In the latest edition of The #Tweetcore Radio Hour, I chat with Brian Lambert about cleaning out the junk drawer and with Scoopski about the underground indie bands he’s been listening to lately — plus the usual mix of great tunes by Greg Gallagher, Megazillin, Art Block, Unlucky Mammals, Jackson Vincent, The Hollow Truths, Modern Amusement, and the Paul Sanwald Quartet.
I Love the Classics: A Conversation with Alex Genadinik
Alex Genadinik is a singer-songwriter who lives in the vicinity of Hoboken, New Jersey. As his website notes, Alex’s songs are written to “make you think about life,” and his musical influences include some you might expect—like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Young—and some you might bit even be familiar with—like 20th-century Russian poet-songwriters Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotsky. A quick glance at his YouTube page makes one thing clear: Alex loves fine art in all of its forms, and his songs touch on topics like Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl With A Pearl Earring and Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
You have some interesting musical influences. Can you say more about Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotsky? How would you describe their music? How did you learn about them? What is it about their music that touches you?
Since it’s 2022 and some of my poetry and music influences are from what was the Soviet Union, I should say that I was born in Ukraine. But I liked these artists long before the events of 2022. Furthermore, if they were alive today, they would be some of the most vocal voices against the likes of Putin.
I would think of Bulat Okudzhava as the Bob Dylan of the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Vysotsky as Johnny Cash of the Soviet Union because of his harsher musical tones. Okudzhava was active a little earlier, and Vysotsky often mentioned him as his inspiration.
Soviet singer-songwriters put a heavy focus on the quality of their poetry. Their poetry was humane, real, wise, and brave. It was brave because many poets literally went to jail for saying the wrong things about the government. But my inspiration with their music wasn’t because of politics, but rather the humanity in their poetry.
How does their music complement the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Young, particularly in the context of your music?
I look at Bob Dylan’s poetry as in large part having political and social commentary. And Leonard Cohen has much less of that, and more focus on love, life, and the humanity of it all. Of course, Dylan has that too, but a lot of Dylan’s work focuses on social class issues.
Something similar can also be said about Bulat Okudzhava and Vladimir Vysotsky. They oscillate between love, life, and politics. To learn more about the work of Bulat Okudzhava in a way that’s accessible to English speakers, here is a page of where I put together translations and covers of Bulat Okudzhava’s music into English with my commentary: Bulat Okudzhava Poems And Songs In English.
What do you like about Dylan, Cohen, and Young, and what are some ways that their influence shows up in your music?
In simple terms, I love music that gives “the feels.” In ancient Greek terms, it would be music that gives a catharsis.
The topics I often gravitate to aren’t political, but humane. It’s a great experience when I can identify my own experiences in something an artist is describing, especially when that artist offers a unique perspective, especially when it’s in a beautiful song.
Clearly you have an interest in what many regard as classic paintings. Why is this a topic that appeals to you? What do you see as the relationship between painting and music?
I find most art mediums enriching: music, visual arts, theater, etc. It’s actually a coincidence that my music focuses heavily on paintings. Or maybe I didn’t realize how the imagery in these paintings affected me.
Especially the song about repainting the Birth of Adam by Michelangelo – the original painting has such strong imagery that I guess it lived in my mind much more than I realized. For reference, here is that song:
In the song about The Girl With The Pearl Earring, the opening line of the song is “I passed a painting as if dreaming. It was The Girl With The Pearl Earring.” It’s actually true. When I was young, I had a boring job at a dormitory of an art college. They had a copy of the painting of The Girl With A Pearl Earring on the wall. The first time I walked by that painting, I had to do a double take. That girl made a tremendous impression on me. Her beauty was really something else, and the lightning-bolt-strike of that experience stuck with me. For reference, here is that song:
Do you do any painting yourself?
I was always horrible at drawing. So, no. I am just a fan.
Shakespeare and Beethoven also make their way into your music. Can you say a little bit about that?
Just like the visual arts, I love the classics both in music and literature. Both Shakespeare and Beethoven are so enriching, so it only makes sense that I’d riff off and build on top of their work. They are both inspirations.
It seems like you have a vested interest in preserving the past—or at least memorializing it in your songs. Is that fair to say? What accounts for your love of history?
I think it’s natural to do that. All the paintings, classical music, and writing we discussed so far have been so enriching to my inner life. Life would be many levels emptier and worse without them.
