Monday, June 5, 2006

Interview - Brian from Beat Radio

Herohill had the chance to sit down with Brian from Beat Radio. Beat Radio is not easy to describe. Powerful, infectious hooks and a real passion for the music they are making are both rare in today's music industry. Sometimes the most enjoyable music is a piece that doesn't try to overcomplicate things. Somehow this band is unsigned, but I'm sure that will change soon.

HH: There is a real influx of music collectives these days, people playing in multiple bands, playing different styles of music. BSS, (one of my fav records write now) Hotel Lights, the ship (Irving, Silversun Pickups etc) to name a few. How did you assemble the musicians that contribute to the Beat Radio sound? Do you all have the same goal with the projects?
BS: I was listening to this interview with Jeff Tweedy the other day and he was saying how it's important for Wilco that all the members have other projects going on besides Wilco. It kind of keeps things fresh. With Beat Radio, we're all friends and we're all part of a community of musicians trying to make a number of projects work. Phil and Jim, who play in Beat Radio, are also in an amazing band called Gordo Gringo. Mike, our bass player, has been touring with this ridiculously big teen idol for the last few months. Phil and his wife Vanesa have a new project they're putting together and I think I'm playing keyboards and banjo with them for their live shows. For the most part, I've been working with the same people for a while now. The guys in Beat Radio were the core group of musicians on my 2 solo records, and the timing finally worked out where it could be more of a regular thing. I knew they were versatile enough as musicians to handle any direction I want to take things, stylistically. Also as a songwriter, finding musicians you can really trust your songs with is rare, and it's not something you want to let go of.

HH: You write songs for both Beat Radio, and as a solo artist. Do you write specific songs for each project or do all the songs evolve from something you write for you?
BS: When I started putting stuff out as Beat Radio about a year ago, I was trying to create more accessible indie pop music. I had made a record called When it Comes on Like a Dream in 2004 and I had kind of proven something to myself artistically that i had been working towards for a long time. At the same time, it was sort of a challenging record and I never felt like it would be accessible to most people. With Beat Radio, I wanted to try and write singles, simplify things a bit and concentrate more on melody. As of late my goal is to really blur the lines and just make whatever i do work as Beat Radio, even the more mellow stuff. I'd like for the band to be a more dynamic and evolving sort of thing, like Yo La Tengo or Sparklehorse. It kind of makes the big rock and roll moments that much more powerful, and does the same for the more intimate parts of the show. Also, I guess I have sort of a short attention span.

HH: You really are open about giving away demos, songs and using myspace/web sites to promote your work. How do you think blogs/internet and MP3 trading has changed how bands gain a fan base?
BS: I think most bands don't really make any money off selling records these days. It's kind of a scary thing if your trying to make a career out of this, but at the same time the whole thing is pretty liberating as an artist. It can be so immediate if you want it to. At the end of the day it's always been about creating music and sharing it with people, and that has become so much easier than ever before. So it's definitely changed things completely, and all the record labels have their "new media" promo department or whatever they call it. It seems like everyone has become their own sort of obscure music enthuisiast, which is great. Sometimes I'll stumble upon some random kid from Florida or Bakersfield, CA or somewhere on myspace, recording songs in his grandma's basement, and I feel like I'm this modern day Alan Lomax or something, without leaving home. It's amazing. I think it's definitely made music better. I'm excited to see what happens to the film industry when it really forces them to change. I'm thinking the big studios will have to get more creative. Maybe they have already I don't know.

HH: We ask everyone we talk to - what are three things you'd recommend to any fans who are into your music (books, music, food, film - anything)?
BS: Electr-o-Pura by Yo La Tengo. That's my favorite record of theirs. People always talk about I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, and that's great also but for me Electr-o-Pura is the moment. They came into their own with this great big kaleidescopic, shifting, signature sound.

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison is my favorite record of all time. There's something so visionary about it. When i was in college i was convinced that the key to life was simply to keep the song "Sweet Thing" in your head all the time.

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. It's strange i can't read any novels anymore but Kerouac's. They relax me somehow. I like almost all of them. On the Road is amazing but the prose is actually still pretty conventional. Dharma Bums he kind of really lets go and starts to follow his own literary ideals and "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose." Kerouac made me feel at home with a sense of spirituality and with the notion of patriotism in a time and place when both of those things can look so scary and corrupted. I really love Mexico City Blues as well but I didn't choose that one to recommend because who reads poetry books these days?

HH: Any tour plans? Does the fact you are involved in other projects (everyone in Beat Radio) restrict the long term plans for the band?
BS: We're doing some touring this summer with Phil's band Gordo Gringo. It's so expensive to tour so we're trying to figure out ways to do it with shared and shifting personnel, kind of like Broken Social Scene and all those other bands did before they were each big enough to do their own tours. Keeping the definition of who Beat Radio is sort of open makes the thought of long term plans a little less overwhelming. The lineup can change as the music changes, or as a member's involvement in other projects changes. I may do some touring for Beat Radio on my own also. We just started shopping around our demos a bit more seriously to record labels, so some of it could depend on how that goes I guess.

Posted at 11:04 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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