The three sweet & grumpy men who are Beak> will play at Columbia Theatre in Berlin tonight—November 14th 2016. The project of Billy Fuller, Will Young and Portishead-mastermind Geoff Barrow–makes quite a wonderful trudging sound somewhere between post- …well, let’s stop right there for a moment… post-what actually? As nobody wants to let the “sound” of the Post-Punk era go, maybe its time to rename and reclassify it as being „Current“ and contemporary again? If it wasn’t forbidden to compare music to „long lonely car drives“ or „elevators into nothing“, their fabulous tune „Yatton“ (off of their 2012 self-titled debut) would be the perfect trip into nothing for sure.
We talked to Beak> via Skype a few weeks ago…
Beak: We haven’t brushed our hair, so we are not gonna put the camera on.
That’s fine, but can you tell me who’s who, so I don’t have to guess afterwards?
Oh, no, we will turn it on.
One of the key elements of your music is repetition. What else defines you?
We’re only a three piece, so the key elements are filling the gaps in, not having too much. Being melodic. Avoiding standardisms. Finding interesting, non-traditional musical ways to work rather than setting up a twelve bar blues-esque. We’re trying to be the opposite of that.
A blues-opposing melodic minimalism?
Yeah! It’s only coming across as minimal because there are only three people playing and we don’t do any overdubs on the records. In that way it’s quite traditional. Once we do record something, we listen to it and if it sounds like something somebody else did already, it gets kicked out.
Haha, so you sometimes sit there and go „Shit, we sound like (insert some band) now!“ Usually bands hate being compared.
Luckily enough we don’t tend to sound like too many modern bands. We sound like Duran Duran. (Laughing) And they hugely sound like old bands, and that’s kinda cool with us. We actually have our own sound. Modern recording actually is the same for everybody. It’s really strange. You get, like, Taylor Swift. Or you get a modern Reggae band. And then you get The Kooks. But sonically they’re all exactly the same. So that’s what’s weird: people are not being fed any different sonic. Duran Duran sounded very different from Gary Numan. You would say, oh, but that’s synth pop in the eighties. But they sounded massively different.
Back then, the Top 40 were full of songs that sounded completely different. One would be a big band Reggae tune. One would be a hunky pop song. The production was really different. To be honest it’s really not anymore, which is sad. It’s part of your individuality, which is being just nullified.
I had to go to a Justin Bieber concert lately, and it’s funny, although everybody knows his name, nobody really knows what his songs are.
Yes. And I mean, that music is all about hooklines. Sing along bits. There is just „That’s a happy song. That’s a sad song.“ And that is how far it emotionally gets. We’re really lucky to have had people like Michael Jackson. They sounded amazing.
How do you feel about pathos in music? I like Beak> for being serious without ever getting pathetic.
It has to do with European scale music. I think that seriousness comes from the harmonies that we used. More european classical than american or traditional rock. So it kinda gives you a sense of seriousness, but we’re anything but serious, really.
So, what is the happiest Beak-Song?
The happiest? I don’t know. I don’t know if we made that one yet. Ehm. … They all make me happy. They’re not miserable songs. It’s really where you start. I mean, compared to Justin Bieber or Metallica we’re probably really serious. That’s the problem with it. The flatline has been moved … well, actually, flattened so much. A good example is Ellie Goulding. Ellie Goulding is a straight up pop thing, but I saw her play in Hungary at a pretty hardcore rock festival. They turned the beats down and the guitars up and told her band to wear leather jackets and grease their hair a little.
Haha, and did it work?
Yeah, it worked!! Because she played sometime in the afternoon. She turned up in a private plane with like 30 make-up people. That starts becoming the norm. And it’s not good.
But thats what they always said, right? Even in the sixties and fifties they said, music is on its way down.
No. I don’t believe you. They had other problems. Like The Partridge Family.
Do you know the Wrecking Crew? Even when they started the older musicians were picking on them. I think there’s always this tendency to see the current status of worst.
Good question. But I still don’t believe you. I still disagree with you. And I do because if you look at the diversity of popular music in any decade it’s more diverse than it is now. Because in popular music they are still singing the same melody lines. Regardless of style of music, Reggae, R’n’B, Pop. Basically they go on marginalized. So that’s my defense. The audience is getting force-fed stuff. From day one on. I was looking at the Youtube video of Hotline Bling this morning. And it has 209 million views. I think the diversity is disappearing. That’s all. It’s not because we think that we should be anywhere or because we should be massive. We’re ancient in this world.
BEAK> recently scored the Tom Geen directed film Couple in a Hole—Order the soundtrack here
11.11.16 | Utrecht, Netherlands | Le Guess Who Festival
12.11.2016 | Leipzig, Germany | UT Connewitz
13.11.2016 | Kortijk, Belgium | Sonic City
14.11.2016 | Berlin, Germany | C Theatre
15.11.2016 | Hamburg, Germany | Nochtspeicher
18.11.2016 | Brest, France | Festival Invisible
19.11.2016 | Rennes, France | UBU
22.11.2016 | St. Gallen, Switzerland | Palace
23.11.2016 | Bern, Switzerland | Dachstock