EVERETT — Passersby might have seen Alex Johnston dancing around downtown this summer.
The self-described “folktronica singer-songwriter” was shooting “Daylight Fooldream,” a 37-minute video accompanying 10 new music tracks Johnston released under the same name Sept. 15.
The self-published songs can be streamed on Spotify or all downloaded for $10 on Bandcamp.com. As for the film, which Johnston dubbed a “visual album,” a screening will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Narrative Coffee, 2927 Wetmore Ave. in Everett. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $15.
Johnston, who lives in Everett, said there’s intentionality and meaning behind the “Daylight Fooldream” project.
“The visual album is about having deja vu and instead of confusion you have confidence,” he said. “And also being at the end of a chapter and the pain of that transition.”
Johnston, 31, is a Kamiak High School graduate who studied music at the now-defunct Trinity Lutheran College in Everett. For his day job, he teaches adult recreational and social classes at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He says his free time is devoted to family and music.
He uses piano, guitar and synthesizers to create a sound he calls ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.” With a budget of zero dollars, he largely records improvisations and concept albums out of his bedroom. These songs often center around a theme or premise, such as the winter season, or processing grief.
Johnston said his music serves as “a life journal,” recording his thoughts and feelings in that moment like “mile markers.” During a difficult time in his life, Johnston revisited “Spinning Jewel,” an album of songs he recorded in 2018. He said he felt like his past self somehow knew the future and was consoling him in the present. That’s part of the inspiration for “Daylight Fooldream.” The songs self-reference each other and include callbacks to Johnston’s old music, like a reused chord progression or a melodic line.
“I wanted to infuse that idea of multiple realities, past and future, intermingling in the present,” Johnston said. “One song has probably five or six references to my past work, which is interesting. I like that in music.”
In January, Johnston began to jot down cool phrases and daily ramblings for potential lyrics. He started recording in March and finished the mixing and mastering by June. Compared to his previous music, Johnston said the new album is faster, more upbeat and “a bit punchier.” But Johnston wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to go bigger. He wanted to make something like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
“It’s special, something that a lot of people actually would relate to,” Johnston said about his new album. “So rather than this just being lost in the ether, I thought it would be special to actually create a film that shows the heart behind some of this.”
Johnston worked on the visual album for two months, editing it himself. Shooting took place over weekends from late June through August. The video depicts two different versions of Johnston in conflict with a third wearing a shawl observing from afar. His partner Mikaela Henderson wears a masquerade mask and the two do an interpretive dance. And his cat Jon also makes cameo appearances.
Johnston and Henderson mostly filmed around Everett on an iPhone 14. Some scenes were shot at Lucky Dime, Black Lab Gallery, The Fireplace Bar and Narrative Coffee, as customers looked on.
“There was a couple of weird looks, but it was fine,” Johnston said.
There are planned scenes but also impromptu moments of Johnston hugging friends and greeting strangers. One shot has Johnston cracking up as a barista shows off one of the artist’s old business cards found while cleaning the shop.
“So there’s a genuine reaction,” Johnston said. “That is a real moment of me laughing out of bewilderment.”
For his next project, Johnston said, he imagines building upon the ideas explored in “Daylight Fooldream.” He’s thought about remaking his old songs that don’t resonate with him anymore.
“What if I revisit that idea but from a different perspective, where I’m at now?” Johnston said. “I feel like whatever I do next is going to continue this world of being able to revisit your past.”