“It was always gonna be a gift for her. It’s not all about her.” Australian singer Alex Cameron clarifies this misconception about his new album, Miami Memory, which he has dedicated to his girlfriend, actress and artist Jemima Kirke.
Speaking with Northern Transmissions from Amsterdam, Alex further clarifies that the album is about things that have affected her or things that are around her.
“I just wanted to give her my perspective on how I saw the world.”
One of the album’s most notable songs about the community around them is “Far from Born Again.” The buoyant number is an empowering ode to the self-employed professional sex workers who have entered Jemima and Alex’s social life. With lines like “They’re angry little dogs, but she don’t care what they say. The same men that tell her stop are the same suckers that pay,” the only people the song judges are the hypocrites who criticize these women but also seek their services.
Alex made his name writing songs from the perspective of sordid characters. Most often, they were sleazy, problematic men who viewed themselves as underdogs and even victims in the PC era. On Miami Memory, he continues singing about these characters. “Bad For the Boys” is like a redux of Thin Lizzy’s celebratory rallying call “The Boys Are Back in Town.” The difference is that on “Bad For the Boys,” no one wants the boys back in town, except for each other, so they can keep reminiscing about their high school glories.
But such characters weren’t just figures from his past.
“A lot of the stories are just either things from my childhood, things from when I was growing up, or things that happened to family friends or stories I’ve heard about someone’s brother,” Alex explains.
Such men are still around, and arguably, they’re kicking back against the #MeToo movement just as hard as they’re being cancelled.
“The world is filled with these minute tragedies. They’re still there. I’ve always been writing about them. This time, I just focused on the ones that actually impacted people around them.”
Overall, though, on Miami Memory, Alex takes off his veneer of irony. Instead, he sings from his heart. The album is loaded with intimate scenes and direct dialogue from him to Jemima. On first single “Divorce,” he verbalizes the foolish, rash thoughts that run through his head when they argue. “I’ve got friends in Kansas City with a motherfucking futon couch, if that’s how you want to play it,” he threatens, he admits, emptily.
“The song ‘Divorce’ is kind of like an insight into where my mind goes when it’s being defensive, and certainly self-pitying. That song is meant to be my inner monologue while we’re having an argument, and I’m getting my ass kicked.”
The most heartfelt song on Miami Memory is closing track “Too Far.” “Sometimes, I find myself contemplating what my life could be like after you’ve left me, and it’s a dark place,” he realizes, before declaring his devotion to her.
Although Miami Memory is notable for the fact that Alex sings as himself, it’s not the first time he has done so. “Politics of Love,” from his previous album, 2017’s Forced Witness, is a pure, earnest love song.
“I think ‘Politics of Love’ was probably a good indication of where I was gonna head afterwards,” Alex says, reflecting on the song.
Alex admits he has trouble talking about his emotions. He can bottle them up for weeks before realizing how petty he’s being. And one would think that since there was more at stake with Miami Memory (Jemima’s approval), he would have felt greater pressure writing Miami Memory than his other albums.
But that was not the case. When he stepped outside of characters and wrote from his heart, his doting words and sentiments came easily to him. It helped having Jemima as his muse.
“No, I didn’t feel any pressure at all,” he says. “I felt really free. It was quite nice,” He elaborates: “It’s much simpler to sing from a personal perspective. It’s much more open, and things come naturally. It’s a dream,” he says of the opportunity to write in such a way and from such a place. “It’s just very natural.”
Jemima served as more than just his muse, though. She acted as a great source of encouragement, too, which he never sought or expected from anyone before. He was never shy about seeking her feedback, and she was never shy about voicing her opinions.
“Jemima’s always quite vocal about the work I’m doing, whether it’s songwriting or photography or my videos or something like that,” he says. “It was really encouraging when I first played her Miami Memory, the demo. To have her respond really positively was like, ‘Okay, I’ve done something right.’ The goal is always to try and elicit some kind of an emotional response, but I never expect to get encouragement from people. I just expect people to do something very human, which is often guarded, but Jemima was quite open with me about how much she appreciated it and how much she liked it, and I felt good about that.”
Although Alex drew inspiration from their real lives, it didn’t always come from their immediate lives. He and Jemima live in New York; thus, New York seems like a more logical backdrop for the album. But, he explains, “We’ve just been [to Miami], and I’ve spent a lot of time in Miami. It’s not my home, but it’s like my holiday destination. It’s where I like to go to unwind. It’s a place that I could definitely call home one day.”
Moreover, Alex wrote many of the songs during the year he lived in Far Rockaway, in Queens. “Any of the songs could either happen in Miami or New York. So a lot of the songs in their spirit form feel to me like they’re from that place, which is, incidentally, also by the beach.” Regardless of where he wrote from, though, in both a geographical and mental sense, as long as he had Jemima in mind, he concludes, “It’s all pretty personal.”
interview by Leslie Chu
Fri. Sept. 27 – Glasgow, UK @ Art School
Sun. Sept. 29 – Southampton, UK @ Loft
Tue. Oct. 1 – Lille, FR @ Aeronef Club
Wed. Oct. 2 – Paris, FR @ Trianon
Thu. Oct. 3 – Reims, FR @ La Cartonnerie
Fri. Oct. 4 – Nantes, FR @ Lieu Unique
Sat. Oct. 5 – Orléans, FR @ Astrolabe
Mon. Oct. 7 – Zurich, CH @ Mascotte
Tue. Oct. 8 – Dudingen, CH @ Bad Bonn
Wed. Oct. 9 – Milan, IT @ Ohibo
Thu. Oct. 10 – Bologna, IT @ Covo
Sat. Oct. 12 – Salzburg, AT @ Rockhouse Birthday Party
Sun. Oct. 13 – Vienna, AT @ Flex Cafe
Mon. Oct. 14 – Munich, DE @ Strom
Tue. Oct. 15 – Prague, CZ @ Meet Factory
Wed. Oct. 16 – Berlin, DE @ Festsaal Kreuzberg
Fri. Oct. 18 – Stockholm, SE @ Vasateatern
Sat. Oct. 19 – Oslo, NO @ Parkteatret
Sun. Oct. 20 – Gothenburg, SE @ Pustervik
Mon. Oct. 21 – Copenhagen, DK @ Vega
Tue. Oct. 22 – Hamburg, DE @ Uebel & Gefährlich
Wed. Oct. 23 – Cologne, DE @ Artheater
Fri. Nov. 1 – Richmond, VA @ Richmond Music Hall
Sat. Nov. 2 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle
Tue. Nov. 5 – Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5
Wed. Nov. 6 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In
Thu. Nov. 7 – St. Louis, MO @ Ready Room
Fri. Nov. 8 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Sat. Nov. 9 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line
Tue. Nov. 12 – Bloomington, IN @ Bishop Bar
Wed. Nov. 13 – Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
Thu. Nov. 14 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
Fri. Nov. 15 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
Sat. Nov. 16 – Montreal, QC @ Fairmount
Wed. Nov. 20 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Thu. Nov. 21 – Boston, MA @ Sinclair
Fri. Nov. 22 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Sat. Nov. 23 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Thu. Dec. 5 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
Fri. Dec. 6 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
Sat. Dec. 7 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
Sun. Dec. 9 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird
Mon. Dec. 10 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Wed. Dec. 12 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
Thu. Dec. 13 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Fri. Dec. 14 – Vancouver, BC @ Hollywood Theatre