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Interview: The Beths Talk About Their Debut Album 'Future Me Hates Me'

Interview: The Beths Talk About Their Debut Album 'Future Me Hates Me'

Chris Cudby / Tuesday 21st August, 2018 3:06PM

It seems like The Beths are the world's favourite new band right now, with their brand-spanking debut album Future Me Hates Me garnering praise from such international heavy hitters as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, who called it "one of the most impressive indie-rock debuts of the year." The hard-gigging Auckland four-piece helmed by core members Elizabeth Stokes and Jonathan Pearce have just touched back down in Aotearoa following a summer tour of Europe, and are gearing up to ride the huge wave of acclaim for their carefully crafted and insanely catchy collection of pop-punk tunes.

There's lots of opportunities for local fans to catch the The Beths in the near future, they're touring New Zealand with buds Hans Pucket in September, performing at Auckland's jam-packed multi-venue The Others Way festival next Friday, and playing at the Going Global Presents showcase next Saturday. Stokes and Pearce chatted with Chris Cudby in the week preceding their new record's launch, as the band were prepping for musical action in their sun-soaked temporary headquarters in Chelva, Spain...

A lot of people talk about how amazingly catchy your songs are. For me it reminds me of something like Hall & Oates where you’ve just got hook after hook after hook, both lyrically and musically. I was wondering what your thoughts were around the role or value of catchiness in a song?

E: I value it. I think it’s fun. I’m not doing it accidentally. I’m not doing it in a cynical way I suppose. What I want when I’m writing… I like clarity of ideas and I think maybe a hook is just a clear idea that’s easy to remember. I like arranging a song so that you know usually what the ear is drawn to at any one time and almost picture - not picture because it’s your ear - you can hear your attention moving... like if it's a vocal line and after the vocal line ends, where does your ear go? Is there space that needs to be filled or is there space that needs to be left? I really like melody more than anything and melodies that go places, that aren’t super static. Maybe that’s a catchy thing.

J: And you like major scale kind of bright sounding melodies generally.

E: Yeah.

J: Whether the song is necessarily bright or not, which I think is the point of Hall & Oates style hook writing. That’s something that people definitely identify with and it’s totally been part of songwriting for a long long time, beautiful major scale melodies.

E: It took me a while to be comfortable not trying to rewrite the wheel. In order to make this interesting, I have to make this strange. You can use the same three notes in a melody in a zillion different ways and have it be a zillion different songs and so if you just follow your gut, I think you’ll end up with something that is usually not something that someone’s written before. Well, probably they have but...

There’s a lot of emotional content in the songs. Are your lyrics drawing on personal experiences?

E: It’s mostly my experiences and I’ll usually like scribble a lot of things down at certain times and at other times pick them up. It might be that it’ll be months later that I’ll turn to that particular page and start writing about it or it might be immediately. I guess I just write about my feelings, sometimes I do extrapolate out a bit but that’s usually the starting point at least. I don't think Ive ever successfully began to write a song with a subject in mind like some people can, which I think is really great and I really enjoy but I’ve never successfully done it.

What's your song ‘Uptown Girl’ about?

E: ‘Uptown Girl’ started off as weird scribblings. It’s basically about self-destructive behaviour, when you’re angry at someone or you feel like somebody's wronged you and your mode of revenge is to fuck yourself up. It’s very flawed logic but it seems to make sense at the time. It’s kinda that, it’s what that song is about. At the time all of my friend’s were going through weird shit so it was also building on their experiences as well.

How long have the songs been in the works for?

E: They’ve been in the works for a while. We’ve been playing some of them in Auckland for well over a year. People know them but that’s like two hundred people or something. For all intents and purposes I guess they’re new but they are kind of old, well like since the EP and some of them were written before the EP was out. The most recent ones we finished off last year, towards the end of the record, we stopped tracking mid-year or something.

Are there any artists that you see as inspirations for your work?

E: Yeah sure, there’s ones sonically and there’s people whose songs I like. I really like Alvvays, shortly after starting the band I started listening to them and I really like their songwriting, I think it’s got that catchy, melodic songwriting that I really connect with.

J: Bands like us, maybe like Bully.

