CONCERT PREVIEW: James Alex’s “Quiet Slang” side project playing concert at Underground Arts

Beach Slang’s James Alex will play a Quiet Slang hometown show July 14.
Beach Slang’s James Alex will play a Quiet Slang hometown show July 14. PHOTO BY CHARLIE LOWE

IF YOU GO

What: Quiet Slang (Beach Slang’s James Alex, cellist Dan Delaney and pianist Keith Giosa).

When: 9 p.m. July 14.

Where: Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St., Philadelphia.

Tickets: $16-$18.

Info.: (215) 627-1332, www.undergroundarts.org.

There’s a line in the Beach Slang song “Dirty Cigarettes” that goes: “I get in trouble when things get quiet.”

But you might have missed it because you were caught up in the distorted racket that defines the Philly band. Taking a minimalist detour, the band’s singer and songwriter, James Alex, was invited to play an NPR Tiny Desk concert, which he described in a phone interview as being “like the misfit punk kid getting invited to the adult party. My knees were knocking. I’d seen Daniel Johnston do this. I’d seen The Pixies do this. I’d seen Cat Stevens do this.”

Taking the risk of playing Beach Slang’s songs acoustic (including a set at this year’s South by Southwest Festival) inspired Alex to release an EP last year under the moniker Quiet Slang called “We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags,” which included the signature song “Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas” and covers of “Thirteen” by Big Star and “Androgynous” by The Replacements. All are rowdy cuts reworked as intimate ballads, wrapped in lush strains of cello and piano.

“I don’t need to be loud and screaming. If Beach Slang has me fawning over The Replacements, Quiet Slang has me fawning over Stephin Merritt,” Alex said, calling Quiet Slang an opportunity to evolve his craft.

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He also admitted that the time was right for a solo project because of “crummy turbulence” that erupted within Beach Slang two years ago.

A full-length Quiet Slang album of reimagined Beach Slang songs, “Everything Matters but No One is Listening,” drops on May 18.

A Quiet Slang show was originally scheduled for that same night at Underground Arts, but it has since been moved to July 14.

“It’s part performance art, part art installation,” Alex said of performing Beach Slang songs accompanied only by a cellist and a pianist. “It’s a weirdo leap for me to take. I thought people would come and go: ‘Look man, just plug your guitar in and play’.”

The dramatic first single from “Everything Matters but No One is Listening” is an ironically quieter version of the 2015 track “Noisy Heaven.” When Alex sings the line “good love is not safe,” it’s because he likes the relationships he’s in “to feel a little unhinged,” he said.

Things won’t stay quiet forever. There are future plans for Beach Slang.

Encouraged by tour dates the band played in 2017 opening for Dashboard Confessional, Alex said he’s excited to make his first album with the reconfigured-since-2016 Beach Slang. “Beach Slang means everything to me,” he said. “Every time we have a new member, or introduce a new member, it’s chopping through butter.”