From the time of our conversation, it is T minus nine days from the launch of Alex the Astronaut’s debut album, The Theory of Absolutely Nothing (released 21 August). The Australian musician (real name, Alex Lynn) is chatting from her attic in Sydney where she has been hunkering down during the pandemic. As she explains, it was a long fought mission to even prepare for the album’s take-off.
“The universe is against me,” Lynn exclaims – a notoriously tough opponent by anyone’s standards, be it artist or astronaut. She was due to release the album at the beginning of the year and was now set to be touring Europe. “Everything got pushed back to August before Corona though, for logistical reasons”, she explains. Naturally, when the pandemic came along, there was no chance Lynn was prepared to postpone the release any further. As she rightly points out, “with anything right now, if you start pushing it back, you might be pushing it back for a long time”. With the 21 August confirmed as the release date, all that was left to do was to plan its launch. Easier said than done when the universe is your current nemesis.
“The first plan was to do a record store release but that got cancelled because Melbourne went into massive lockdown,” says Lynn. Much like the UK, certain areas of Australia have experienced waves of infection leading to travel bans, making any form of public release near-impossible. “Then we had this idea where I was going to sing inside a dinosaur, but then the museum closed,” she says, still looking slightly heartbroken about it. “Then we were thinking of putting me on top of the Harbour bridge as that would be quite socially distant. But we were told you can’t have drones flying by a road, which is fair enough,” she continues. No other plan seems to have solidified yet, but Lynn’s spirit remains strong. “It will be a really good day regardless, and one day I will get my dinosaur”.
Despite this tyrannical battle with the gods of misfortune, Lynn remains an optimist. “I miss playing shows, but it’s been really good for me in terms of writing and practising my instruments,” she says. Her attic hideaway where she has been honing these skills sounds enviable, especially as I stare out to a dreary Sheffield morning. Despite it being Winter there, she assures me the sunshine has rarely ceased and she often does “a sneaky, sneaky sit out on the roof,” between bouts of writing.
“I’ve always written on my own and have lots of notes everywhere. I then use a producer to make everything sound nice,” she says. Despite admitting to being a novice to production, Lynn explains how the recording of this debut has encouraged her to give it a whirl.
“I have been discovering the world through breakups, love or friendship and learning about how messed up the world can be, but also how beautiful it is.”
“I recorded ‘I Like to Dance’ with my friends, Nora, Jen, and Holly. “I had never been in the studio with only with women before. In fact, I had often only experienced being the only girl in the room,” says Lynn. “It was really nice for me. That was one of the moments that gave me the confidence to start looking at production.”
That is not to say Lynn shied away from production help. Four of the songs from The Theory of Absolutely Nothing were recorded in London’s infamous RAK studios with Huddersfield born producer Jonathan Quarmby. “I didn’t know much about it, but I kind of knew it was fancy because when I was on a writing camp there, Rihanna came to the studio,” she remembers. “We weren’t allowed to see her. I wanted to hide under the table and watch her recording,” she laughs, as I whole heartedly sympathise. “But they were like no, get out.”
Many of the other tracks from the album were recorded with the Australian band, Ball Park Music, including the soul warming single, ‘I Think You’re Great’, released in January. “We were having so much fun with the track. Sometimes in the studio it can be long and hard but with this one we were just having the best time,” she says. You can hear this joy in the last few seconds of the single, where the mics were left running – ‘that’s a fun song!’ Lynn announces to the band, to which they respond, ‘you’re a genius’.
They are not wrong. Much like fellow Aussie songwriter, Courtney Barnett, Lynn’s genius is in how she paints narratives with equal measures of wit, sincerity, and deadpan poetry. Lynn would probably argue against this genius label though. In fact, The Theory of Absolutely Nothing, is all about unravelling this concept of ‘genius’, both personally and universally. “I was in University feeling like I knew everything and being a big smarty pants and then when I went out into the world I realised that there was quite a few things I need to learn,” she laughs. “That was the idea that bridges through lots of the songs. I have been discovering the world through breakups, love or friendship and learning about how messed up the world can be, but also how beautiful it is,” this juxtaposition she explains, is the basis of the album’s title and the core theme behind the final track ‘San Francisco’.
With The Theory of Absolutely Nothing now in orbit, the genius of Alex Lynn is available for everyone to tune into. It is an intricately crafted record and Lynn masterfully narrates a broad range of difficult topics with sensitive and articulate writing, while consistently projecting optimism and hope. This is just the kind of universe-combating genius we needed in 2020.
You can stream or purchase The Theory of Absolutely Nothing here and watch the official video to the latest single ‘Caught In The Middle’ below. Alex the Astronaut: 15, Universe: Love.