On her third album, Alex Lahey challenged herself – and opened up: “I was just throwing myself into the unknown”

The Melbourne indie mainstay upended her creative process to make ‘The Answer Is Always Yes’ – and poured herself into her lyrics like never before

Alex Lahey is booked and busy. When NME meets her in a bougie café on the outskirts of Melbourne, a few streets away from her childhood home, she’s just come from rehearsals for an AFL match, where she’ll play for some 50,000 punters with her favourite team (the St Kilda Saints). In just a week, she’ll fly out to her second home in Los Angeles to gear up for a three-month tour of the US.

Despite all the excitement in Lahey’s diary, she’s not exactly an archetype of rockstar excess. Clad in a simple crewneck and sporting bed hair, she jokes about her order of sparkling water reflecting her “giant ego” (though it’s the cheapest thing on the menu) and breaks our conversation to riff on her current obsession with Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

This carefree buoyancy has always been a cornerstone of Lahey’s art, from the blissful idleness of ‘Ivy League’ to the downright hilarity of her latest music videos, like those for ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Good Time’. Lahey wears her looseness on her sleeve like a badge of honour, but she doesn’t half-ass anything. Especially not her third album, ‘The Answer Is Always Yes’, out today (May 19). “I’ve never worked so hard on a record,” she declares proudly. “I hope people can hear that it truly was a labour of love, and that I’ve made a real effort to push my [artistry] forward.”


The album’s story began with Lahey at her lowest. It was the end of 2019 – just a few months after she’d dropped her acclaimed second album, ‘The Best Of Luck Club’ – and she was living in the pristine Northern Rivers region of NSW. A community art gallery let her have a room in their facility in an old converted fire station, where she vowed to write her next record over the course of a few months. “And then I sat in that room writing songs, every single day, and I didn’t like a single one… It was like pulling teeth.”

The problem, Lahey found in time, was that she’d been trying to recreate the writing process for ‘The Best Of Luck Club’ (and its predecessor, 2017’s ‘I Love You Like A Brother’), which “just wasn’t doing it for me anymore”. So she scrapped the record she’d been working on and started from scratch, her modus operandi being the absolute lack of one. “I was just throwing myself into the unknown,” she says, “and it’s so wild, to me, what came out of that.”

Alex Lahey
Credit: Pooneh Ghana

The album itself wields an impressively broad palette, with plenty to explore between the crunchy, Courtney Barnett-ish opener ‘Good Time’ and the twinkly and transcendent title track. The latter is one of two ballads on the tracklist, with ‘The Sky Is Melting’ being the other; both are a slow burn into a powerful crescendo – but where the title track is built around synths and atmospherically dense production, ‘Sky’ (which is about greening out in Joshua Tree) leans on rich, analogue acoustics and warm strings. Then there’s ‘Pavement’, a heartfelt acoustic tune about gentrification and the concept of home that ends with an explosive and emotionally charged climax.

“I live a life of queer joy… but I’m not naive enough to say that it hasn’t come with difficulties”

In the early writing sessions for ‘The Answer Is Always Yes’, Lahey made a concerted effort to empty out her “bag of tricks” and shuffle them around into something new. “I was tuning my guitars differently and starting songs with the parts I’d usually keep for last,” she says.

‘They Wouldn’t Let Me In’ was one of the songs that came from this process: “Chris [Collins, co-writer] and I were in my little studio in Brunswick, and he was like, ‘What do you want to do today?’ And I was just like, ‘Hmm… I want to write a song on bass. That’s what I want to do today.’ I’d never done that before, but I wanted to push myself to start the process more creatively – or at least in a way that I wouldn’t normally think to.”

‘They Wouldn’t Let Me In’ is also significant for its themes: Lahey has long been vocal about her queerness – “I’ve always said that by default, all of my songs are queer songs because I’m a queer person and I see life through a queer lens” – but this is her first song to explicitly address her experience growing up bent in a straight world.


When she wrote it, she’d just finished watching Heartstopper and found herself moved by its depiction of queer joy. “But I remember when I was growing up, any time I’d see a queer person on TV, it was a problem – they were being killed or they had health issues, or they were in the closet, or they weren’t happy. And that’s if they were even anything more than a punchline,” she says.

“That’s really hard to watch when you’re growing up as a queer kid – especially when there’s so much other shit you have to navigate differently. Especially as a teenager, you’re expected to go through all these rites of passage that just aren’t built for queer people: school formals, swimming lessons, going to your girlfriend’s house for the first time… I’ve had situations where someone’s parents wouldn’t let me into their home because I was gay. I live a life of queer joy – and it’s amazing, and I really hope that every other queer person has that too – but I’m not naive enough to say that it hasn’t come with difficulties.”

Alex Lahey
Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Had she not radically upended her creative process, Lahey probably wouldn’t have written a song like ‘They Wouldn’t Let Me In’. She admits that when she first started picking up steam on the back of her ‘B-Grade University’ EP in 2016, she “was really worried about being pigeonholed as a queer artist”. It was a chance meeting with Tegan and Sara – a “guardian angel experience”, she chuckles – that spurred her on to forge her own path.

“I asked them, ‘I don’t want to be put in that ‘queer artist’ box this early, what do I do?’ And they were like, ‘You’ve just got to act the way you think the norm should be, and the norm will follow.’ And the norm for me is that I don’t fucking care that I’m gay.”

“Every record has its own sense of self tied to it. And I’m really proud of the version of me that I put into this one”

At the same time, Lahey stresses that she sees her own queerness as a strength: “I reckon seeing the world through a queer lens is, like, one of the greatest gifts of all. Life is more colourful; it’s more fun.” She also “absolutely” wants to be a role model for young queer Australians.

“I think that one of the beautiful things about being a queer person is community,” she says, “and I think that some of the most valuable people in our community are queer elders. I hope that one day I can be one of those elders in our community, and have helped to make it easier for the young people coming into it.”

Reflecting on her identity now, Lahey says she definitely changed as a person in the process of making ‘The Answer Is Always Yes’. “I think every record an artist makes is an extension of their identity,” she says, “but as the artist, you don’t know what that is until it’s done. I didn’t know who I was when I made [this album], but I can listen to it and see everything that was going on – and it’s really nice to have that sort of earmark on my life.

“It’s almost like the whole Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ thing, right? Every record has its own sense of self tied to it. And I’m really proud of the version of me that I put into this one.”

Alex Lahey’s album ‘The Answer Is Always Yes’ is out now via Liberation Records. She tours Australia in support of the record this August


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