Deserting the Big City

Ian Alexy’s new EP takes on a Valley perspective

Eric Christenson

LOGGING THE STUDIO TIME. Ian Alexy relocated to the Valley after a decade in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Photo: Joshua Priestley
LOGGING THE STUDIO TIME. Ian Alexy relocated to the Valley after a decade in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Photo: Joshua Priestley

Before he transplanted himself to the Valley, songwriter Ian Alexy was gallivanting all over the Minnesota music scene in the past decade with his rootsy folk duo, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, alongside his brother Teague. The Hobo Nephews have strung together five full-length albums over the years – not to mention a beautiful ode to Brett Favre called “Old Number Four” – and toured the country relentlessly, while both Ian and Teague sporadically dropped boundary-pushing solo material. In more recent years, Ian relocated to northwestern Wisconsin and quickly hopped into the local music scene, playing shows and recording new stuff – all while making sure to keep a toe firmly in the Twin Cities scene. Now, with the release of a brand new EP, Deserters, Ian and his band The Deserters are set to drop six songs that are packed with full-blown rock ’n’ roll gusto – right here in Eau Claire at The Plus on Feb. 17. We recently caught up with Ian to talk about the reflective new EP, the inspiration he finds from his new Wisconsin home, and the thrills and throes of independent musicianhood.

Volume One: So tell me the story of how you ended up in the Chippewa Valley. I know you were heavy in the Twin Cities music scene for a long time. How’s it been since you moved here?

Ian Alexy: Well I am originally from the Jersey shore near Atlantic City, but I had been living in Minnesota for about 10 years, first in Duluth and then in Minneapolis. I love Minneapolis but was getting tired of the urban life. I figured if I lived in the Chippewa Valley I could still be involved in the Twin Cities music scene and also live in the country. I still play most of the same venues, but now my rent is cheaper.

You definitely didn’t waste any time getting into the live scene, which is really cool to see. How has your live show evolved?

My live show usually grows along with my songwriting and musical interests. A few years a go I was really into re-working old heavy metal songs and presenting them in an acoustic singer-songwriter environment. Lately I have really been into honky tonk country stuff like Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam, although I haven’t really incorporated that into my own style yet. As I get into these different things they usually have a subliminal influence on my songwriting. The songs usually inform the live performance. When I am playing with The Deserters, as I will be at The Plus, I am able to stretch out with my singing and guitar playing. They are such a solid band, so it makes it fun to play solos and improvise within the framework of the songs.

Now, you’ve got this new EP, Deserters, which seems reflective – the concept is like looking back on your city life with a comparatively more rural perspective. What typically inspires you as a songwriter?

I guess I am inspired by the things life throws at me. Good and bad. Surviving as an independent artist in the corporate world always makes for interesting stories. Most of the songs on the new EP were written while I was still living in Minneapolis or on the road with Hobo Nephews. The song “Deserters,” even though it sounds like a relationship song, in my mind I was talking about leaving Minneapolis. Kind of a goodbye song to the city and its hold on me. The place that you live can often define you, and in order to become the person you want to be you sometimes have to leave that place. It is the same with human relationships. Even if you really love someone, sometimes it’s not the right thing for you.

The record definitely has a live feel to it. The songs have undeniable energy. Is that something you tried to do purposefully in the recording process? What was it like?

It was fun and fairly easy. We cut the basic tracks live in the same room, so we had eye contact. That way you get the majority of the track all at once. That also creates a certain energy that is sometimes missing in today’s music. We are in the age of Pro Tools and I think that has a huge affect on the music that is created. Musical style often follows technology. With digital recording everything is available electronically. We could have added anything we wanted to the songs, but for some reason I tend to keep it simple. I like for the sound to actually exist in the room and be captured rather than be created internally on the computer.

After your release show at The Plus, what does the future look like for you and the band? More shows? Tours, maybe?

Right now I am focusing on release shows in the region and creating some videos for the songs on the record. I am also a video artist like Maude’s weird friend in The Big Lebowski. I am hoping the first video will be out very soon.

Catch Ian Alexy and the Deserters and pick up their new EP Deserters at their Eau Claire release show at The Plus on Feb. 17. Music starts at 9pm with opening act Claytown and the show is all ages and $8.