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Selfish Things’ Alex Biro: “I Don’t Think Rock Musicians Support Each Other Enough”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 19 September 2019 at 13.49

With three guest appearances on their debut album, Selfish Things are here to foster a community in rock music.

Selfish Things are preparing to release their debut album 'Logos' this coming Friday (September 20), and it's an incredibly personal body of work for frontman Alex Biro. Before it's released into the world, we caught up with Alex to talk through what inspired 'Logos', the connection that Selfish Things has with their fans, and what their goals are for the future.

What would you say has changed for you in the past 18 months that has helped lead you to this point?
"Personally I think I’m a lot more at peace with everything that I’ve been trying to figure out - as ineloquent as it is - my whole life. I’ve been going to therapy a lot. I’ve been going for a long time - since I was like 12, but I seemed to find the right therapist around the time that we went into recording ‘Vertical Love’. I’ve just been figuring out how to live. I think everybody is trying to figure out how to exist in a really uncertain world, and in pretty uncertain times. I’m almost at a loss for words at it really - I want to say that I’m happier, but I don’t think happier is the right word.

"I think I am more at peace with the fact that I have no control over anything. I took a really hard look at myself in the mirror and realised I’m not as good a person as I think I am, but also I’m not as bad either. I feel like I have realised that we as humans are capable of terrible things, but we are also capable of absolutely incredible things too. Ultimately I feel like I was really sad when I wrote ‘Vertical Love’. I was going through a lot, I was really nihilistic and void of spirituality. Over the last two years I have really tried to become a better person and someone who is more reflective and self-actualized, and I hope that’s reflected within this album."

It’s from that sort of realisation that you are able to conjure the most pure strain of songwriting really. It’s that battle between yourself and the rest of the world, and when you’re able to reflect that within your art it’s something very special. There isn’t this ultimate solution to anything you are worrying about, it’s just part of the journey and that’s absolutely fine…
"I don’t think there is ever going to be a solution to anything really - I think the only solution is admitting that we have no fucking control over anything. I have no control over how well this album does, I have no control over whether or not my mum gets sick, I have no control over if my relationship falls apart in 10 years - the only thing I can control is how I react to the things that come towards me. That’s where the true peace comes from - being able to sit in the storm and come out of it with everything still intact. I don’t think the goal of life is happiness - that’s a lie we’ve been sold, that’s why Disneyland exists. It’s very much a case of realizing that you have to sit in the shit sometimes, and when you come out you’re a little wiser and a little less scared than before. You learn not to let the terrible shit that comes towards you destroy you, and for a really long time it fucking destroyed me. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not growing and you’re not self-aware then you’re not alive."

What do you feel like ‘Logos’ as a title represents for you?
"‘Logos’ is derived from the work of Carl Jung. It’s less of the direct biblical interpretation of Logos, and more of his interpretation of divine order. I feel as though we are trying to attain something similar to that. If you’re truly in touch with yourself and with your life, then you want to find a portion of yourself that can sit within the parameters of ‘I want to ascend to a higher level of being’. Nobody wants to sit within his or her own misery, nobody wants to feel deeply unhappy or confused or lost, nobody wants to be afraid of death. So when I looked at the body of work that I had put together and saw how each song speaks to a different facet of my being, it just came back to the idea that the true reality of my life is to get to that ascended point of self-awareness and acceptance. I just thought that the Jung interpretation was the perfect summation of everybody’s goals - we all want to be transcendent and awake and if you don’t then you’re running from something."

It’s one thing to be able to talk about and process these feelings, but it’s a completely different one when you have a body of work in front of you to show exactly what you have been through. You have a physical thing to show the clarity that you’ve reached...
"I don’t even feel like I write these songs to be honest. I don’t feel like the person with the pen and paper. Everybody makes fun of me because I still write with a notebook, but there’s something so cathartic about scribbling lines - I feel like a conduit though. I don’t know where these lyrics truly come from and sometimes it takes me two or three years, or six months to actually realise what I was writing about at that time. I don’t feel like it’s a conscious act - my purpose isn’t to be a doctor or a lawyer as much as I wish it was, I was just given a gift from birth to explain how the fuck I feel without really knowing what I’m really saying. I’ve been lucky enough with this band to have kids connect with it and get it tattooed on them. I really wish I knew where it came from - I think it’s just from being an overly emotional person who has always been really in tune with their feelings. I just hope that people continue to find their own peace within what we put out."

Ultimately that connection with others is what music is all about. Album sales and tours and record deals are one thing but having people understand and connect with your art is the core purpose of all of this…
"I’ve been so lucky see so many cool shows over the last 18 months. I will never forget being at Slam Dunk, standing in the front row watching Jimmy Eat World. It’s amazing just how music is that universal language. People just forget their shit, stand with their friends, have a drink and sing along to a song that they listened to in their bedroom when they had their heart broken for the first time. I would love to be the biggest band in the world and be able to play two nights at Alexandra Palace with a huge budget, but I realise that it’s not about that, and if it becomes about that then it’s all wretch and no vomit. I had a message from someone saying that ‘5 Years’ was theirs and their brother’s song, and he passed away a few weeks after they saw us live. They played it at his memorial because it summerised the suffering that he felt, and I was like ‘fuck, there it is’. I don’t need anything else in my life, because in that moment my song was enough for somebody. If it’s about anything else than that then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons."

Another interesting aspect of this album is you have guest appearances from Crown The Empire’s Andy Leo, Underøath’s Spencer Chamberlain and William Ryan Key, all artists who have that same stance and connection with their art. What was it like working with each of them on their individual songs?
"Firstly, I never thought in a million years that I would have those three people on this album - if you ask anyone in the band, Underøath are in their top three bands of all time, the first time I saw Ryan Key was on MTV Cribs, and Andy is one of the most intelligent and well read people I’ve ever met. Between the three of them they are all in different places in their lives - Ryan is no longer doing Yellowcard and is doing his own beautiful Bon Iver-esque thing now, so it was super interesting having him on ‘Drained’, which is about the darker side of a relationship. I feel like the vulnerability within the verse is palpable to the feeling of starting anew, and where Ryan was after Yellowcard was very similar.

"Spencer, I have no idea how it really happened. Our manager used to manage Sleepwave, so put us in touch. They were on the ‘Erase Me’ headliner with Dance Gavin Dance, but when he got home and listened to it he was like ‘is there still time for me to hop on this?’. He tracked vocals and sent them over within 48 hours - his voice leant perfectly to the song. He’s also the nicest person - he’s in it for the music, and is really not bothered about successful Underøath are. He hung out with my daughter and mum too which was super surreal.

"Then we just asked Andy if he wouldn’t mind hopping on ‘Blood’, and he hopped on. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that they are all on the record. I’m so humbled by it, and they all elevated each song in their own way. On a bigger scale I don’t think rock musicians support each other enough - the reason rap is so successful is because artists tell each other that they fuck with them. For those people to take the time to show that they think my band is cool is super special. I’m lucky to call them friends now, and 17 year old me would shit his pants over that."

What are you hopes for the future now that the album is out in the world and no longer just yours?
"I am totally at peace with whatever happens. I’ve worked really hard to separate my real self from my artist self. I pray very much that this album means that we can continue to make music and play to bigger audiences, but as I’ve said it’s really not about that anymore. I think that I have got to the point where anything that happens is a bonus round. All I know for Selfish Things is that I am proud of how far we’ve come and of the album that we made."

Selfish Things' debut album 'Logos' is set for release September 20 through Pure Noise Records.

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