Best Behavior’s Alex Gruenburg talks summertime, singles, and the New York music scene


We caught up with Brooklyn-based garage pop band Best Behavior’s lead singer/songwriter Alex Gruenburg to talk about the band’s new video, single, and the New York music scene.

In the first days of fall, we aren’t ready to say goodbye to summer. Brooklyn-based garage pop band Best Behavior is right their with us. Their new single, “Say”, has those nostalgic, summery vibes of bands like The Beach Boys and The Kinks. It falls in line with Best Behavior’s discography thus far, which is packed with vibrant rock and stellar lyrics.

If you loved Wavves’ most recent record, you’ll really love Best Behavior’s debut.

Before we dive into our interview with lead singer/songwriter Alex Gruenburg, check out the music video for “Say” below.

What was the inspiration behind “Say”? How did the music video come together?

Alex Gruenburg: The inspiration for the song “Say” is based around that idea that sometimes, you meet somebody and you’re totally enamored with them and they just keep giving you red flags. You see them, but you just don’t stop and continue to hang out with them, and you kind of don’t know what to do. You want to hang out but you also kind of know you should leave.

For the music video, when we started out, the main idea was to have a young, strong female character who was kind of above it all. We riffed off that a bit and then we found Haley Shepherd. She was perfect for the video. We wanted to do that iconic New York vibe, but also have the beach, so Coney Island was perfect for that. We wanted to showcase a lot of color because the song is really colorful to us.

Music videos that act as short films seem to be really popular, especially lately — why do you think that is?

AG: When you have a video of the band playing it feels kind of self-indulgent. Like, people are already listening to the band, and then watching them in a video… People respond to stories more. The cool thing about a music video is that it can take on a new story and a new life. The song “Say” started out about weird relationships, but the actual video is about the main character’s weird relationship with the world. She doesn’t really fit in and she has to power through that.

“Say” is a single — is it from an upcoming album?

AG: It’s from our EP called Things That Happened, which comes out in November.

What is the band working on currently?

AG: We’re doing some touring in November on the east coast. We’re releasing Things That Happened, but we’re already working on a follow-up to that, as well.

How do you keep a consistent sound without getting stuck on repeat?

AG: The secret to anything is that you just can’t think about it. As soon as you set out to write a good song, it’s going to be the worst song ever written. As soon as you start to think about anything you’re doing, you get a little lost. Just be totally and completely genuine and try to remove as many barriers between your voice and your story and the listener. Be as upfront and honest as you can. Sometimes you’ll be writing lyrics and be like, “Should I put this in this one? Will they know what’s going on?” It feels so much more private and intimate to you, but people really respond to that, even if they don’t know the exact situation.

Why so summery?

AG: I used to live in San Diego for a bit of time and kind of really fell in love with west coast culture and the vibe over there. I kind of brought a piece of that back to New York. The hustle and bustle of the city — it’s kind of gritty, but I really like balancing it out with the laidback, West Coast style. I’ve always been a fan of ’60s British Invasion bands like The Beach Boys and The Kinks, so I just kind of wanted to fuse those worlds.

Today is the first day of fall. How do you maintain that summery, poppy, fun vibe even when the weather is really atrocious in fall and winter?

AG: Good friends, whiskey. It’s funny you say that. We’ve been doing a lot of summery, daytime stuff but some of the new stuff is nighttime… colder weather. I’m interested in exploring that because I haven’t done that a lot of that musically.

Are there any current artists or bands that inspire you in particular?

AG: The last Tame Impala record was really inspiring. There’s a lot of local music in Brooklyn that’s amazing as well. It’s kind of funny, because the more I find myself doing music, the less inspiring music is to my own music. I go out and see situations and people watch and that almost inspires me more.

What about other media? Books, comics, movies?

AG: I’m really into graphic design and old ’60s collages, like that kind of vibe. Pop art is really something that definitely inspires the sound for me. I love pop music. When we were doing “Say”, I set out to write a really big pop song. The first album was almost grungier punk that we recorded in this basement. We worked with producer Justin Gerrish and we were like, let’s just go for it and add like 60 instruments.

How do you go about crafting new material?

AG: I like to write alone. I have a home studio where I do a lot of writing and demoing. I wake up, start working on a song, and I just sit there for like six hours doing nothing but that. Hunger escapes me and I’ll be working forever and then all of a sudden, the pain of not eating will hit me and I’ll go crazy and have to get out. I’ll bounce the track, walk around the neighborhood, and listen to it. Sometimes that process works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Best Behavior cut its teeth in New York and has developed a pretty loyal following — how does that feel? Did you find it difficult to break into the scene in New York?

AG: We’re super lucky and it’s a moving experience. When Best Behavior started, I was doing it as a release to an emotional experience and never thought it would be a band. Then people were like, “Oh, I like this.” It kept going because people kept being into it.

As far as the music scene… I think the way I liken it is that it’s hard to break into the music scene but it’s also kind of hard to get a job in New York City. It’s hard to do anything. It’s not any harder than it is to do anything else. There’s so many artists creating music and art in general — it’s not that this is all noise, but there’s a lot to compete with in some sense. I find that as you go through there’s people who will respond as long as you’re genuine and your music is genuine.

Who’s on your bucket list for performers or artists you’d like to work with?

AG: Mark Ronson. I’ve always loved his work, so if he’s out there, I’m coming for you.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

AG: The new EP is coming in November but the release date is tentative as of right now. My manager probably knows it, but I don’t. We’re going to be releasing some new singles prior to that. If you’re in New York City, we’re going to be playing at Rough Trade on Sept. 27th. It’ll be a really cool show that we’re playing with our friends.

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You can purchase Best Behavior’s music, including the new single “Say”, on Bandcamp. You can also keep up with the band on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit their website here.