It’s probably accurate to look at it less in terms of me preserving history, and it’s probably more accurate to look at it with appreciation to them for doing the work that they did. They left tremendous gifts to humanity.
And, of course, if you are active in any field, it only makes sense to learn about the great people in your field who came before you. Not doing that is probably called ignorance. So in my mind, I am not doing anything too out of the ordinary.
Of course, none of this is to say that your music is stuck in the past. How do the works inspire your music translate to modern experiences?
I guess my feeling is that the deep human experiences are universal, whether it’s the touch in Michelangelo’s paintings or Shakespeare’s ideas about love. They don’t get outdated through time, and are still relatable.
But if you ask younger people, they will likely frown on the fact that I don’t talk about the same things that Drake does. So perhaps, I am a little outdated (let’s say rustic) in my tastes.
The New York City skyline features prominently in your video for “Nobleman.” Is there a “New York influence” on your music?
I just happen to live in an area where there is a nice view of Manhattan, so I chose that background for the video because frankly I am not great at creating music videos. The song itself is a translation and a partial re-write of one of Okudzhava’s songs. The song has nothing about actual New York.
Although New York can use a little bit of the hopeless romantic. It prides itself on being so tough that a little vulnerability would be welcome.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to re-release a few of my older songs with better vocal performances, more interesting musical arrangements, and more interesting production.
I am also currently writing a song that riffs off a topic from a Socratic Dialog in which the question “What is beauty?” is explored. The Socratic dialog doesn’t provide a definitive answer to that question, so I try to do that in this song. My definition to “what is beauty?” is “something is beautiful if it inspires” which is perhaps also fittingly vague. The song will likely be released around December 2022 or January 2023. It will be released on my website and my new YouTube channel onto which I plan to post my upcoming music.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
Everything Pretty Much Always Goes Back to The Beatles: An Interview with Steve Karsch of Snap Infraction
There’s something timeless about the music of Snap Infraction—or outside-of-time might be a better way to put it. I can point to parts of their songs that make me think of 60s acts like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or of 90s acts as different from each other as Wanderlust and Stone Temple Pilots, but the truth of the matter is that they’d fit into either milieu just as easily as they fit into today’s independent (dare I say #tweetcore?) music scene. Sweetening the deal is the fact that songwriter Steve Karsch lives a couple of towns over from me in beautiful Delaware County, Pennsylvania!
It’s always cool to meet a musician who lives nearby—especially when I’m a fan of their music! Do you have any gigs coming up?
We do, actually. We’re playing The Fire in Philly on Sunday November 20th with a band from the DC area called SleepMarks.
Cool… I’ll have to look them up, too! Is there anything you’d describe as “Delco” in your music or your approach to songwriting?
Haha. Not particularly, except maybe that I’m partially fueled by Wawa??
Ha! Aren’t we all? Snap Infraction released a steady stream of excellent singles in 2021. I think you’ve referred to it somewhere as “slow-dripping an album.” Why do you take that approach as to releasing a full album at once?
The whole idea came out of a conversation with an old high school friend of mine. We had released two EPs, “Chin Music” in 2017 and “Stiff Arm” EP in 2020, and I was telling him how I wanted to do something other than release “just” another EP. But I also wasn’t keen on taking on a full-album project, and he suggested just doing singles. Just write, record, release.
So as I was driving home from his house I came up the plan that we’d release a single every two months, which sounded easy at the time, but, as these things usually go, ended up being a bit more challenging than I thought. I clearly didn’t even do the math in my head and realize that we were going to end up doing precisely what I was trying to avoid!
In retrospect, though, I’m glad we did it that way because having an imaginary deadline of having to have two songs ready to go every two months forced me to write, and actually finish, songs rather than what I usually do which is think “oh, if I sit around and wait long enough, inspiration is sure to strike.” I sometimes forget that these classic songs of the 40s/50s/60s were written by people who’s job it was to crank out as many songs as they could. Even Lennon and McCartney would say “let’s write a swimming pool!” I’m still trying to write a bottled water!
There’s a cool visual thread running through the singles in terms of cover art—a minimalist cue that suggests all of the songs are of a piece. Was that the plan from the beginning? Who came up with the design?
