“The best gigs happen when people are screaming lyrics back in my face,” says Alex Wieringa, front man of Rare Candy. The Chicago-based band, which Alex started when he was just a teenager, has developed a distinctive sound over time that blurs the line between punk-rock and folk. I discovered Rare Candy’s various EPs on Spotify last month, and I’ve been hooked ever since. (I’d even go so far as to say that RC is my fave band right now.) For this week’s post, I chatted with Alex about his skillful songwriting, inspiration, and newly found place in the emo genre.
A Perfect Playlist: Tell me a little bit about how you got started. How long have you been singing?
Alex Wieringa (Rare Candy): Rare Candy began as a solo passion project of songs that didn’t “fit the mold” of a previous band I’d been in. I was in my school choir from preschool until 8th grade, then I started playing real shows by myself when I was 19.
APP: You have a super unique sound. How would you define your genre?
AW: I’ve been tagging Rare Candy as a “folk-pop” band, and it seems to fit pretty well. I began playing in more pop-punk influenced band when in high school, but always had fun playing more blues and folk-style guitar. My uncle played in blues and country bands for as long as I could remember, so it was something that was familiar to me. Those two influences seemed to just mesh and come together naturally.
APP: I’ve read in a few different places that Rare Candy fits into a new wave of emo music. Are there specific artists, emo or not, that have inspired you over the years?
AW: I think that Rare Candy unintentionally fits into the emo genre. The vibe of my music takes a direction that has been seen in bands like Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms, to name a few recent groups. I also took influence from bands such as Go Radio and Nevershoutnever when I was younger. I very much enjoy pushing what I can do guitar-wise in order to spice up the instrumentals on a more straight-forward melody. I’ve been a big fan of The White Stripes/Jack White, The Milk Carton Kids, and The Tallest Man on Earth for some time now, all of which have influenced my guitar playing.
APP: Your most popular single, “If You See Her, Tell Her I’m Over It” is one of my favorites. The song is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t ask you what it’s about. But if you had to sum it up in one sentence, what would you say?
AW: In one sentence: “I’m definitely not over it, but I very much want to be, so I’m going to fake it till I make it.” (P.S. It’s all love now, though.)
“You’re the kind of girl that makes me wish that I had never even met you. I miss you every day, and even though you’re not around I don’t resent you.”
APP: Each of your songs is its own story. Is there one song/story that means the most to you?
AW: There are a few songs that I hold very close to me. “Sweet Potato Taco” got its name when my two best friends and I were taking a break from recording and we had, you guessed it, sweet potato tacos. But it was also written at a time where I was missing someone dear to me and it is undoubtedly one of the most positive and happy songs I’ve written. “Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads” is probably one of my favorite stories. It’s just a very powerful realization of not blaming myself for things that go wrong, and a story of moving forward and sharing blame. These are two songs that stray from my usual “sad as fuck” vibe.
APP: Fave movie soundtrack?
AW: “Tarzan.” Phil Colins is an absolute madman. He could write a song about anything and still twist your heart into pieces while making you want to sing along to every word.
APP: There are a few of your songs that have flat-out made me cry. Your lyrics, which convey specific stories and experiences, are also incredibly relatable. When you’re writing a new song, how do you hone in on that emotional aspect of the story and craft a song?
AW: Thank you so much, I’m flattered. I always do my best to never force lyrics or a song idea. In order to keep my stuff genuine, I immediately jot down any interesting ideas I come up with. Sometimes, I’ll bang out an idea in an hour. Other times, a song will take weeks. Being patient gets stressful and annoying, especially when I’m sitting on one song for so long, but it’s the key to my writing. I always write what I would want to listen to had I been going through the same situation from an outside perspective. I enjoy my own songs very much, which makes it that much more fun and easy to say what I want to.
APP: Tell me a little bit about your latest record, Turnip Head. Where did the name come from?
AW: The songs on Turnip Head were all written around the same time. The song “Dry Clean only” very much would have fit on the earlier EP, Cream Soda, but the rest of the songs are much more mature in guitar style and in lyrical content.
“Turnip Head” is the name of a character from the movie “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki introduces the character as an enchanted Scarecrow who follows Sophie, the protagonist, along on her journey. He’s always silent and bouncing around, lending a hand while he can. We find out later that he was cursed and far from his homeland, and also that he’s in love with Sophie. Long story short, I thought he was a cute concept and related to him in an odd way. A long journey and a happy ending.
APP: Fave song lyric of yours?
AW: My favorite lyric I’ve written is: “you always hated being woken up, I should have spoken up and said just what was on my mind that day you packed your things,” from “Queen of Autumn.” It’s just very intimate, genuine and vulnerable. The entirety of that song is such a tender topic and heavy situation. The lyric “are you living, or just trying to stay alive?” also hits home. My favorite line to perform is: “I know I said I’d call but to be honest I just got a little faded.” Because lol true. Plus, I always scream it at the top of my lungs every time, and normally the crowd does too.
APP: What’s next for Rare Candy? Are you working on a new record/planning to tour soon?
AW: I’m writing all the time. I have a new single in the works simply for the sake of steadily releasing material. A small tour is coming up in the winter, and then more recording next year. Always keeping busy for sure.
Thanks so much, Alex!
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