Interview and Photography By Francesca Beltran
It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in New York City and Alex Brettin, the mastermind behind The Mild High Club, is sitting carefree on the pavement outside of Pianos. He’s feeling tired but pleased; the musician just finished playing another successful CMJ set inside the packed venue, where he delighted the audience with excerpts from his recently released debut LP, Timeline. I sit next to him on the street (quietly cursing my choice for a skirt) and we begin chatting about his drifty music and the challenge of now doing this project on his own, as opposed to recording and touring with other bands like Ariel Pink, Mac DeMarco and Silk Rhoses, like he’s always done.
Truth is, Brettin is every bit as chill and easygoing as his soft rock tunes. During our conversation, I learn about his fascination with the Internet and of his honest appreciation for the talented people around him. An unassuming and sensitive guy; Brettin is on a quest to materialize the songs inside his head, while trying to figure out his place on this planet. When our conversation ends I bid him farewell, sincerely wishing him good luck on both accounts.
What was the best moment during the recording of Timeline?
Probably when I made the song “Timeline.” It was like 2:30 in the morning and I got out of bed with this song in my head, and I went and recorded it all that night. That was really when I thought, I need to make an album out of this. It was a test to my will to see if I could whip something out like that.
If you could describe an ideal timeline of your life how would it go?
That’s the thing; I don’t even know. I’m so confused by this world; I’m still trying to figure out what I’m even doing here. In terms of the timeline, what I would expect is to live as long as I can to get as much out of this world before I hop in to the next.
Why did you choose that title?
I had a bit of a head trip on this Facebook timeline feature, and identifying yourself, and creating an identity, and creating what you want to seem to be. It’s all about identity and self-awareness I guess.
Why did you decide to write a record on your own?
Well, I had been playing on a couple of bands at the time and I found that it was difficult to sort of get a group mentality going; I just wanted to get what was on my mind out and not wait on some democratic thing. I wanted to expedite the process; but that being said, at this point I’m back to just wanting to bring different minds into the situation to heighten the music.
You’ve toured and worked with a number of musicians in the past; what’s the hardest thing about doing this project on your own?
It’s liberating. Even though it’s not something that I necessarily want to keep to myself. The concept of The Mild High Club is a collective group of people that I’m inspired by and who enlighten me with their talents and ideas. It started out with me kind of messing around, but it has developed into this sort of group hive mind thing and I just happen to be stirring the ship. Which is cool.
What’s the most important thing you have learned from working with other musicians?
Listening. And just patience and really just trying to fully remove my ego and remove my sense of self so that I can just absorb what they’re saying and what they mean. I’ll always be the student and I’ll always feel that anyone can teach me anything, so as long as I keep that mentality with people, it seems to yield meaningful results.
Is there someone in particular that you would like to work with?
I’d like to work with Paul McCartney; that’d be cool. Or Steely Dan. I’d just like to have a lesson with them, you know?
Looking into the future, how would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered by my name. I’d like to be remembered for songwriting. I never had this rockstar dream; it was novel for a second, but this world is so obscured, the music industry and all that, it’s hard to even know how to calibrate my effect and who I’m reaching. My aspirations now are to just to get to the point where I can really pull anything that I hear in my head out of it. That’s the goal.
You dedicated your last song to one of your biggest influences, who is it?
That would be Steely Dan. Still learning everyday from their music, I have yet to get bored from any of their compositions.
How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
Well I don’t want them to get mad, that’s for sure. Anything else I’m down with. I didn’t intend for them to feel anything really, I just hoped that at least one person out there gets inspired to do something.