Just a few years ago, Alex Cameron was a virtual unknown to pretty much everyone outside of the music industry. Now the Australian musician and his band are touring in support of the Killers — including their opening slot on January 23 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami — and suddenly find themselves playing some of the biggest venues in the country.
"When it comes to arenas, it's an entirely different ballgame," he says. "It's about getting used to the sound of it. Sometimes hearing yourself sing can be like trying to understand an announcer at the end of a game trying to tell you where to go for parking. I guess it's more about training your ears than anything."
Speaking to New Times from a tour bus on the road outside of Chicago, Cameron says that some bands might detest opening shows for other, bigger bands — and not making much money at it — but his crew embraces the challenge of cultivating a mood as concert-goers trickle in and find their seats.
"We've been doing support slots for three years now, starting in nightclubs and kind of climbing the ranks," he says. Over the last few years, they've supported acts like Mac DeMarco, Kevin Morby and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. "We used to walk around saying we were the best support act in the world, because we figured nobody else can open up a stage like we can."
Getting people to pay attention is not a problem, he says: "Our music speaks for itself. We've got quality songs and we're a red-hot band."
The group is definitely generating a buzz thanks to Cameron's sharp songwriting. (He's credited on a handful of songs on the Killers' new album, Wonderful Wonderful.) It also helps that his singing voice has a David Bowie-esque quality, and it's usually surrounded by lo-fi instrumentation that gives the overall package a nostalgic '80s vibe.
That was especially true on his self-released debut album, Jumping the Shark. Cameron came up with the persona of a failed musician with a sleazy, Neil Hamburger-type shtick and employed an array of crappy-sounding synthesizers. But on his latest album, last year's Forced Witness, Cameron embraced a full-band sound with the help of his longtime collaborator, saxophonist Roy Molloy, and abandoned the chintzy synth presets due to the availability of greater resources and better gear.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"An album is generally going to sound like how much it cost," he says. "The first album cost me money, but nobody else any money, so it ended up sounding pretty cheap. The second album sounds a little more expensive, I guess."
He's dropped the sleazeball persona, as well, but Cameron still isn't all that serious. His hypnotically awkward dancing in the videos for songs like "Mongrel" and "Runnin' Out of Luck" — both of which, by the way, are catchy as hell — provides a sense for his odd, dark sense of humor.
As for what's next, it's possible — even likely — that Cameron will make the jump and start headlining his own tours soon. But for now, he's happy his band is making a living by playing music, though it's not necessarily an easy one: "We're just trying to get enough money to get to the next city, really."