As a songwriter, Alex Lahey says she's often complimented for being "so open and honest and relatable". She sits down with Bryget Chrisfield to discuss seeing a psychologist for the first time in her life, self-care and writing a song about masturbation.
Thinking back to typical questions she was asked in interviews conducted around the release of her debut album, 2017's I Love You Like A Brother, Alex Lahey recalls, "The last cycle was like, '[puts on dweeby voice] What's it like being a woman in the music industry?' and that was sort of like the discourse a couple of years ago, which every single female artist got so fucking sick of! You know, everyone was like, 'Oh, reeeeaaally?'"
Now that promo for follow-up album The Best Of Luck Club is in full swing, Lahey observes, "I feel like the conversation this time 'round, for me, is more – self-care is a real topic... I think also, like, Don't Be So Hard On Yourself is kind of lending itself to that, too, so it's been an ongoing discussion."
Sitting at a table inside The Mess Hall, a restaurant at the top end of Melbourne's Bourke Street, Lahey looks content and speaks excitedly between sips of beer.
The music video shoot for Don't Be So Hard On Yourself – the lead single from Lahey's forthcoming second album – took place on a "fucking hot" day, Lahey tells. "I was really lucky, like, some of the guys got so sunburnt; I felt awful for them... But, yeah, the crew and the people in the clip were such troupers, and they just all had such good attitudes, and if it weren't for that the clip wouldn't have happened and it wouldn't have come out as well as it did."
Lahey then goes on to describe the clip's "T.B.O.L.C Research Institute" location as "the Black Mirror version" of The Best Of Luck Club.
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Lahey has said previously that says the ten songs on The Best Of Luck Club document 12 months during which she navigated "the highest highs and the lowest lows" in her life to date. When asked whether she would care to elaborate, Lahey pinpoints track three, Interior Demeanour, as "the flagship song for the lows" of said year. "I wrote that after going to a psychologist for the first time ever in my life and I was going through a break-up at the time, which was... particularly hurtful and, like, it was quite bruising.
"And I knew – you know, having gone through an experience like that before, on paper – that it would all be ok, and that I would get through it, but I just felt so low at the time, which was out of character for me because usually my emotions are pretty balanced... I was like, 'I just feel like I wanna check in and I might wanna do this for myself,' you know? So I went to my GP and did the mental health [plan] thing, which is really great – it's such a wonderful benefit. And I was like, 'Look, I'm going through this thing at the moment; I feel like I really wanna go get some advice or guidance.' And he was really helpful and I ended up getting paired with a psych who, luckily, was a really good fit for me. Because that doesn't always happen, like, sometimes it takes a few goes. But I got paired up with someone and ended up seeing her for a few sessions. And it's a funny experience, because you increase your level of vulnerability, but then you also feel quite empowered by doing that – the catharsis of it is quite empowering.
"You increase your level of vulnerability, but then you also feel quite empowered by doing that – the catharsis of it is quite empowering."
"And it's sort of like a thing of, 'Look, I know there's bigger things going on in the world, but I'm having a really tough time and I just wanna talk. And I know it's gonna be ok, and you know it's gonna be ok, but I just wanna talk and get it off my chest.' And so that song [Interior Demeanour] is what that is about. And it's actually the first song that got written for the record, and I remember writing it and being, 'Oooooooh, haha, this is a dark song.' Also, musically, it's very angular and, like, super grungy and quite dissonant and I was like, 'This is quite a change!' from, you know, the stuff that I'd done before. And I'd written it long before I Love You Like A Brother actually came out and I was sort of like, 'This is interesting.' I sort of surprised myself with it."
Did Lahey surprise herself with how much of her own personal experience she was prepared to share through song? "Yeah, I did," she acknowledges. "It was really cool... People are sort of like, 'Oh, the songs that you write, you know, you're so open and honest and relatable' – whatever that means – and I was sort of like, 'Oh, yeah, ok,' like, I never really thought about it that way. And then I wrote that song and I was like, 'If people thought I was putting myself on the line then...,'" she laughs. "But it's also important to talk about; you never want those sort of things to be stigmatised so, yeah!
"And then on the other side, a song like Isabella is – I feel every good rock artist should have a song about masturbation and that's mine."
When asked how many other songs about masturbation she is aware of, Lahey offers, "Oh, a few. Like, Lance Jr by Courtney Barnett comes to mind – which is one of her earlier ones – there's a Sufjan Stevens song on Carrie & Lowell... Also – I think it's [in] the first song on the self-titled St Vincent album [the second song, Birth In Reverse], there's a line that's like, '[sings] Take out the garbage, masturbate.' There's a song by Hailee Steinfeld called Love Myself, which is great. But Isabella: I get asked like, 'Oh, Isabella, who's Isabella?' And I'm like, 'Well, there's a popular vibrator on the market called Izzy, so Isabella's Izzy, yeah.' And Isabella's an independent woman who, you know, is highly capable to do whatever she wants and don't need no one to tell her otherwise. And I feel like if you were gonna personify a vibrator in any way, it's as that, that person. So Isabella's that person, yeah."
Earlier on in the day, Lahey caught up with The Best Of Luck Club's producer Catherine Marks (who she labels "the best engineer in the world") for the first time since they finished the record. "There's nothing formal about the way that she works, technically," Lahey commends of Marks. "So, because of that, she's so creative and she just has this beautiful sonic palette."
A candid photo of the pair in a recording studio, which Lahey posted on Instagram to mark International Women's Day this year, speaks volumes about their close working relationship. "The record is just built out of fun," Lahey enthuses. "I was showing Catherine a video that I had taken of her that she didn't realise I was taking... There's a lot of this instrument called Mellotron on the record and she was trying to find, like, the right chords to play, and she kept on fucking it up. And then, at the end, she just lifts up her hands and looks at it and goes, '[glances around at our neighbouring tables and whispers] Cunt!' [laughs]. I showed it to her and she's just pissing herself... So that's what we were laughing at."
Alex Lahey is managed by Leigh Treweek who is a director of Handshake Media, owner of this website.