Alex Lleo always starts with a melody. He bashes it around on various instruments in the garden shed where he works; experiments, hones, and slowly builds a song around it. Judging by his debut EP, it’s a system that works. Take ‘Bedroom Door', the first track. Not only does it have one masterful melody, it has two. The central melody will stay with you instantly, in the way only the strongest melodies do. The counter-melody provides “thinking time between the words”, as Alex puts it, expressing the emotion of the song in his own time, using pauses and rhythm with artful skill. The result is soulful and addictive, mellow and warm.
Spending time in nature - in the Lickey Hills where he lives and grew up, the awe-inspiring Scandinavian mountains and surfing the various coastlines of the British Isles - has always been Alex's vibe, particularly walking by the coast on cold, winter days. “I love how wild and crazy it can get; it humbles you,” he says. “The world we live in is so fast and you don't have time to consider. Being outside brings you back down to earth.”
You can hear his attraction to the natural world, its peace and its drama, in the music, which is exquisitely paced, mellow and earthy. It’s also no surprise to hear he was drenched in music like the Four Tops, the Temptations and Faces while growing up. The songs are carefree and relaxing while also melodically robust and catchy.
The EP has echoes of Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, Neil Young, early Ben Howard and John Martyn. He’s inspired by Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Arcade Fire, ELO and the experimentation of David Bowie, describing his creative process as “throwing the kitchen sink when no one's looking and trying to rein it back a bit.” Over the last few years he’s played the pub circuit in England and Norway, while writing his own emotionally astute songs since he was a teenager. “All my songs are about relationships,” he chuckles.
The EP was recorded at Park Studios in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and it was the first time his band had all met each other. They recorded the three tracks in one day, with Alex intent on capturing the spontaneity of a first time performance. “I wanted something to document that we could do it without any fancy trimmings,” he says. He was keen to capture the moment, rather than glossy, managed perfection. “I was determined to get the mistakes,” he says. “To be live in a room together creates moments in time that you just can’t replicate. It was that 'spur of the moment' thing I really wanted to showcase to people”. The recordings were filmed for the accompanying videos and you can sense the kinetic energy in the room through the screen.
The element that ties it all together is Alex Lleo’s voice. He’s got one of those soulful, resonant, one-of-a-kind voices you want to listen to again and again, evoking beach fires at dusk, and hazy summer evenings after surfing the perfect wave. It is exceptional - and the first release of what will be a long, rich and intriguing career.