Recently a shopper at the Chevy Chase DC record store art sound language was chatting with owner PJ Brownlee about a book for sale. It tells the story of Arlington’s Inner Ear studio, and the customer mentioned he’d recorded there with a long-ago band. The group’s name, he told Brownlee, was No Trend, so the owner whipped out his phone to show him some artwork that will be shown in the shop this weekend: Artist Alex Halaszyn has recreated the covers of dozens of classic DC-area albums in his distinctive style. One of them was No Trend’s “Teen Love” seven-inch single from 1983.
“He was kind of dumbfounded,” Brownlee says. “You know, you feel like you’ve stumbled into a dream. I’ve seen this with people who really get what I’m doing.” Brownlee’s shop is indeed a kind of mystical landing pad for a certain type of music fan—this publication recently called it the region’s “Most Adventurous Record Store“—which makes it the perfect spot for Halaszyn’s first solo show. A comics artist since he was 15, Halaszyn grew up in Huntington Beach, California, and moved to the DC area for work in 2017. Encouraged by friends, he began to show his artwork at makers’ markets and in bars. The warm reception convinced him to make the leap to show professionally this July, in Phoenix.
Halaszyn and Brownlee met at art sound language, and the two hit it off. Soon, Halaszyn says, the idea of a show about album art developed. DC-area music was a natural subject for Halaszyn, who grew up a huge fan of Washington music. His punk fandom was almost by birthright: An uncle who was friends with Orange County legends like TSOL and Jodie Foster’s Army bought him the Vandals’ Peace thru Vandalism EP when he was in the second grade (“like, the most inappropriate, terrible gift,” Halaszyn says) and a later gig in a record store sealed his fate.
The show will feature Halaszyn’s renditions of “all my favorite albums that came from DC,” from Black Eyes’ self-titled debut to the Faith/Void split. His gaze rides higher than punk rock, encompassing psychedelia (the unfairly obscure DC band the Fallen Angels), go-go (in the form of those once-ubiquitous Globe Printing posters), and fellow travelers like Parliament, whose 1975 album Chocolate City paid tribute to Washington.
Halaszyn has recreated 18 twelve-inch records and at least eight singles for the show. He hopes to encounter some more people with connections to the music that inspired him during the two hours on Saturday when the whole show will be live. Wouldn’t it be amazing, he says, if any of the 30 or so people on the cover of Q and Not U’s 2000 LP No Kill No Beep Beep happened by? It’s possible! “Seeing all of these faces I love so dearly rendered in Alex’s instantly recognizable style is a damn trip,” says the band’s Chris Richards, who now works at the Washington Post.
The work will be for sale—$100 for 12-inches and $80 for 7-inches—and anything that doesn’t sell will be available at the store for purchase for the near future, Brownlee says. But if you’re hot to pick up any particular album cover, try to make it between 4 and 6 PM on Saturday. “It’s almost like a concert,” Halaszyn says. “This is your chance to see it.” Brownlee talks enthusiastically about Halaszyn’s spiritual connection to other music-inspired artists like Raymond Pettibon and Stefan Marx and the chance to give a broader presentation of Halaszyn’s work. “I think he has created a universe of his own,” Brownlee says. “I like being in it, and it’s a lot of fun.”
“The Art of Alex Halaszyn” will be on display from 4 PM-6PM on Saturday, October 21, at art sound language, 5520 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest.