Last year, when I talked with singer-songwriter Alex Weksler over the phone, it was a warm day in July that the Baysider was taking in on the beach. A newcomer to the music scene, but hardly new to the process, she mentioned the need to write music and the want to speak to listeners in a way that other artists did to her. Letting things happen as they come, it was very much a snapshot of Alex meeting herself where she was then and figuring out where she was going to go next while keeping a keen eye on what was happening around her at the moment.
This year, when we talk on the phone, it’s the start of November and along with a weather change, there’s a “persona change” although Alex still approaches our convo with the same cheerful, yet candid energy as before. Now under the name Weks, a nickname that has been a part of her since even before she was born, Alex has released her second EP, 20 Something. Along with this 6-track EP, the name change shows an evolution for Alex artistically. “I think when I released music under Alex Weksler, it was more sad. It was kind of more me sorting through my emotions and I think Weks and the new persona is me owning my emotions and me saying, ‘This is how I’m feeling and this is how I’m dealing with it and this is why I don’t need your opinion,’ in a way,” she thinks out loud about the name change. “I think there’s just more confidence in the new persona, whereas the other one, I was just struggling moreso–and also I think it’s really just representative of the change in music genre.”
Her debut EP, Air, was an unintentional acoustic-based folk-rooted project. A self-described “Breakup EP,” this new era of her artistry finds Alex centering herself and the world around her which shows also in her decision to adopt her nickname to her stage name. “I was in a sorority and the girls in my sorority would always call me Weks, people I work with call me Weks, my friends call me that. And it’s nice because people used to call my paternal grandfather that and I didn’t get to meet him but people always say I’m a lot like him. So it was just kind of a variety of factors I guess,” she shares.
20 Something kicks off with a two minute self-titled instrumental that carries remnants of Air while introducing listeners to and inviting them into where she is now. When I ask her about the decision to start it with this instrumental, Alex describes it as being a symbolic transition for the two EPs and the growth she went through between them. “I wanted that to be very representative in a musical way and I was just so inspired by even a band like The 1975 that has these beautiful instrumental tracks that always seems to be so meaningful without the use of lyrics. I really wanted to incorporate that.” She also gives a shoutout to her manager Jess for her role in this collaborative endeavor as executive producer and pitching the use of an instrumental to get her point across.
Similar to interludes, instrumental tracks are slowly starting to get more appreciation for what they bring to bodies of work. Most notably, an instrumental gives space for the melody to breathe and shine. “I think they’re so beautiful,” Alex notes about her love for the instrumental tracks of artists like The 1975. “A lot of times, we tend as listeners to skip them but when you really take the time to listen to them before you listen to the album, oh my gosh, it creates a more lasting effect I think, when you start with that instrumental track.”
Making this track was also new for her in the way she was able to take the reins on developing that sound including playing rhythm and lead guitar on the record, “Whenever I worked with producers like someone else would always come in. So it was nice for me to have the opportunity to do that. And it made me feel more connected with that part of the EP. You have the beats and everything that the producers edited, but the guitars were all something I did. So I was really happy to do that this time around.”
“I definitely see it being something I probably do again at some point,” she refers to “Weks” when I ask her if there are any plans of returning to it with future projects as a way of transitioning between them. “It probably depends on whatever direction the next EP sounds like. So if maybe the sound changes, I could see that introduction track kinda being a mix of this EP and whatever’s to come next. So I definitely would love to include that again.”
Similar to Air, 20 Something is cinematic in feel with its storytelling through song. Air looked at herself post-breakup and in the weird in-between of feeling like one should feel like an adult but not being there yet. At the time, Alex admitted to having enough distance from making that EP that she didn’t feel like she was in the same place as she was writing it. Reaching 20 Something, then, is the realization that what we thought our twenties were supposed to be is not actually what they are.
I didn’t expect my twenties to be the way that they are, but I feel like the way I expected my twenties to be is really domesticated and boring. So, I’m kinda happy they didn’t work out the way that maybe little 14 of 15-year-old me thought they would work out.
“I am somewhat in the place where I was when I wrote 20 Something. It’s amazing just what a year of life experience can do to your mindset I think,” Alex reflects. “I still tend to make the same mistakes, but I think that I think about them more rationally now. And maybe the way I respond to the events I face in my twenties is different. Like, I’m not gonna go out and get crazy like I did last year,” she laughs. “And I’m just going through different things now. So, personality-wise, I think we’re the same but mindset wise, I’d like to think I’m handling experiences a little differently.”
