Chaos in the Kitchen: A Conversation with Alex Cohen of Alex Napping

by Joel Greatbatch

Alex Napping Alex Cohen

Alex Napping has been exciting crowds in Austin for a few years now and building up a loyal local following, but they’re swiftly gaining media attention outside of the city and seem poised to break out in a major way soon. With their heavily anticipated new album Mise En Place about to drop (complete with a hometown album release show at Cheer Up Charlie’s Friday, May 5th) we talked to band leader Alex Cohen about what the album entails, what inspired its sound, and the challenges of working with a band across two states.

Joel Greatbatch for Ovrld: When and how did y’all meet to form Alex Napping?

Alex Cohen: I met the rest of the band through various music projects over the course of a few years and when I decided to start a band of my own, I just asked them if they wanted to be a part. Luckily they all said yes! We played our first show ever in October 2013. 

Ovrld: You live in New York now, yet the rest of the band remains in Austin. What methods have you employed to still work together despite the distance?

AC: I’ve become really efficient at e-mailing everybody to keep them in loop with all of the important day-to-day business. We’re also usually talking/texting throughout the day most days. As far as writing and creating, I’ve been steadily working on demos for our next record at my studio up in Brooklyn and have been sharing them with Adrian [Haynes] (the other guitarist) for feedback, etc and going from there. We also try to get as much done as possible while I’m in Austin or when they are up in New York. Interestingly enough, the distance has made our time together more productive and focused so I feel like it evens out to the same results as if we were all in the same city.

Ovrld: Is there a correlation between the title, Mise En Place, and the themes you’re employing in the album? I gave it a trusty Google and it told me it’s a French phrase which means ‘everything in its place’.

AC: There is! So, more specifically ‘mise en place’ is a culinary technique that basically means you prep and measure out all of your ingredients before you start cooking. This should greatly reduce the chances of chaos in the kitchen. A lot of the record is about my personal struggle with uncertainty and how, through trying to do things a “proper way,” I was trying to control outcomes in my personal, professional & romantic lives.


Ovrld: Were there any particular musical influences you discovered between Trembles and Mise En Place that gave your new album any new sounds?

AC: I got really, really into Chairlift right before we started recording Mise En Place and found myself drawn to the idea of being more deliberately playful with my voice. It’s something I’m still really diving into and I think will be even more apparent on our next record. 

Ovrld: The design you have for the album vinyl, the one that looks like a cyan & bone plate, who had the idea for that? It’s one of the coolest looking vinyl LPs I’ve seen in a while.

AC: Thank you! We just wanted to go with colors that were close to ones on the actual vinyl jacket art and liked that particular color configuration from the options the pressing plant gave us and just rolled with it. They turned out so much cooler than I ever anticipated!

Alex Napping Mise En Place

The special cyan and bone vinyl edition of Mise En Place

Ovrld: How did your SXSW performance go? Have any highlights from other acts you saw at SXSW?

AC: SXSW was surprisingly fun this year. We loved playing the Father/Daughter showcase and getting to meet so many folks from our label fam for the first time. The whole week was just getting to meet  and/or hang with a bunch of artists I love and respect and that was super special. I really loved the set from our fellow F/D-ers Never Young. I was also super blown away by Half Waif — I loved her music but it was my first time getting to see it live. Jay Som, Palm & PWR BTTM were also noteworthy highlights.

Ovrld: Any personal reason for holding the album launch at Cheer Up Charlie’s?

AC: Cheer Ups is about as home turf as it gets for us. We’ve played so many special shows there, including our first record release. We love the staff and the community around that venue, too. There wasn’t really another place that I even considered having the show.

Ovrld: What’s next on the agenda? Tours? More recording?

AC: We’ve got a tour that starts right after the album comes up that takes us to the east coast & midwest. We’ll be doing some SW + West coast later in the summer and a couple of other things are in the works for the fall. I’ve got our next record basically demoed out and am just diving in deep and refining everything. I’m hoping we will be back in the studio late this year/early next. Stay tuned!

Alex Napping play Cheer Up Charlie’s this Friday, May 5th with Caroline Says and more.

Joel Greatbatch is a Kiwi but please don’t eat him. Instead, follow him on Twitter at @joelgreatbatch or read his writing at The Kiwi Cowboy