Alex Durow, known professionally as Durow, has been musically inclined since the beginning. The musician began singing in second grade, playing piano when he was 7, and using production software (FL Studios) when he was 13, among experience with playing the trombone, guitar, and ukulele.
“I learned the piano and then they had me do the sheets, which weren’t fun to me in the slightest. My issue was that I didn’t like people telling me what to do. It’s way more fun to come up with original ideas and be a true songwriter,” Durow said.
Durow has always chosen to take the less-beaten path to fame by incorporating an array of genres, musical styles, and a little edge into his musical career. I sat down with the rapidly expanding local musician to discuss his recent albums “Fun Hate” and “I Kept The Knife,” his motivating inspirations, what’s next for the up-and-coming artist, and much more.
Throughout Durow’s life, his studio could usually be found directly next to his bed, because it’s how he has tried to pay his bills. As he endlessly crafts ideas that come to him in the early hours of the morning, he’s going through a neverending process of deleting, adding, and changing parts of each song until the project at hand is structured how he envisions it.
“I’ll work on stuff together with others sometimes, but it’s usually just me alone in my room being an introvert and hiding from the world. I’ll turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” and be in there for as long as I possibly can, letting ideas come to me naturally. I want to get into a more collaborative environment with fellow artists around me since having five brains is better than one sometimes,” Durow said.
Durow has been focused on learning to play the guitar for the better part of a year now. According to him, learning the guitar was one of the greatest skills he could have taught himself, as it has opened up an entirely new lane of songwriting for him.
Earlier this year, Durow released his long-awaited pop album titled “Fun Hate.” The album, written over four years, consists of 15 songs with strong hooks and drums that will have you grooving out all summer long. According to Durow, pop music can often receive a bad reputation, but pop can also be reinvigorated by pushing that sound further than ever before.
“Pop music gets a bad reputation because people immediately think of a lack of substance, but I’m not trying to make pop music that you’ve heard before. I want to do weird stuff that ends up being pop because it’s so good and catchy and has never been done before,” Durow said.
“These verses speak on very palatable topics, but that’s not to downplay the seriousness of what the album means to me. It’s taken four years of my life, but it’s still very much a pop album. It’s centered around telling my story in a way that you can hear on the surface over chords that are rhythmic and balanced, like something from Justin Bieber or Ed Sheeran.”
While Fargo has significant metal, punk, and hip-hop music scenes, Durow believes that the opportunities are ripe in other genres, citing that the Top 40 Pop sound has inspired him to make songs such as “Icarus” and “Saturn,” two of his biggest hits to date.
“I knew when I listened to the songs “Saturn” and “Icarus” that I did my thing. People would not expect something that sounds like that to come out of Fargo, so it’s pretty cool that it did. Also, both of the tracks “Melting” and “Brittany Spears” didn’t blow up like I thought they would,” Durow said.
What's the meaning behind the album title Fun Hate?
“I was at a place in my life where things got so dark that it was either going to break me or make me. I felt this deep hatred towards life and was just having a lot of fun with it. I’m having so much fun hating my life.” – Durow
“I almost didn’t put the song “I Live In A Microchip With You” on the album, but that’s getting the attention that I was expecting “Brittany Spears” to receive. I don’t know what I did differently as they were marketed the same, but I’m happy that we can all have our own opinions about the music and no one person is right or wrong.”
“Fun Hate” exemplifies Durow’s cohesive display of artistic growth over time. His debut album, titled “It Came With the Head of a Bull,” featured seven songs from seven distinct genres. Through dedicated practice, Durow has shifted his focus toward elevating his career to new heights.
Looking past the commercially accessible “Fun Hate,” Durow is determined to embark on a journey far less traveled as he progresses further into his career. As he continues to better himself at his craft, Durow looks forward to expanding his genre palate to include a plethora of music, ranging from house and acoustic pop to hiphop and hyper-pop.
I Kept The Knife
“Over the years, I’ve been trying to make the most unique songs with the best rhythms, production, and vocals I can give. I got so caught up in trying to prove my artistry that I forgot that all you need is four chords and the truth,” Durow said.
“I feel that it’s my first album that sounds like everything’s supposed to go together. I’ve been developing my sound, figuring out how to create a larger product, and getting a lot better at cohesion in projects.”
