Interview with Carousel Kings vocalist David Alexander | By Nicholas Senior
Go figure that a band from the modern metalcore capital of America—Lancaster, Pennsylvania—were able to craft one of the most refreshing pop punk records in ages. Carousel Kings’ upcoming third album—and first for Victory Records—is everything great from the past 15 years of the style wrapped into one package. Charm City has the melodic grit of easycore groups like New Found Glory and even A Day To Remember, paired with the more mature, hooky, introspective style of MxPx and Cartel. It’s a haven for fans of the style, and it’s an incredibly coherent, consistent record from a new voice.
Vocalist David Alexander shares that Charm City came together so well thanks to… floatation therapy? “We took a lot of time off to write,” he begins. “During that time, we were doing a lot of floatation therapy. We would demo stuff out and go into this float room and listen to it in there just for hours. We spent, like, a year doing that: floating and demoing songs. We were trying to relax as much as possible.”
OK, so what is flotation therapy? “[It’s] sensory deprivation,” Alexander explains. “The idea is you go in with a clear mind and your thoughts disappear, and like a volcano erupting, these little thought bubbles spur sometimes. We just tried to get the most clear, original, and concise ideas that we could.”
“I view it as a tool or a catalyst that can work like a meditation state,” he continues. “In those, you can literally change your brain by the thoughts you’re feeding your mind. It’s really relaxing: 10 inches of water, 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts, the water is the same temperature as your body, and you go in with earplugs. You can have a little blue light on or off, but otherwise, it’s complete darkness—you and your mind. You go in there for a minimum of 60 minutes. I usually go in for overnights, which can go up to four hours. It’s the most relaxing thing, like your own personal Dead Sea experience.”
So, why floatation therapy? “I was working this shitty job and found this ad, and this dude was looking for artists to use floating therapy in exchange for free publicity,” Alexander recalls. “I ended up trying it out and loved it. It worked out that they weren’t happy with their staff, and I need a job when I’m not on tour, so it worked out. I got the whole band on it,” he laughs.
Alexander chose to do a lot of writing in the studio, using the therapy as a tool to drive his creativity. “Two or three of the songs were written prior to the studio, so during flotation, but most of the lyrics were written in the studio, on the spot,” he says. “This record was a lot about capturing in the moment rawness or genuine emotion. There would be writings where I’d get upset and write a whole bunch of shit I’d never think about after I wrote it.”
“I liked [songwriting] in the studio, because your first thought, your gut feeling, is often right,” he adds. “We’d hear a melody and build a song around it. When you allow your intuition to drive the song more than your mind, when you allow your creativity to flow—we found being in the moment really worked for us. A lot of hooks feel very natural.”
Even the trippy cover art from Archan Nair was spawned due to Alexander’s time floating. “I was floating, and I was thinking of names to call the album,” he explains. “This is our third album on a label, and the whole ‘third time’s a charm’ thing stuck in my head, so let’s call it Charm City. It was like the place I would go to when I would visualize my life’s successes and goals. I believe that if you visualize something, you can make it happen. I hope people can look at the art and think about it and look inward.”
“I didn’t know if anyone could understand this whole concept I was trying to relay with this whole Charm City hippie thing,” Alexander laughs. “I saw some of Nair’s artwork hanging in the spa, so I hit him up on Instagram, and he actually got back to me, and he agreed to do it. He just killed it, man. Listening to him talk was something; I couldn’t even respond. He literally talked for an hour about your ‘self’ and how there’s no ‘self.’ It was meant to be, to me. He’s a brilliant dude and incredibly talented.”
It seems like destiny to have it all work out so well so quickly. “It all just reconfirmed all that I believe,” Alexander affirms. “I don’t want to call it a religion or whatever the fuck, [but] whatever rabbit hole I stumbled upon, I feel like I’m on the right track.”
“I definitely started to buy into the whole thought-creation thing,” he elaborates. “It was at a horrible, traumatic time of my life. I felt like I had lost everything, but at the same time, it made me appreciate all of the things that I did have, because I was able to overlook the negative—and there was a lot—and was able to choose to visualize the positive shit that could happen despite all that’s going on in the world.”