Interview: Rex Orange County on his upcoming New Zealand tour.

Interview: Rex Orange County on his upcoming New Zealand tour.

"But until somebody sits me down / And tells me that I'm different now / I'll always be the way I always am," ruminates Alex O'Connor in the Rex Orange County song, 'Always', the second track off his deep-thinking 2019 sophomore album, 'Pony', atop saxophone embellishments and lush backing from a string-section. Painting an accurate portrait of O'Connor's down to earth demeanour, those words put into focus his priorities in life and thoughtful psyche. I quote the lyrics back to O'Connor during a recent phone call, telling him that I'm proud of him for bucking the norm of musicians whose egos grow alongside their careers/profiles, and he replies in his signature fashion (a lot stream-of-consciousness, a little deep in concentration, but always unfailingly polite and good-natured) with a heartfelt, "Thank you, very, very, very much. I appreciate that because that's really what that song is about. Thank you! I really appreciate that."

Ahead of Rex Orange County's return to New Zealand and Australia this May/June - his first ever headline tour of both countries, and his first Australasian shows since Laneway Festival 2019 - Coup De Main caught up with O'Connor to briefly discuss his new 'Pony' album and upcoming tour in anticipation of what is sure to be one of this year's touring highlights... meet loads of random people at school, you meet loads of random people from a job, but you get to choose which ones you stay with, and that's up to you. At that point, it becomes your responsibility to be happy or not...

COUP DE MAIN: Alex, how are you feeling out of ten right now today?
Out of ten, today? I'm probably an eight, which is good.

CDM: It was sorta wild when you were here in New Zealand for Laneway Festival back in January last year - it felt like you were the #1 celebrity of Auckland that week, and were recognised everywhere you went. Is that normal for you when you're out and about?
<chuckles> Not really, no. Especially in London, I can get away with going out, and most of the time, anywhere, it's kind of obvious where you don't really want to go - like certain live music and stuff where it may be obvious that people might know who you are, but most of the time I can walk around and it's okay.

CDM: And you're coming back to New Zealand this June! You're playing the arena in Auckland and the Wellington show is sold out! We're super excited to see your clouds and grass stage decorations!
I know! I can't wait. Honestly, it was so good coming, especially New Zealand, in particular Auckland, and Australia as well, but it was just honestly some of the best shows I've done and I can't wait to come back.

CDM: Am I going to finally get to see '4 Seasons' live on this tour?
You are, 100%! You're going to hear '4 Seasons'. You're going to hear some of the others from 'Apricot Princess' that I never really played, like 'Never Enough' and stuff like that, and then the whole of the new album as well, but you will definitely hear '4 Seasons'.

CDM: What a promise. I'm also very excited for the bop that is 'Never Had The Balls'.
Thank you! Man, it's gonna be a good one. I promise that one goes off live. It's so good. It's so fun.

CDM: I'm counting down the days... So, when we first met a few years ago, we talked about how you felt like a "walking emotion". Is that still how you'd describe yourself?
Honestly, yeah, weirdly more than ever now. When I said that before, I had no idea what it was like to really be such a walking emotion, and now I feel like I'm just out of the [ability to] control [it] - all the highs and all the lows; I feel everything very much, and I think that's just the way I am and I've realised and have learned to accept that. It's not struggling, it's just a case of this is how I am, and all I can do is manage how I am; I can't solve it. I'm just particularly emotional and I feel everything from the most positive to the most negative. And it's not a problem. I think it's better to be sensitive than be indifferent to things and just not feel anything. I'd rather be emotional like I am, but it takes its toll on me as you can imagine, but I'm still that way I think.

CDM: There's that kinda cheesy sentiment that, "Friends are the family we choose for ourselves," which I feel can also be applicable in work situations like yours where you get to choose who you want to work with and surround yourself with. Why do you think "the people you choose and where you're from" are so important, as you mention in '10/10'?
I wrote that down and it just suddenly made so much sense to me. Firstly, where you're from is absolutely out of your control. So whether you're born in England, or in America, or Indonesia, or wherever you're born, that's something that you just can't help but that will always define a lot of your life. And your parents and everything you're brought up on is also going to define a lot of your life and you can't actually help that, but the one thing you can help is who you choose, and the people you choose to spend the rest of your time with. You meet loads of random people at school, you meet loads of random people from a job, but you get to choose which ones you stay with, and that's up to you. At that point, it becomes your responsibility to be happy or not. With me, I was brought up very well and I have been lucky to be where I'm from, but you choose certain people in your life that you think are going to be good and they're not. But that's just a learning curve and it's always natural, you always find yourself attracted to certain people and then with other people you're like, 'Oh, I don't want to spend any time with them.' That's personal. That's something you can't help but feel one way or the other - but where you're from, you can't help that. So I think that was just an important thing for me to say out loud because that's life. It is what it is. We can't help a lot of things. It's just how it is.

CDM: "I lost the joy in my face / My life was simple before," you say in 'It's Not The Same Anymore'. How do you feel when you look in the mirror now compared to around the release of your previous album 'Apricot Princess'?
Wow... I feel a lot older. I feel like I've been on the earth for twenty years more than I had when I was doing 'Apricot Princess', but I feel good. I'm definitely confident and I'm happy and I'm satisfied. I'm definitely satisfied... I don't know if I'm happy, but I'm satisfied. I've done what I wanted to do for the longest time. When 'Apricot Princess' came out my life was just a lot simpler and I didn't have so much to think about or worry about, but actually, I'm happier now that there's more going on, if I'm honest. I've got a lot more to think about.

CDM: And you also say, "I miss the days when I was someone else." What do you miss the most about your life back when more people knew you as Alex, rather than Rex?
I just honestly miss people thinking of me as a human being that is just Alex and not having an ulterior motive and thinking that me being Rex Orange County makes any difference to their life. People have an agenda and a lot of my friends who were once my friends, they changed the way they looked at me, and a lot of [other] people in the world. I can't meet anyone [new]. It's hard. It's hard for me to meet people who don't just know me as my job and what I do for a job and the fact that I'm some form of success. So it's just difficult for me to be taken as a regular person because I'm kind of not anymore. I really miss just being Alex and people just liking me for me and not hitting me up because I do what I do. I get a lot of messages from people I used to know, and I'm like, 'Well, you didn't message me when I was just me, you just want to know about this because of what's going on,' and it's just obvious to me. I do miss that.


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Rex Orange County will play Wellington on June 10th and Auckland on June 11th, with Australian dates preceding New Zealand in May. Click here for further details.

Watch Rex Orange County perform 'Face To Face' live below...

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