Well, I begrudgingly came up with the design just because we needed one. The only plan was to keep it simple and consistent so I didn’t have to come up with a new cover for each single. The thread running through them is that each one uses a different major Philly sports teams’ colors (that’s the Union on “Repeat Offender”!). We are huge Philly sports fans, hence the band name and the titles of our first two EPs.
That said, is there a single theme or vibe running through the songs?
Not really, no. I haven’t leveled up to rock opera yet.
Even so, one thing I noticed is that your songs take the listener in some interesting directions. “We Both Believe,” for example, starts out like an acoustic guitar ballad, but then there’s this cool electric piano line that comes in out of nowhere… Then the song builds with moody, haunting backing vocals and a fuzzy guitar riff. It’s a solid arrangement that builds very nicely. Who are some songwriters or arrangers who have influenced your work?
Thanks for saying that! I almost forgot about that song because it was released last and also written last because we had “Repeat Offender” but didn’t have a B-side. I think I wrote two other B-sides for that single but they just weren’t working, so I took a page out of the old Noel Gallagher playbook and wrote an acoustic track with minimal backing. My favorite part of that song is the end when the drums come in and it feels like the song is going to take off and then, boom, it’s done! Ha!
Anyway, as far as songwriting influences go: everything pretty much always goes back to The Beatles for me. Every song of theirs is a master class in writing, arranging, performance and production! After that, I’m an equal opportunity stealer…it’s a mish mash of a bunch of songwriters: the aforementioned Gallagher, Sloan, John Davis from Supergrass, Dave Grohl, Jason Falkner and anything else that grabs my ear.
The Snap Infraction Bandcamp page lists you and Tony Iannuzzi as members of the band. How did you meet, and who does what in terms of both music and other band-related business?
I’ve known Tony forever. We both grew up in the same town and ever since I’ve been out of college we’ve been in one band or another together. We had a band in NYC called Great Jones in the early 2000s. After that ended, I was still writing songs and sending Tony stuff but we never did anything with it until we got together (a rare occurrence) at his house in 2009 and basically wrote and recorded “Try To See It My Way” on the spot. And then we did nothing for a while. Well, not *nothing*, but we didn’t release anything until eight years after that!
As far as who does what: I probably do the most just because I currently have the most time, relatively speaking. Tony has his own business which keeps him extremely busy.
I mean, everything we do is still jammed into 10-minute time blocks, I just have more 10-minute time blocks than he does. It’s like “OK, the family is walking the dog, let me see if I can finish writing this verse lyric and record four vocal takes before they get back!” It still amazes me that we get anything done at all.
Also, we recently added a third member, our friend Dave Kerr, on bass and backing vocals. Dave was in Great Jones with us and was there playing bass the night we recorded “Try To See It My Way” so he’s pretty much always been in the band in one sense or another.
I think you mentioned a little while back that Tony lives across the river in New Jersey. Does that present any logistical issues in terms of getting together to rehearse and/or record? How do you find the time to work together?
In short, we don’t really get together. It’s admittedly a pretty weird setup, especially since we’re only 40 minutes from each other. Typically, I’ll do a multi-track song demo in Logic, with either programmed drums or my awful drumming, and send it to him. He does a few takes until he feels he has a good one and sends it back to me. Then I add guitars, bass, vocals and whatever else to his drum tracks and mix. Sometimes he will mix the drums if he’s not happy with what I’ve done, sometimes I’ll do the whole mix. He’s the one with the audio engineering skills, but not the time, I have the time but lack the skills…it works out well that way!
As far as rehearsals…we’ve only in just the last year starting playing gigs, which is one of the reasons we brought Dave in; we needed a bass player, and Dave is rock solid and a great singer too, so we’re rocking the power trio these days. I’ve been listening to lots of Police live bootlegs accordingly!
Again, looking at your Bandcamp page, I see you’re on a two-to-three-year cycle in terms of releasing music. Why does that kind of schedule work for you? What do you do in the interim?
Our release schedule is pretty loose…until it’s not. Our first release was in 2009 and then crickets until 2017!
That being said, we did come up with a bit of a plan at the end of 2021 regarding what we were going to do in 2022, which was to basically play a few live shows, and in the meantime I’ve been writing and demo-ing songs for a full-length album. Finally! No firm dates or anything yet, but I’m hoping we can get into the studio early 2023.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
Thank you, Marc!
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