Beach Slang's James Alex addresses parting ways with guitarist
Earlier this week, Beach Slang announced it was parting ways with guitarist Ruben Gallego due to allegations of sexual assault.
In a Facebook post, the band noted the need to preserve Beach Slang concerts as a safe space, writing, "Although [the alleged assault] occurred four years ago and prior to him joining Beach Slang, we cannot in good conscience continue with him."
"It's been that thing where survivors and people who have been assaulted, you're sort of ridiculed and people are embarrassed and almost forced into silence," singer James Alex said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I've always said if [Beach Slang] were a bar the flashing neon sign out front would say, 'All are welcome.' [If] you come to a Beach Slang show or you hang out with us, the last thing you should be worried about is your safety on any level. I need to make sure that's protected.
"It's a tough situation all around, but it's blindingly apparent what you need to do. I'm raised by a single mother. Women in particular need to feel safe at our shows, and we did what we needed to do to ensure that happens."
According to Alex, he learned of the alleged assault from Gallego after a social media posting from the victim started to circulate within band circles.
"I didn't see the post. [Gallego] came to me when it was up and poured himself out to me and us, and it felt like the way people describe how the world can stop. It was like, 'What do we do now? Maybe this is the time where we call it quits,'" Alex said. "I live by signs, and I started to think maybe this was one where Beach Slang was one of those special things where it exists for a moment and affects who it affects, and then it's meant to go away. And we wrestled with that. We went through all the stages you imagine we'd go through. But [quitting] didn't sit with us right, as close as I came to doing it several times."
Instead, Alex opted to continue the Philadelphia-based band's current tour, which visits Rumba Café on Monday, Oct. 24, retooling it as a solo venture.
"I'm playing with my electric guitar and I've got my amp and it's still distorted and big," he said. "It can still have that wild abandon to it and be loud and feel like a rock show. Last night in Virginia Beach someone came up and played drums when I covered [the Cure's] 'Just Like Heaven,' and then someone else came up and played bass on another song. I think what this tour has kind of become is this thing where we're almost having fellowship with one another to help each other through it."
Following Beach Slang's current run of shows, Alex said he intends to pause and restructure the band before hitting the road again sometime in the near future.
"I think then we're going to retool and find a new guitarist, and when we come back it's really going to be, 'Thanks for not giving up on us,'" he said. "And I can't wait to do that. It feels like there's a specific importance to what this [tour] is, but it will be nice to come back as a quartet and play our hearts out and really pay people back for standing by us on this."
Look for a full feature on Beach Slang in the Oct. 20 issue of Alive.