E: I don't really like Bully. Have you felt maybe recording-wise, have you been going for that?

J: Yeah, I just mean in terms of like there’s kind of like unabashed rock, unabashed guitar rock there which is something that is not there in Alvvays, which is not there in a lot of indie bands but it’s something that we definitely go for. I think that it’s something that you do go for in your writing. To be a rock band, doing rock tracks but it’s definitely, it’s not as intentionally acerbic as Bully, I guess it’s a little less Breeders and a little more Weezer.

I spotted there’s been a couple of lineup changes recently [for the European tour]. Is there a specific core to the group... if it’s Liz and your granny on the bongos is it still The Beths?

J: Anyone could be a Beth. There is a rigorous induction process.

E: To learn how to do very fast downstrokes.

J: Very fast downstrokes and that can take months to develop and sometimes you see the inspiration, see the spark in someone but we try to be a band.

E: With Katy and Chris coming on tour [in Europe], that was mean because at its core, I think the band is me and Jonathan. We’re like the inner core and then, the solid iron core and then there’s the iron core which I guess is like Ben and...

J: Nice nice, the molten core, the slightly in flux, orbiting molten core.

Have you always been based in Auckland?

E: Always been based in Auckland yeah, it’s pretty Auckland. We all playing in high school bands who all played with each other and then we went to jazz school and were in bands that played together at jazz school and then a couple of years after we just wanted to play in a rock band and I wanted to write songs again so that’s why we started playing together.

J: We started with three demos that were self recorded by Liz, with Ben’s help in fact, and sent around to the rest of us. Three perfectly formed, complete, ready to go demos.

E: They were not perfectly formed.

J: They had melodies and verses and a chorus and good lyrics and backing vocals, all they lacked was the studio. Some drums and just a tiny bit of something stupid but yeah, that was how it started for me, got sent some good demos.

How did The Beths come to be involved with Carpark Records?

E: It was through a friend, Bevan from Wellington, he forwarded on. Jono sent him the record as a reference to get some mix notes.

J: Bevan Smith, he’s such a good mix engineer and I just marvel and what he does. I sent him our album when it was basically done, to see if there were any last minute changes he would do, I had to really go to school again and made a bunch of changes. He’s been affiliated with Carpark for years and we didn't really know. I asked him about that label and he just must have liked the album enough that he was willing to send it himself to Carpark which he did. Later we found out that he’s old friends with the man Todd Hyman who started Carpark, they share music and talk to each other about music all the time and Carpark still release what Bevan’s working on, whether that’s Introverted Dancefloor or Signer or whatever else. It was just a connection through a mutual friendship through this very talented guy Bevan.

The other day, Liz you said that you’re looking forward to coming back to New Zealand and playing with some of your favourite local groups at The Others Way festival. Who are some of your favourite local artists? Don’t leave anyone out!

E: Love Hans Pucket, very much.

J: Hans Pucket is our first answer to that question, no matter what part of the world we're in. For good reason.

E: They’re Wellington but y’know still fine. Wax Chattels. I like Polyester a lot, I think that they write really sick songs.

J: Miss June, are they playing in the thing? They are aye. It’s a shame that Earth Tongue aren’t going to be there, I love those guys. The Naenae Express.

E: Naenae Express.

J: What a band.

E: What a band!

J: Dateline, Liz’s other band. They won’t be playing unfortunately... Dateline is Kate Everingham’s band that Liz plays drums in.

E: Katie, who came to drum for us. She also plays drums for Eyes No Eyes and Sea Views, that’s like her guitar-reigning band and I play drums in it.

Very last question, what’s the move once you get back to New Zealand?

E: So we’re touring.

J: Were doing more touring, back to Europe and the USA and also in Australia, doing Bigsound and then a couple of headline shows in Melbourne and a show in Sydney and then a headline tour of New Zealand with Hans Pucket.

That sounds bloody wonderful.

J: That does sound bloody wonderful to me. Liz, how does that sound to you?

E: It’s good, I’m looking forward to being in New Zealand, being cold again.

You can catch The Beths touring throughout New Zealand in September, for tickets and more info head along here.


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