Fresh off the success of “Fun Hate’s” songs, music videos, and performances, Durow plans to release “I Kept The Knife,” a bold, unique, experimental album that pushes Durow’s artistry to a new level. Rather than lean into the standards of current music as Durow did with “Fun Hate,” he goes against them while telling a cohesive story. “It’s a wild experiment. Some songs are only a minute and a half long, while others are five minutes long with beat changes throughout. With ‘I Kept The Knife,’ I want to tell a story with amazing transitions. Each song tells part of a story, each with a completely distinct and unique vibe. Everything is intense and experimental, yet there’s cohesion within the frantic energy,” Durow said.
“[I Kept The Knife] has some of the deepest lyrics and most intense songs that I’ve released to date. My goal is to keep growing as an artist. I see myself as a painter with sound, trying to get better by learning new instruments and tools. Once I get good enough at the guitar, I’m going to pick up the violin or drum kit. I’m just going to keep writing songs and trying to get better at it because that’s who I am, what I do, and all I know.”
Following the triumph of “Fun Hate” and a confidently-expanding fanbase, Durow is fully engaged in a demanding schedule over the upcoming months to propel himself to the next echelon of success. “I’m promoting albums, putting out music videos, doing shows and listening parties, and traveling every weekend for shows. There’s only so much time in one day, and I’m working my ass off to get on your radar. The best thing that my dad has ever told me was to do the work first. No one wants to do the work and learn how to use production software, sing, or play the guitar or piano. You have to work harder than everyone around you because there’s no shortcut to being a great human,” Durow said.
A Q&A with Durow
I have to ask. You had a tour planned for this summer. What happened?
I had to spend the weekend in jail after getting arrested on a Saturday night! I was on my way to the studio when I got pulled over for going a little fast with a strange smell coming out of the window. I was on my way to put the finishing touches on the first big project of the year, Big Group Hug, but it released before I could change the release date. Before this incident, my record was clean, but then everything changed. Now, I’m on probation, and my record will be remain clean as long as I follow the required steps. Despite the setback, it turned out to be one of the best thing that could have happened for me personally.
Tell me a bit about your songwriting process.
I tend to get inspired lyrically by personal experiences. I’ll get a general concept, then start to fill in lyrics based on keywords and find a melody. There are other times in which I’ll write a whole song in one straight shot. I love that I don’t have a single specific genre, so I don’t have to fit into any boxes when writing songs.
Sometimes I’m inspired to write a punk song, while other times I’m inspired to write a pop or rap. Other times, I’ll hear a super aggressive song and have an idea for a rap song in my head. I’m not much of a rapper, but if an idea comes then I have to follow it. If an artist usually does one style, but they have a cool idea for another project, they should never shy away from trying something new.
What makes a song challenging to write for you?
The hardest songs to write are the ones that are bigger than a single emotion. I wrote a song about one of my friends during my senior year of high school who killed himself. It wasn’t hard in terms of what to say, but it was challenging to capture my perspective as I moved through the process of grief.
Some lyrics sounded angry, while others sounded more accepting. What would I say to him if I had the chance to speak to him again? It took a long time for those lyrics to percolate into authentic, solid, cohesive verses that were still true to the idea.
Who in Fargo inspires you?
Fargo has a lot of movers and shakers in the area. If you give many of them a week to plan an event or bring a project together, they’re going to make it the best it can be. Riley Sloan, Matt Becker, and Jade Nielsen are some of the local people that are making dreams come true. I want to do great things for Fargo like them. When you’re carving your own path just as they did, you’re going to get hit by the branches and get in the weeds. You’re going to have no clue if you’re going in the right direction, but it’s a lot more exciting than taking the normal path.
How has it been watching your music spread across the country?
It’s been very grassroots so far. If you’ve heard or read about me, it’s because I’ve put in the hard work and haven’t quit. It’s crazy to see that some of my monthly most listened-to cities on Spotify are New York City, Dallas, and Chicago, and that’s just through organic promotion. I don’t know 1,000 people in New York, but over 1,000 people are listening to me there. It’s crazy to think that they took the time to listen to something that came from my brain.
How do you decide on your setlist when performing?
It’s frustrating because every show and audience is different, and everybody likes a different side of me. If I show up and play all my rap music, the people who wanted to see me sing are upset, or the other way around. It’s been a fun challenge over the years to craft a better and better setlist.
What’s next for you as an artist?
As of now, I’m performing nearly every weekend until Hype Fest in September. Hype Fest is a three-day festival that’s one of the biggest events of its kind in the state. I haven’t been there before, so it will be a new experience for me, but I’ve heard incredible things about it. I’m thrilled to perform there. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I also have a few other shows scheduled in the cities around that time.
Additionally, I’ll be releasing new music throughout the fall. I have multiple projects and sounds lined up, but I don’t want to set specific dates until I’m sure. But I can’t wait to show everyone the next stages of my art.