood. Not such a wuss at all, it turns out.

Dinosaur Jr – “In a Jar”
I listened to this song a lot when I worked at a sandwich shop in Providence, Rhode Island. We had a record player, and after we closed the front doors and started to clean up we’d crank the music. And I was stoned pretty much all the time back then, and the windows would steam up from the cold outside and steamy water from the mop bucket. And I’d push the mop around the linoleum floor and rock out. I’d never heard such pretty guitar chords played through so much distortion.

Simon and Garfunkel – “Only Living Boy in New York”
I’ve listened to this track a lot over the years. It’s in my car right now. I always wonder about the story — the friendship of the guy that Art Garfunkel is singing to — telling him that things are going to be okay. Sometimes hearing it makes me want to move back to New York. Other times it makes me want to go to the airport and buy a ticket and disappear. Which I’m sure I won’t do, but the urge is right there, all the time. This is a memory from a week ago, not very long, really. Poetic, though, sort of.

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