Alex Lahey on “The Answer Is Always Yes” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, July 21st, 2024  

Alex Lahey on “The Answer Is Always Yes”

A Record of Acceptance

Jun 09, 2023 Web Exclusive Photography by Koury Angelo (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share

“Shit’s fucked, but life can be good,” Alex Lahey shrugs. That’s the perfect summary of her recently released third album The Answer Is Always Yes. Across her power pop anthems, Lahey turns frustration into joy, and boring conversations into comedies. In the face of inconvenience or even dismay, Alex Lahey laughs.

Look no further than the album cover for an example of that rebellious optimism: she chuckles in front of accumulating highway traffic. “I did that [photo-shoot] with Pooneh [Ghana] last year,” the Australian musician remembers. “It was meant to just be for press shot stuff, and I wanted to have an illustrated record cover. I already knew what the album was going to be called, and that particular photo came back in the contact sheet. And I was like, ‘That’s the color. That’s it.’ To me, it just really encapsulates the title of the record and better than anything that I was working with at the time.”

For Lahey, optimism is “an active practice,” and The Answer Is Always Yes doesn’t always default to positivity. “They Wouldn’t Let Me In” simmers in the frustration of growing up queer, and “Congratulations” is an eye roll to an ex. But the album’s title track and final song insists on taking things as they are. “I think that a big part of this record is acceptance, and that doesn’t mean putting up with shit. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean just waving the white flag and not fighting for what you think is right or not believing in justice. But I also think that acceptance is a part of moving forward and creating change, too.” The juxtaposition of the album’s final two songs—the queer frustration of “They Wouldn’t Let Me In” and the content of “The Answer Is Always Yes”—doesn’t need to resolve itself. Both things exist. And Lahey’s version of acceptance is about embracing both.

The tracklist order of The Answer Is Always Yes puts this perspective front and center. The songs flip through scenarios like a sitcom: an ex’s wedding, dealing with gossip-y shit-talkers, hammering down drinks just to have a good time. You could leave the album finding each moment unrelated to the other, or zoom out and glimpse Lahey’s comfortingly unconcerned attitude. “A big part of [this album] is accepting that life is absurd and things don’t make sense and there probably isn’t a meaning to any of it. And I think that harnessing that—when you see life through that lens—you can really draw a lot out of it and you notice more granular details of things around you. And sometimes there’s a lot of joy in that.” And the album is chock-full of these granular details: hearing your neighbors play the same three chords through the walls, the dizziness of getting too stoned, haircuts, and closed bar tabs.

The Answer Is Always Yes cycles through these specks, and they all thread together into the tapestry of Lahey’s queer experience. Lahey takes her newfound role as a member of the “queer canon” seriously. She wrote the end credits anthem for The Mitchells vs. The Machines, a lovely and acclaimed Netflix animated film about a family that saves the world from an AI bot called PAL. “There’s a lot of queer joy in that movie. It’s a really special film and I was so honored to be associated with it, with that project. I think that a lot of my work kind of defaults to falling in those categories just as existing as a queer person. But it’s nice to be part of the canon.”

The canon is changing, and Lahey is both an admirer and an active part of the change. The Melbourne-born artist grew up in an era where depictions of queer joy on television were few and far between. “I feel like I grew up in a world where if queerness was ever portrayed in the media, it was a problem. That was their battle. And I’m so grateful that we live in a world today where there is far more exposure to media where queerness is either celebrated or not really a factor in someone’s survival or otherwise in the world.” Not only is queer media different now. There’s a higher demand than ever for realistic and genuine portrayals of queerness. Lahey immediately mentioned Heartstoppers, Sex Education, and Caroline Rose’s newest album The Art of Forgetting as her current favorite pieces of queer media. “I love that we’re in an age where characters don’t have to subscribe to a certain path, and it also doesn’t have to be explained either…and it’s only just getting better and better.”

The Answer Is Always Yes compounds all these little particles of experience into an understated and often funny listen. Ultimately, the album insists that these little particles mean something, even if they’re absurd or unrelated or feel like they don’t. “It’s so funny how the little moments create something bigger than any of us can fathom. Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. There’s something very beautiful about that.”

Also read our 2017 interview with Alex Lahey.

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