“I’m a firm believer in ripping your heart out and putting it on your sleeve, and letting people see it,” says the namesake Alex of solo project Alex Orange Drink, an offshoot of iconic Brooklyn punk outfit So So Glos. “I think there’s real bravery in that and I think there’s really something to being vulnerable. In a way that maybe classic punk rock never did, everyone’s so guarded, and I think that really if you put your bleeding heart out there, it’s just like, let it go.”
These words sum it up as he prepares to drop his second album under the moniker, one derived from the “Orange Drink” medication he takes to treat his chronic condition homocystinuria. To put it simply, this condition makes it so the body can’t metabolize certain amino acids, leading to vitamin deficiencies and serious outcomes like heart attack, stroke and death. The album, entitled Everything is Broken Maybe That’s OK, deals with his personal experiences facing this rather grave predicament, one he’s faced since birth, as well as a recent breakup and the intersection of the two.
After writing many politically-charged albums with the Glos (Alex refers to the band lovingly as just the “Glos” throughout our interview, so I will do the same), he found the Alex Orange Drink project to be the perfect songwriting vehicle to explore the many thematic lanes that called to him over the years, his medical history and romantic experiences.
“I think it’s very cool that this generation became so politically charged. The Glos started ten or twelve years ago, and it was very not cool to talk anything political. It was all blasé post-Strokes, hey we don’t care and that’s cool. Which I don’t think is cool,” he explains. “But I feel like we spend a lot of time writing political songs and pushing it, but this album is the least like that to me, and I think there’s actually something political about talking about love and vulnerability in a time when everybody is kind of guarded and isolated and overly politically charged, but not as vulnerable. The ultimate punk move, rebel against the politics and write some love songs.”
And if you think about it, in many ways, the issues of our health histories and love lives are in many ways political. Many battles have been fought in the halls of government dictating who’s allowed access to whatever life-saving medical treatment, or who is allowed to love whom. The personal is political, and whether or not it’s stereotypically “punk” to confront these issues in your songs is a whole other conversation entirely.
In fact, homocystinuria is what initially led Alex to punk music to begin with: “Everyone has their own struggle that leads them to some sort of salvation, and for those who find it in music, it’s especially raw, I guess? But without music I would be totally lost.” There’s something nearly perfect about the arc, this fateful sequence of sometimes unfortunate events that led him to where he is now: had it not been for the serious medical diagnosis, would he have sought refuge in NYC’s punk scene as a kid? If he had not done that, would the Glos ever come to fruition? And if he hadn’t spent ten or twelve years exhausting the part of his brain he used for writing hard-edged political bangers, would he have found the time or space to delve deep into this personal vulnerability? Who’s to say? But the project, and the album, underscore the reality that it can sometimes be the worst things that happen to us that lead us right to where we need to be.
And the music is different, if only because it’s all Alex. He released a previous album as Alexander Orange Drink in 2018, Babel On, which he describes as “me in my room messing with synthesizers…kind of Trent Reznor turning knobs alone and trying to put my lyrics to a different kind of musical palette.” It too dealt with a romantic conundrum, but also the general political restlessness of the new Trump administration, something he was ready to leave behind on this second offering. The new one is more akin to what you might expect from one of the Glos, a raucous big live band sound that differs from the Glos mainly in its sentiment, the vulnerability of its humanness, the truth that sometimes he needs love as a drug just as much as his Orange Drink.
“I try to leave a little bit of me out of it with the Glos,” he says. “Because it is a democracy and it is a band, and we fill in a few of the puzzle pieces there. “Even if I happen to write a good percentage of a given song, we all fill it in together & collaborate. That’s very much consciously a collaborative thing with the Glos.”
This project offers him the creative space to write 100 percent of the song. “This project is a very cathartic way to talk about stuff I never have. I just always ignored this kind of life threatening disease I was born with,” he explains. “But if it can inspire, someone with either a medical or psychological thing that’s connected to food, or any kind of medical thing, can find solace in some of the songs, that’s why I wanted to share it.”
He continues: “I just know what it’s like to spend a lot of time at doctors’ offices, and it’s, you know, it makes me want to jump out of my skin and jump into a mosh pit and that’s why I love music. Hopefully it will do the same thing and be contagious for someone else who really needs it.”
The prospect of letting others into the deepest parts of his brain, heart and body in general presents a new source of anxiety for him, but he ultimately believes it will be worth it, and now he can move onto the next thing. Because after the year we’ve all had, the myriad failures of our government and our fellow citizens, what could be more political, more punk rock, than writing a song about how just how much it fucked you up on a personal level?
Watch the latest video from Alex Orange Drink, “How High,” directed by Brendan Bowers premiering below.