Frontman Alex Owen Carries On The Legacy Of Hard Living, Left -Of -Center

California Country Music (July 26th, 2019)



May 20th, 2019 Los Angeles, CA – Warning, the first full-length album from Los Angeles based Lasers Lasers Birmingham, finds Alex Owen, the man behind the moniker, walking a tight rope between honkytonk persona, real life and near death. With an album title that is as much artistic statement as cautionary tale, Warning feels like a natural progression from the critically acclaimed 2016 EP, Royal Blue. Owen’s brand of “weird country music” draws inspiration from both right and left field, citing George Jones and Pink Floyd as influences.

Owen started writing the songs for Warning in a persona. “One goes about writing an album with the assumption it’s made up of a little personal experience and a lot of embellishment,” he recalls. “A persona can do all the things you can’t, the persona has more courage.” Half way through the recording of the album Owen had a near-death experience in the form of a car crash in the mountains of Ojai, CA. “The car didn’t catch on fire, but I was upside down and had to crawl out through the windshield, he recounts. “Maybe it was an act of subconscious myth-making or maybe it was just a deer in the road, but I was lucky to walk away without a scratch.”

This singular event smashed any illusion he had that he was writing under a hard-living misadventurous persona.  “I was surprised to learn that these songs were not a persona, but actually just…me.  Not until the crash was the through line of the album revealed to me—every character was losing control, either giving it away freely (“Sugar Momma”, “Lead Me On”) or having it taken from them (“Wild Animals”, “Warning”).”  The realization of the fine line between self and persona struck Owen, “There was a big subconscious influence on the music, but I couldn’t see it until I lost a control in real life”

Self-described as “weird country music”, Owen says he is inspired by classic country but with themes that are very “un-country”.  Explaining further he said, “I believe the job of the artist is to report on their time, place and experience.  So, it would be inauthentic of me to attempt to sound exactly like my country music heroes.” With a knack for lyrics, phrasing and songwriting, Owen accomplishes what he sets out to do and The Daily Country has described his music as, “…awash in modern day storytelling that retains true, traditional country sensibilities.” 

Warning is Produced by Jason Soda (The Watson Twins, Miranda Lee Richards, Gospel BeacH) and recorded at his studio in Los Angeles, Palomino Sound.  He also lends his talents to many instruments on the record and to helping Owen to curate a first-rate band for the album.  With Owen on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, the band includes: Dan Wistrom (The Magpie Salute, Ted Russell Kamp) on pedal steel and mandolin; Travis Popichak (Leslie Stevens, Gospel BeacH) on drums and percussion; Aaron Stern (Brian Whelan, Hamish Anderson) on bass; Jon Niemann (Miranda Lee Richards, Gospel BeacH) on piano, Hammond organ and Rhodes piano; Eleanor Masterson (The Masterson, Steve Earle) on fiddle; Sie Sie Behoff and Davey Allen on backup vocals.

“We have a great community of country artists in LA and we all hang out,” Owen divulged.  “I was lucky enough to call the elite musicians on this album my friends.  It was so much fun to tell someone ‘Hey!  Play this guitar part just like I saw you play that Waylon tune last Sunday at the house party.”’

Some of the greatest moments of the album come from its title track, Warning.  Simultaneously reminiscent of Waylon Jennings and Pink Floyd, you will find more sonic wizardry here than most other classic country inspired tracks.  Owen offers a warning to the listener, “this is a warning the wildest of frontiers are already tamed.” 

“After Party, After Life” keeps the party rolling long after the bars close with this indulgent and upbeat rocker and “Wild Animals” is as close to a rowdy drinking song as you will find in the LLB catalogue. This barnburner is danceable, relatable and utterly unsentimental when Owen asks, “When did acting dumb stop being so much fun?”

“Lead Me On” evokes 1990’s Lucinda Williams and features Sie Sie Benhoff on backing vocals that add an emotional punch to the chorus. Owen remains self-assured even at his most self-deprecating with “maybe I’m not as handsome as I used to be, wore out my welcome on vanity.”  This track is washed in ethereal reverb, pedal steel and open space.  Not even the vivid imagery could crowd the loneliness at the core of the song. 

The album ends with “What a Shame”, a cautionary tale about a character that “could have been the greatest”.  Owen’s lyrics are equally as psychedelic as the musical landscape dominated by haunting pedal steel and warbling pianos.  Owen howls on the chorus, “Oh what a shame, what a shame, a victim of our times and the times they do change, a collusion of the heavens and stars, a mis-spent youth singing in bars”.

On Warning, the band has infectious energy, the imagery is colorful without losing clarity and the characters are relatable. Owen carries on the legacy of hard living, left-of-center country music, again as he coined, “weird country”. He points out, “For every, ‘I didn’t like country music until I saw you play tonight,’ I get two people telling me,  ‘that ain’t even country.’ I feel pretty happy with that.”