JACKSON – The global pandemic means live music venues are shut down, which leaves small-time musicians to do what they do best – get creative.
Recording artist Daniel Simoes, who goes by the name Alvalanker has a lot to be excited about this year. “I have a new album coming out, which will be my third, since I started this project in 2018.”
Simoes, 33, talked to The Jackson Times about the difficulties local musicians are having not being able to perform live or at bars or anywhere to make money because of the pandemic. He also noted that in some ways however, the health crisis has actually helped some recording artists.
“That is because more people are staying inside or isolating and listening to more music, streaming it on Spotify and iTunes, giving musicians more revenue,” Simoes said.
“I’ve lived in Jackson for five years,” Simoes said. He was born in Brooklyn in 1987 and moved to New Jersey in 1989. “I love it here, I was a Boy Scout as a kid so I went camping very often, and Jackson is just full of trees and gorgeous forests and farms. It really is the kind of place I could stay for my entire life.”
Simoes added, “the roads are great compared to where I grew up in Brooklyn and Cliffwood Beach and every time I drive around Jackson it’s just a treat to be surrounded by all the nature. I love New York City and that whole vibe, but I also like the dense forests and swamps of New Jersey. They are just fascinating to explore.”
He stared playing guitar at the age of 12 after playing saxophone in the Cliffwood Elementary School band in Cliffwood Beach.
Simoes explained his performance moniker of Alvalanker saying it was a name “that I just made up one day out of thin air, literally, I took four years of Latin in High School and a passion for etymology grew in me so I was very interested in words and dissecting them and their meanings and origins.”
“One day at my father’s house I was alone in his home studio and I literally just said Alvalanker out loud, and I wrote it down and that is how the name came to be, it just came out of nowhere, and I just spoke the word and it was created,” Simoes added.
The recording artist said, “I have been in a few bands and the main band I was in was called Relic Radiation but when we broke up, I tried to keep going with the name Relic Radiation but eventually got tired of it.”
He later learned there was a group in Russia with the same name who were pretty popular, “so I wanted something unique that nobody else could possibly have, and I had that word Alvalanker that I made up, and I kind of created a character, an alter ego of mine, so I ran with that. I recorded two albums and released them under the name Alvalanker and am about to release my third, and another one at the end of the year because I have so much music that is pretty much finished.”
The performer said he first became interested in music by hearing videogame music on Nintendo in the early 1990s on videogames like Mario, Mega Man, and Final Fantasy. He was also inspired by the music of his parents “which was a lot of Pink Floyd, Queen, the Beatles and Frank Zappa. My dad was a musician in the 70’s and I heard his demos when I was a kid which also inspired me.”
Simoes said his father “was shooting to be a rock star but ended up getting married and having a kid, which I am avoiding so I can focus on my own career. In my music videos I like to include my friends and the people who have helped me along the way, and show parts of New Jersey and New York.”
“In my video Red Pills on YouTube you can see me playing guitar at St. Vladimir Memorial Church on Cassville Road in Jackson. I have another video, both are instrumentals, called Broken Robot Machine which you can see the Verrazano Bridge from a driver’s perspective, which I always thought was cool.”
The singer said “most of the video has nothing to do with the music, it’s just a compilation of moments in time that I captured and put together.”
Simoes said some of the challenges he’s faced during the pandemic have included his ability to reach out to other musicians and to perform live. “Normally, I would be getting in contact with bands’ management when they are about to release new material and tour in the winter or spring, and they need a hired guitarist for the road.”
“We would plan the tour for the summer and fall, but this pandemic has completely wiped out any chance of someone like me who doesn’t have a major record label behind them to tour or even start making plans for a tour because we have no idea what the future holds with this pandemic,” Simoes added.
While live performances have not been possible he noted that virtual platforms “have been amazing. It’s almost as if this technology came just in time for something like this. I’ve always been fascinated by the internet and now with video chatting with barely any latency is just incredible and extremely essential especially for teachers who do lessons over the internet,” Simoes said.
He added, “the technology is amazing, I don’t think we appreciate it enough and take it for granted.” He’s been busy promoting his work by Teaching guitar lessons online via Zoom or Discord or Google Hangouts, and “relentlessly promoting my music on social media and on forums, in chat rooms, basically hustling digitally, doing whatever I can and going wherever I need to go on the internet to spread my music.”
Simoes said he does this without spamming or being disrespectful to other artists. He added that the pandemic has given him lots of time to practice and to look up and get into new and different music and learn it on the guitar.
“It’s been a time of being able to take a step back and look back at the past while the world is in limbo with this pandemic. It has been very humbling and with Edward Van Halen passing away, for any guitarist, that is a major crushing loss and it still hurts,” he added.
“The pandemic has allowed me the free time to just go on YouTube and watch videos of Eddie playing and I’ve been trying to learn to play like him ever since and it’s incredibly challenging, totally different than what I was doing. It’s a massive learning experience just learning Van Halen riffs and solos for any guitar player,” Simoes added.
“I’ve also learned that people, at least here in Jackson, are very tough and resilient and relentless. I don’t know the numbers but I know almost everyone has been very responsible in regards to COVID protocols and have kept moving on going to work and doing what they need to do despite all this chaos and uncertainty,” the performer said.