the soulful world of alex burey
We chat to the South London musician creating legitimately tear-inducing music.
Photography Millicent Hailes
You can't fake charisma or talent, a fact which 19-year-old singer and songwriter Alex Burey proved when he appeared out of thin air with two of the most beautiful, warm and evocative tracks of last year. "Know what I mean?" he asks, in a charming South London accent, while describing himself as being shy and awkward around new people as he sits on the end of his bed with a cup of tea grinning cheerfully over Skype.
As we discuss the notion of beauty, Alex speaks of his synaesthesia and tear inducing experience of Brian Eno's music as a young child, unaware, it seems, that his own songs have a similar effect on people who listen to them.
How is your day going so far?
It's literally just started. I woke up about 20 minutes ago and my brother made me some tea.
Do you live with your family?
Yeah with all my family, my brother's been travelling for three months and he just got back. It's nice to see him.
After tea, what are your plans?
I'm rehearsing with my band in about an hour.
How long have you been playing with the band?
I met them when I was 15, so we've been playing together for four years. It's mad, we're all mates and we just chill when they come around; it's not like a formal band thing, know what I mean?
How would you describe your own music?
I'd say its kind of like soul music, but I wouldn't call it electronic soul because I think that's an overused term. It seems like anyone that produces music with seventh chords, James Blake for example, all get put into one little box.
Yeah I wanted to ask you about that. I keep seeing comparisons between yourself and King Krule, what's your opinion on people always trying to analyse new artists by creating a comparison?
I like his music and his album but I don't think people are basing it on the music, I think they're basing it on where we're from and our age. To be honest though everyone who's written that has also said nice things about my music, like: "It's a more delicate version." I'm not insulted, I think Krule's pretty good, but different.
So, you grew up in South London?
Yeah I grew up in a place on the border of South Croydon, which is a bit more suburban, my area is actually pretty quiet.
Do you tend to make a lot of music at home?
Yeah, always at home. I really don't like going to big studios, or even other people's studios, just 'cause I've always worked in a familiar place. Big studios really stress me out. I don't like recording next to an engineer, it makes me feel really pressured.
So you've got your own studio at home?
At the end of my garden. I spent last year building it, so yeah… I just spend all my time in there.
Lyrically your music is quite emotive, who is the subject of your songs.
It's just the past… One song is about a person, another is about a few things that were going on with me at the time, you know what I mean? Trying to let go of a few things…
Are feelings difficult for you to express when they aren't in the context of a song?
Not really to be honest. Something happened this year, which kind of… you know when hard things happen and it numbs you a bit… I'd say I find it quite easy, I can cry.
How would you describe yourself?
A young handsome star! Joking! If I don't know someone that well I can be really shy and a bit awkward, but with people I know I'm probably a bit too loud sometimes.
You've just released your first EP, which is so great.
Thanks, Inside World is on it and another song I wrote which literally took me about six months to make, it drove me absolutely mad! I turned into a vampire, I was up all night and sleeping all day. But I'm happy with it, it's payed off. Hopefully people can hear how much work went into it.
Would you say you're a perfectionist in that sense?
Definitely. It's such a weird feeling letting go of your music and just putting it on the internet for everyone to hear.
Left-field question, what's your definition of beauty?
It's different for everyone isn't it? It's whatever you want it to be. But all my childhood really… I think when you look back at your childhood you realise your imagination kind of takes you away. I think my childhood was really nice. Brian Eno was asked that same question once. Apparently when he was six he saw this light that made him cry because it was so beautiful and ever since, when he makes music, he tries to get that feeling. It's like chasing some addiction.
Text Nick Smith
Photography Millicent Hailes