Alex the Astronaut was a student when she released her debut EP To Whom it May Concern in early 2017. Living in New York on a soccer scholarship, she spent her days studying science and writing songs in her dorm. Now things are different.
Alex graduated and moved home to Sydney. “90% of the people I met over there I won’t see again,” she says of her three years spent living in New York. “I said goodbye to a whole portion of my life. Which is probably why I spent most of my new songs writing about that.”
Like her debut, Alex the Astronaut’s second EP, See You Soon, is a five-song set of vivid train-of-thought narratives, and bare acoustic bones bracing bright pop melodies. But where her debut brimmed with new experiences, See You Soon hints at the weight of returning home having lived in the world. “I had to make friends again,” says Alex. “I had to rebuild relationships. I’d had one month bursts of seeing people here then leaving again. But now I’m back for good.”
Working again with producer Ben McCarthy, the EP shows Alex allowing herself to reflect – nowhere more so than on opener, ‘Not Worth Hiding’, a frank letter to her 16-year-old self detailing the journey to owning her sexuality. “I figured this was something significant that happened to me and happens to lots of other people,” says Alex of the song. “So I thought, OK this is something I need to write at some point and I may as well do it now. It’s important to me in the same way all my songs are important to me, but it’s also for young kids needing a bit of help and want to hear a positive story about it.”
That thread continues. The dreamy ‘Reflector’ is about growing up, “being really young and not knowing what you’re doing” and pivots around a spoken-word cameo from her grandma as ballast. “I wanted someone older to say it’s not something you really work out,” says Alex. “You just have to keep going.”
The sunny ‘What Sydney Looks Like in June’ is about Alex coming home and finding herself a tourist in her hometown; the love-struck characters of ‘William and Georgia’ and the finger-picked, string-laden lament ‘New York’ (the angels say they can’t quite place where we parted / as the world starts to hurt my heart, I’m hoping that you’ll meet me in New York) navigate the tyranny of distance. “They’re about saying goodbye to people.”
If Alex the Astronaut’s departure inspired songs of reflection, her return has her connecting with a growing audience. “I’ve always been behind a computer in America, just watching stats or reading messages,” she says of watching her popularity blossom from afar. “So meeting people in real life has been weird. I’ve been at the merch stand and people are coming up saying ‘Oh I’m really worried about talking to you.’ I’m like, ‘oh you really shouldn’t be I’m a massive nerd.’
The cover art of See You Soon is a photo of 8 year-old Alex feeding rosellas on the deck of her family home in Chatswood, NSW. The video for ‘Not Worth Hiding’ stars her friends and family at the same house, playing in the same town she grew up in. Having navigated the globe, Alex the Astronaut is home.