With his second album, Chaos/Control, LA-based indie artist Alex Bloom strived to push beyond his comfort zone and explore more of his musical influences. While still generally maintaining a low-key melodic rock sound, the album sees Bloom experimenting with a wider variety of song structures and instrumentation. In a phone interview, Bloom discussed the making of Chaos/Control, as well as how it came to have the same name as this website.
Could you talk about your musical background?
Alex Bloom: Music has always been in my family. I’ve been singing ever since I was a kid and was raised listening to sixties and seventies music: Beatles, Elton John, and all the classics. I was raised in a little bit of a bubble, so I wasn’t in touch with the current music happening when I was growing up. But basically, I started writing songs when I was 14 or 15. Being from LA, I was able to play a lot of shows and just kind of keep doing it. I ended up studying music in college also.
How did making this album differ from your first?
Alex Bloom: This album is called Chaos/Control. My first album was called Blue Room, and it was my bread and butter with just guitar, piano songs, and background vocals, all very nice sounding. It was what I was comfortable with then. With this new album, I was trying to explore all the corners of my influences. I was getting into Radiohead, and I was getting into Nirvana, and so many different things, like neoclassical and jazz. I was trying to make myself uncomfortable by having a lot of new harmony and chords. It was kind of thinking, will this work? I was trying to push myself. As a songwriter, you want to keep things interesting if you’re going to keep playing these songs over and over. I want to explore and put things into songs that I’d like to hear.
Do you think that exploration will impact how you perform the older songs?
Alex Bloom: Not really. When I did that first album, that’s where I was at the time. Those are my influences. That’s the way the songs are supposed to be. So when I play those old songs, they tend to sound the same. I don’t like to mess with them.
Did you work with other musicians on this album?
Alex Bloom: It was really just me and my friend Cary Singer, who co-produced the album. Basically, for a lot of the album, when I wrote songs, I demoed them right then. I have a nice version to try arrangements around and just kind of have something in time and tune, something that’s usable. A lot of those demos that I did ended up just being the basis of the recordings. For example, with “Oh My God,” I recorded the lead vocal and background vocals and acoustic guitar and some piano stuff. Then, we went into the studio and had a drummer come in, and we put some guitars on it. We did a few other things, but the basis of I think six or seven of the songs was just me in my room doing it myself and then coming in after with my friend Cary and being like,let’s blow this out a little bit. This guy is like a genius with sound, too; he is an amazing engineer. This drummer named Cain played all the drums on the album. So, it was really just three people. We had an upright bass player in the song called “93.”
Are there any songs that you think benefit particularly from what the other musicians added?
Alex Bloom: Yeah, absolutely. The song “93” is something we kind of just let happen the way it was going to happen. We didn’t really know. We knew obviously the song and certain melodies that we wanted to highlight. We got this drummer and bass player in the room, and we just let the energy happen, whatever was happening in that moment. And I felt like it really captured that … there’s a magic that happens when four people are in the room. So that song could have been more of a folky number. I had no idea what it was going to be. For that song, we put up a stereo mic for a binaural thing where you put up two mics kind of ear-distance on your head, and then you record everything with just those two mics, drums in the back of the room and then the bass kind of to the left and I was in front. But you record everything separately, so it sounds like you’re in the room because everything has been recorded from the same spot.
On a few other songs, it was the same thing. Because with a lot of these, I have the bare bones and I know the general direction, but you don’t really know until you record something. You don’t really know until you actually do it.
Since the album and my site share the same title, I’m curious about why you titled it Chaos/Control?
Alex Bloom: It took me a while to come to this album title because the last song on the album was called “Control.” And that song is really about just coming to terms with not having control over things in your life. The feeling of accepting the kind of the nothingness of it all, that nothing is ever going to become a me and that’s okay. All these reasons why that’s okay. It is kind of a bleak way of looking at it, but there’s a little bit of comfort in knowing that everyone has the same thoughts. There’s not really any way around that. So, it’s just exploring that idea. And then I guess the chaos is the other side of that: accepting the chaos. There is a song called “Cigarette,” which is about me living in New York and really feeling uncomfortable in my situation. Everything was dirty. I didn’t have control over my life. I was being so affected by my outside situation. And I guess everyone has to live in some kind of chaos and relinquish control of that.
There are a lot of songs that deal with that uncomfortability. So, they’re trying to figure out what would be a good way of expressing and summing up what all these songs are about. I felt every song deals with some topic of me growing as a person and understanding where this discomfort comes from.
You’ve self-released the album, correct?
Alex Bloom: Yeah, it’s been interesting. I’ve worked with few different people who everyone says they know what they’re doing and how it works, and it seems like no one really knows how it works. So, I just decided if I want people to hear it, I just have to release it. I don’t know if there’s any strategy as an artist that I have. I have a group of people who know me and my music, but it’s not huge. And I’m just hoping the more good stuff that I put out there, the more people will listen to stuff that I believe in. But yeah, it’s a challenge not having a support system like that. It would be nice, but at the same time, I’m happy doing it myself because I can kind of control everything.
What factors went into choosing the singles that preceded the album release?
Alex Bloom: So, the first song called “Elevator” was the first one that was mastered. So I just decided to see how it would do. And then it ended up getting on a big Spotify playlist just out of nowhere, just submitting it through their thing. So I felt like I was doing something good. And then the next few singles I felt were the most relatable on the larger scale. For people who haven’t heard my music, maybe they’d hear it. It was hard to pick singles because I felt like there were a lot of songs that could have been singles. The song “Cam Girl” I felt was kind of something that sounded maybe more in the vein of what’s happening in alt-rock and indie rock or whatever you want to call it.
For more info, visit: http://www.alex-bloom.com/.