Music: Go west

Alex Bleeker on freaks and friends

By Charlie Swanson

Songwriter Alex Bleeker first gained national attention as the bassist for popular New Jersey indie-rock band Real Estate. While that outfit is known for dreamy pop songs filled with ethereal melodies, Bleeker shows a very different musical side as the founder and frontman of Alex Bleeker & the Freaks.

This year, Bleeker, who was living in Brooklyn, traded in the East Coast crowds and weather for a fresh start, moving to West Marin and soaking up the outdoorsy vibes heard throughout his latest album, Country Agenda. Bleeker and his Freaks play from the new record at Sweetwater Music Hall on December 8.

“It’s really beautiful,” Bleeker says, when asked about his recent change of scenery. “I recorded this new album in Stinson Beach, met some friends in the area through that, and it just felt like the right thing to do.”

An East Coast native, Bleeker nonetheless has long been influenced by Bay Area bands like the Grateful Dead. “American Beauty was the first Dead I ever heard, and I was just completely hooked,” Bleeker says. “I stole the album from my mom.”

Bleeker’s obsession with the Dead has only grown in the last few years. “There’s this perfect storm of rich country soul music,” he says. “There’s a deep Americana that really resonates with me that you can probably hear in the new record.”

Indeed, Country Agenda is an album awash in alluring melodies and acoustic warmth that recalls the stirring analog sounds of classic folk records. Recorded at Panoramic House Studio, Country Agenda also successfully encompasses the beauty and splendor of the North Bay, as the Freaks employ catchy hooks, resonating harmonies and soulful instrumentation.

When Bleeker formed the band six years back, it was more or less an amalgamation of friends and musicians that rotated regularly. His first two records were, as he puts it, “cobbled together.” The band is now a permanent fixture consisting of Alex Steinberg (guitar), Nick Lenchner (bass), Dylan Shumaker (drums) and Jacob Wolf (keys).

Bleeker says this new album was a welcome collaborative effort. “Creatively, it’s been amazing. I think this record is far and away our best, and that’s totally because of the people who play on it,” he says. “It actually feels a little silly to have the band be called Alex Bleeker & the Freaks anymore, because it’s such a group effort. Together, the sum is greater than all the parts.”

Alex Bleeker & the Freaks perform on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $15–$17; 415/388.1100.

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