Calling Out of Context: Alex DiFrancesco

Courtesy of the author.

Alex DiFrancesco is a great writer, a voluble Twitter presence, and an all-around cool cat who I am pleased to call a friend. Alex’s new memoir Psychopomps is out now on Civil Coping Mechanisms/The Accomplices and their second novel, All City, comes out June 18th on Seven Stories Press. Alex and I originally met as coworkers and bonded over our shared love of– among other things–writing, music, and writing about music, so Alex was the first person who came to mind when I decided to launch this new interview series. Alex and I sat down for a conversation last Sunday, April 14th. Read on!

Good morning. What’s the last song you listened to?

Gillian Welch’s “The Way it Goes” in on shuffle at this very moment, and I’m quite pleased.

I just realized it’s April 14th! “April the 14th Pt. 1” is my all-time favorite Gillian Welch jam. What’s yours?

Actually, exactly the same one. I once had a partner who was a fellow writer. I put that song on a playlist for them shortly before we did a reading event in Detroit that got written up in a local newspaper. Their response to seeing the write-up was, “Holy shit, we did better than the punks in that Gillian Welch song.” The lyric they were referring to was, “They looked sick and stoned, and strangely dressed/ No one showed from the local press.”

I also love that particular verse of “April the 14th,” especially the way she ends on “…and I wish I played in a rock’n’roll band.”

Damn, I love that song. Also very partial to “Elvis Presley Blues,” and “Look at Miss Ohio.”

Some day I want to make a mix of “songs about musicians watching other musicians.” I’ve only got two so far though. (“April the 14th,” and “Talby” by Pinback.) What’s a mix concept you’d like to realize?

I’ve been trying to round out my writing playlists. I have a few requirements for music I listen to while I write–namely that it’s instrumental and experimental, that it makes my brain kind of sink into a fertile place for creativity while blocking out the noise of the world. My two mainstays have been William Basinki’s The Disintegration Loops and The Lounge Lizards’ Queen of All Ears (minus “Yak”), but I’ve wanted to branch out more in the same vein. The experiential fiction writer Never Angel North (who also published her work under the name Sara June Woods) and the experimental poet Margo M both tag teamed a great recommendation playlist that includes 00I00, Moondog, Winged Victory for the Sullen, and more great stuff I’m still wading through. Totally my dream playlist from two of my favorite writers.

Do you ever listen to CAN while you write? I’ve always had good luck with CAN.

No, but I will check them out!

Lyrics are tricky, though. I’m the kind of person who can’t NOT hear lyrics unless I already know them by heart, or they’re in a language I don’t understand–but even then! I’m very, very tuned in to words.

I’m usually big on lyric-heavy music (Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Townes Van Zandt), so finding stuff without for writing is a challenge for me. Sometimes, as you noted, stuff like Edith Piaf who sings in French, is fine, but I usually can’t do lyrics while writing at all.

Speaking of words, you have a dang novel coming out!! How are you feeling about it?

Yeah! I have a novel, ALL CITY, coming out on June 18th! I’m amped! It’s already got a glowing review in Publishers Weekly and amazing blurbs from some of my favorite writers. My publishers are doing an amazing job building it up, and I’m really thrilled to be releasing it and doing a bit of a DIY book tour (my publicist set up events in places I have couches to crash on.) I’ll be in NYC, Philly, Cleveland, Columbus, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Detroit.

How would you describe the soundtrack to your novel?

I once made playlists for all the characters. I only remember that the rich art collector listens to Madonna’s–not Sinead’s–version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The main badass, who works at the convenience store chain that has taken over NYC and organizes a utopian squat after a superstorm, listens to Detroit techno, and the queer squatter who lives in an old train station listens to riot-folk and sings Woody Guthrie songs. 

Hell yeah. Thank you!

Preorder ALL CITY from Seven Stories Press.