“Living in a world that wasn’t made for you makes you pretty strong and adaptive, and you find the fun in it,” says Alex Lahey. “It also makes you realize how absurd everything is. With ‘The Answer Is Always Yes,’ I wanted to get weird because the world is weird, and it’s even weirder when you realize you don’t fit into it all the time.”
It’s no secret that the world wasn’t built with most people in mind. For those who exist on the fringe, you learn to pave your own way, foster your own community, and create your own joy. As a queer person and a daughter of migrants, Lahey learned how to adapt to a world that wasn’t made for her, and her third album, The Answer Is Always Yes, examines how she finds comfort in the discomfort, whether it’s reveling in absurdity or turning towards exploration.
Lahey’s debut album I Love You Like a Brother and its 2019 follow-up The Best of Luck Club take their focus from the lens of relationships, but with The Answer Is Always Yes, Lahey analyzes her otherness through different lenses, from its isolating effect to the surrealism and humor it instills.
“Congratulations” is about the strange experience of having two exes get married separately in a short time span, “The Sky Is Melting” revels in the chaos of consuming too many weed gummies, and the title track jokes about the immortality complex of hybrid drivers. Lahey also delves into intense experiences on tracks like “Permanent,” which juxtaposes the accelerating gentrification of her native Melbourne with the regression she felt while living in her childhood home during the pandemic, or “They Wouldn’t Let Me In,” Lahey’s first song mining the depths of her queer teenage years.
“All these kids around me were kissing and dating and having those formative experiences and talking about them with each other, and I felt so on the fringe because I didn’t fit into that,” Lahey says of the track. “When I was growing up, there was no exposure to queerness, or certainly queer joy, in media. When you can’t see that, you don’t really know what your life’s gonna look like. And especially when you’re a teenager, for me, I was like, ‘Am I ever gonna get laid?’”
Just as Lahey learned to reimagine the world around her, the music of The Answer Is Always Yes is also the product of reimagination. After making a name for herself with heartfelt, witty, and energizing indie rock songs, Lahey felt she had accrued tried and true songwriting tricks. Instead of resting on her laurels, Lahey took a risk by inviting other writers and producers into the early stages of her creative process for the first time. With touring on hold indefinitely, Lahey didn’t have a strict deadline to finish the album, which lent plenty of time for writing sessions with the likes of Jacknife Lee (U2, Snow Patrol) and others. The result is not only Lahey’s most collaborative album yet, but also the most dynamic and surprising.
“I’ve made two records doing it all by myself and now I’ve proved to myself that I can do it,” Lahey says. “But it was also at a point where I was like, ‘If I do that again, I kind of know what it’s gonna sound like’ and I don’t think I’m interested in that right now. And I think [collaboration] is great because it refreshes your process, and if you are focused enough, you come out with something that sounds like you, but elevated.”
On The Answer Is Always Yes, Lahey’s fun-loving rock has found new vessels, like the Sheryl Crow-esque country-pop of “Good Time,” the breathless punk of “They Wouldn’t Let Me In,” and the ambitious, synth-tinged stadium rock of the title track. Fans will recognize Lahey’s signature sincerity and driving guitar lines, but there’s also a newfound melodic vulnerability, with Lahey shooting from the hip and achieving sky-high hooks and heartrending balladry. Songs like “Makes Me Sick” and “Shit Talkin’” evoke Liz Phair’s effervescent late-career pop, while “The Sky is Melting” and “Permanent” recall the gutsy, wounds-and-all melodies of Julien Baker.
Both as a proud fringe dweller and an artist, Lahey has witnessed the benefits of taking risks and experimenting, and The Answer Is Always Yes — whose title has become a mantra for her — is living proof. “I feel like if you’re saying yes and you’re exploring, you’re always moving,” Lahey says. “That’s the part of life that I’m in right now. I just don’t wanna stop.”
Purgatory at The Masquerade