When we talk a little later about the expectations we put on adulthood when we’re younger, we note how interestingly simple yet idealistic it can be. “When I was really younger, I was like, ‘I’m gonna be married! I’m gonna have a house!’ I’m 25 and I can tell you, I’m not having either of those things within the year,” she says matter-of-factly. “I think your twenties are also constantly curving your expectations for where you think you should be. I didn’t expect my twenties to be the way that they are, but I feel like the way I expected my twenties to be is really domesticated and boring. So I’m kinda happy they didn’t work out the way that maybe little 14 or 15-year-old me thought they would work out.”
I note how wild it is the concept of something as (assumingly) simple as owning a house in our 20s, for example, felt so much more like a hopeful goal than it is now that we’re here. “Now we’re just like, ‘We’re all gonna die,'” Alex jokes.
But then, if the markers that we had when we were younger to signify adulthood are no longer applicable, then what are? “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone ever grasps adulthood. I think people just do the best they can and the people that pretend they grasp adulthood probably are still a little bit of an internal mess,” she responds when I ask her if there’s something that’ll make her feel like she’s figured adulthood out. “I think even when you get to a certain age, you never really feel like, ‘Okay, I’m a full-functioning adult. And I think that’s kind of the mixed conception of becoming an adult.”
“When I was a little kid, I was like, ‘When I’m 25, I’m gonna have it all figured out.’ But, I’m also just…I don’t know,” she pauses. “I think I just thought things were easier than they are. Yeah,” she confirms. “I think I just thought, like, relationships are easy to work out and things that you want just automatically–it’s like that whole expectation versus reality concept that I think we all struggle with at times. I just don’t think I understood that the things you want don’t just automatically come to you, they take time. Like first of all, figure out what you want. And second of all, letting the process take its place.”
The ways 20 Something examines this hits personally for Alex. One of the ways is through her song “Bayside.” Named after the neighborhood she grew up in and currently resides, the track puts her struggles with depression and anxiety into a physical place. “It’s not really something I ever really wanted to release,” Alex admits. “And I also kind of struggled in a way to explain that struggle. I didn’t want it to be a song people would hear and people would feel sorry for me. I wanted people to hear the song and I wanted people to relate to it. I think so much of struggling with any type of mental illness is how to decipher the advice people give you on how to deal with it. So that aspect of the EP was not scary but kind of nerve-wracking because it’s kind of approaching mental illness in a way that I didn’t expect to write about it,” she reflects.
“I think there’s something that’s a little bittersweet about living in your town and neighborhood [you grew up in.] Like, I live in Bayside obviously and I love living here. But, there’s something a little bittersweet and kinda sad about watching yourself go through all these changes in a place where you had a totally different mindset in one point of your life,” Alex starts when I ask her about her use of place to write about mental health. “Like at one point, I was a child living in Bayside and I went through all these stages of life here. And there’s something that makes you feel a little small when you think about how different your perception of an environment is based on the headspace that you’re in.”
She clarifies the distinction, “I don’t think when I wrote the song I was like, ‘Ugh, I hate living here.’ It was like, ‘Oh, I hate how much I’ve changed living here.’ Like, I almost kinda wished my mindset stayed consistent rather than constantly going through like my own internal struggles to the point where I can’t blame the environment, I can only blame me. Like, Bayside is just the backdrop to everything I was going through when I wrote that song.”
I think when I wrote [Bayside], I was like, ‘And as I’m writing it, I’m gonna deal with it on my own terms and figure things out in my own perspective the best that I can.’
We both agree on the weird, “eerie” feeling of being witness to the changes our homes experience and the things that stay the same all while you’re also changing and the places/times you felt joy or comfort can now bring sadness or anxiety. That said, even while carrying all of this, “Bayside” feels hopeful–a reminder that you’re going to make it because you have to. “I think I definitely am an optimist,” Alex responds when I ask her, commenting on the “sing-songy melody” the track has. “It’s almost a little more upbeat–the song’s not sad but the subject matter of it is kind of sad. But, I think there’s like a hopeful aspect to it. That like, the storm is always gonna pass eventually, you just kind of have to ride it. I think when I wrote this song, I was like, ‘And as I’m writing it, I’m gonna deal with it on my terms and figure things out in my own perspective the best that I can.’ I think that’s really what the song is about, like handling what you’re going through the best that you can.”
