Life’s mundane moments offer rich humour, joy, and empathy to those who have the talent to see them. Breakout Australian artist Alex Lahey is one of those individuals. Shunning songs about extravagant life events in favour of pithy observations on dating, drinking, and unexpectedly gaining weight, the 25-year-old distills what it means to be a young adult coming of age in the era of avocado toast and Tinder. It’s an approach that’s winning her fans all over the world.
Unlike artists peddling the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle of parties and drugs, Lahey is endearingly relatable. Always dressed down in high-neck Ts, jeans, and maybe a crumpled shirt, she’s the anti-pop-punk star—but not by design. Unlike those who have been coached by a hundred PR reps, when she mentions that she’s “just being herself”, it’s the God’s honest truth.
“There’s not a pathway that someone else has paved that I’m trying to follow,” she tells the Straight on the line from Austin, Texas. “There are definitely people in the industry that I respect, and I aspire to have that kind of respect from my peers too. There are some amazing artists, like St. Vincent—who’s a great performer, especially when we’re talking about guitar players—or someone like Courtney Barnett, who I really look up to for how she goes about her music and carries herself. Then there’s someone like Sia, who doesn’t fit any mould and just does her own thing. There are so many women out there who really do well, but I’m just doing what feels right for me.”
First hitting the music-blog radar with her EP B-Grade University—an unintentional concept record about surviving college and liking Wes Anderson movies—Lahey was unexpectedly awarded Pitchfork’s best-new-track award before making it into Australia’s tastemaking Triple J Hottest 100 listener poll. Having studied music biographies like textbooks since her early teens, the artist was ready when her call-up to the big leagues came through.
“I was really fortunate to be given some great opportunities early on,” she recalls. “I met Tegan and Sara very briefly in Australia, for example, and I got asked to go on tour with them this year, not long after. It was such a pure act of generosity from two artists that I respect so much and grew up listening to. I really look up to them as role models, but it’s also given me some new goals, like one day I would like to be in a position in my career where I can just offer someone that opportunity because I like them and what they do.”
Now, with the release of her debut album, I Love You Like a Brother, on major streaming platforms, Lahey has embarked on a solo tour to promote the record’s bouncy, sing-along tracks. Mashing up wistful lyrics about relationships of all stripes with catchy, bubblegum-pop-punk guitar riffs, the artist shows how far her songwriting has progressed in just a year.
“You have to be a leader, and you have to push through and create progress, or else you’re going to be stuck in the same cycle,” she says. “I try to focus on things that we can see in ourselves and all reflect on. I think there’s a lot of comfort when we connect with a stranger on a level that’s very personal. It’s really nice to not feel alone.”
Alex Lahey plays the Cobalt on Tuesday (December 12).
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays