Based out of Montreal, Pompey has become something of a fixture on the Canadian city’s music scene, playing bass for the likes of Thanya Iyer, Corey Gulkin, Paper Beat Scissors and more. While working on other people’s music, Pompey has also been exploring his own music in his band, come solo project, come duo working under this own name. After a handful of EPs and a large ensemble album of improvisations based on his songs, Pompey recently shared his latest offering Overwhelmed, which he describes as his, “third debut album (it’s a joke but also not)”.
A self-defined pandemic album recorded throughout 2021, Overwhelmed was written with the aim of helping Pompey to, “find and recognize the comforts that surround(ed) me”. That comfort is evident from the moment the record arrives on the minimal wonky hug that is the opening track, Wake Up, where Pompey advises us to take in light but give our eyes, “some time to adjust to the light they’ve been closed awhile“. That sense of comfort and calm runs through the record like a warm babbling stream, even the title track, Overwhelmed, seems to offer a slightly uneasy calm in the face of life’s insecurities, “I try not to frown, smile spreads light throughout my crown, I will trust myself…over time”. For all the warm gentleness of the lyrics, the music is equally delightful, from the segue between HMU and the thumb-piano led intro of Search Party through to the delicate finger-picking of Body/Belly, which takes a turn for the Anti-folk of the Moldy Peaches when Thanya Iyer’s delightful backing vocals arrive towards the songs close. If this is sounding like a record to reach for in the dark times, perhaps it will shine even brighter when the lightness peeks through, as Pompey put it, “it can serve as a reminder to remember the parts of the hard times that weren’t so bad” – so here’s to the good times and the hard times that make them all the more worthwhile.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Pompey?
I am Pompey? My name is Alex but I’ve had the nickname Pompey since high school and it’s followed me everywhere, it just seems to fit. So Pompey is me, the person, but also sometimes Pompey is a band with my friends, more recently it’s been a duo with my musical and life partner, Thanya Iyer. We are from and live in Montreal and have been playing music together in some form since we were 18 (12ish years?).
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
The first Pompey show was in 2015 at a valentine’s day party. I played 5 little love songs that I had written to Thanya while she was in India for a month and I was lonely. It was at our friend Shelby’s old apartment that was known as safespace69 and I knew everyone in the audience. I was very nervous but also had an amazing time and everyone was super encouraging.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
The short answer is it’s the only one I’m any good at. For some reason, my family has always been very encouraging/supportive when it comes to music. I took violin lessons when I was 5, I hated it and quit after a few months. I took piano lessons from 10-12 and also hated it (but also learned a lot). Then I started playing bass when I was 13 because my friends were starting a band and they already had 3 guitarists and a drummer. The band never happened (I actually don’t even remember who those friends were) but almost every single important relationship in my life was formed through music. Over the pandemic, songwriting has strengthened my relationship with myself and I have no idea where I would be without it.
FTR: What can people expect from the Pompey live show?
The answer to this question seems to change every couple years, in February 2020, the last pre-pandemic Pompey show was mostly improvised music with a bunch of musicians and I was playing bass. Then the pandemic happened and I gravitated back to writing and singing songs with guitar. These days, you can expect a good (I hope) cry during the songs, with some laughs in between while I explain the inspiration for the next song. I’ve been keeping the band small (duo) these days with me singing and playing acoustic guitar and Thanya Iyer singing and playing synth. It’s a very accurate recreation of my winter 2021 (except I was the one crying and laughing).
FTR: What’s next for Pompey?
More music! I’ve been writing lots and lots of songs, I’ve been writing, recording, producing and posting short songs/demos/ideas on tiktok for the past year and I’m just starting the process of sorting through the songs and figuring out which to expand on, which are perfect as they are and which are garbage.
They Listen To…
Thanya Iyer – Please Don’t Hold Me Hostage for Who I Am, for Who I Was
Thanya’s musicality and care as a band leader has influenced me probably more than any other person. We spent a lot of time touring with our drummer, Daniel Gélinas and all of our gear in a 2001 Toyota Corolla, trying new things every night and this recording is a perfect snapshot of that time.
Izzy True – You’re Mad At Me
We have shared a couple (few?) bills with Izzy True on tour, playing Thanya’s music and I always thought they were really funny on stage and had such a great band chemistry. This is one of those songs (the chorus specifically) that I wish I wrote. You know?
Mount Eerie – Real Death
Music almost never makes me cry. I cry about/at a lot of things (thoughts, tv shows, movies, people) but rarely music. I listened to this album while running an errand recently thinking, “I can handle it, I’ve heard it a bunch, I know what’s coming.” And by the time I got home I was fully in tears. I love lyrics where people just say things and this whole album is that for me.
Big Thief – Mary
From the beginning of the pandemic until the middle/end of 2021 I only listened to Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek. This is the first song that caught my attention (at some point I thought I didn’t like any of their other songs?) and now I can’t find a song written by Adrianne Lenker that I don’t love.
Leith Ross – I’d Have To Think About It
I came across their music on Tiktok and was amazed. When I’m scrolling and a new song of theirs appears, it consistently snaps me out of the daze I’m stuck in and I either go try to write a song or listen to more Leith Ross songs.
Overwhelmed is out now. For more information on Pompey visit http://pompeymusic.com/.