Another surprise for her on the EP comes in the form of the song “Two-Faced” which she describes as the most out of character song she’s ever written. “I think that song just kinda shocked me because I get very emotionally invested into people so the fact that I was able to casually date two people at once that I was kinda like both conflicted about. That surprised me. Like that was just not in my nature. That’s the one track where I’m like, ‘I’m being pretty honest there and that surprises me,'” she breaks down the song.
She admits that the song makes the experience sound like it went on longer than it did. What she calls, “maybe a month’s worth of indecisiveness,” is now something she looks back on as an interesting time with the song being written in the midst of it. “I just sat down to write about it when I was really conflicted–now I don’t talk to either of those people anymore so,” she shrugs. “Awkward.”
Taking inspiration from life, Alex is also inspired by other music and the way that other artists are able to convey messages, “I listen to so many albums that, not only politically, but personally make me look at things differently. Not even just look at things differently but relate to the way I’m feeling. And I hope that the music that I write could do that for somebody else.”
“Lately, I just love when writers write about things symbolically,” she shares deeper. “Right now, one of the writers that I feel like is doing that so well is Melanie Martinez. Like the K-12 album, it has this weird narration through the eyes of being in school about body image and relatable problems but presented symbolically of being in a classroom. I thought that was incredible, I loved that album. That’s like the first thing that popped in my head that I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s such an interesting way to connect to people.’ Like, you’re connecting to them solely symbolically,” Alex praises.
There’s also the visual elements of the project that stands out to her. With more focus being put on music videos, Alex does share that there are ideas in the works to make videos for a couple of the songs on the EP that are in the “blueprint stages” when I ask her.
I listen to so many albums that, not only politically, but personally make me look at things differently. Not even just look at things different, but relate to the way I’m feeling. And I hope that the music that I write could do that for somebody else.
In terms of the feedback from others about her work, she admits that it’s what her friends have to say that really interests her such as her best friend texting her that she was listening to “We All.” “I’m just interested in, like, I know what I think it’s about but it’s so cool that like everyone has had a different interpretation of it. Everyone kind of relates to it in a different aspect of their life. So I like that the song can have more than one meaning based on who’s listening to it.”
I ask her, then, who are the people that she leans onto when she’s feeling overwhelmed to which she excitedly gives love to her best friends. “If they’re reading this, they know who they are. I’ve had some of my best friends I’ve known since I was three years old. Like, we met in pre-k and kinda stuck together. And then I have friends from college, friends from high school. I consider myself really, really blessed. And also like, my family, my sister–I don’t know what I would do without my sister, she’s my best friend.”
“I just have a really nice support system around me so I have a lot of people I can reach out to. Even when I’m feeling overwhelmed or even just to go skate for a little bit, I don’t know what I would do without them,” she admits.
Their lyrical influence is also felt by Alex in the way that she writes about her experiences with them. “They definitely influenced the theme of the album but as part as, like, sound is concerned…I don’t know, I almost didn’t want to let anyone’s opinion besides the people I was working with, in,” she reflects. “Just because I wanted to see how experimental I could be with sound. But lyric and theme-wise, they definitely influenced me a lot.”
For what she has coming up, Alex is working alongside Jess and her creative media agency, Woke Media, on some co-writing projects. “I’m really excited about it because co-writing is something I haven’t really had the experience of doing but I really want to,” she shares. Along with a show she had on the 15th of this month, her next steps is continuing on with looking for gigs and getting to writing again and creating.
I ask her if the pause on writing and creating came from a slump or from taking it all in with what she’s done on 20 Something to which she responds, “I think just taking it all in and being reflective and thinking about what’s really on my mind now, what do I wanna write about next. And just taking apt to, ‘Oh, I really like how that came out, maybe next time I want to do this different.’ I think it’s just really important to be reflective so I guess I’m taking some time to do that.”
She’s not going into the next thing empty-handed, however, even if she is letting it naturally happen. “I have some ideas,” she muses. “But, I definitely need to sit down with them a little bit more.”
Weks Mini-Playlist for Readers:
20 Something EP is available on all streaming platforms.
(photo cred: Karly Cronin @karlyshoots)