Bristol’s Beak> are set to perform a very short run of dates in the US shortly, and I would implore any of you who reside in Philly, NYC, LA, San Francisco, or Berkeley to make it a point to check them when they hit your area beginning February 8th.
The trio, consisting of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow on drums, Billy Fuller on Bass, and Matt Williams on everything else, are supporting their latest release, >>, on Barrow’s Invada Records. Certainly unique and intriguing to listen to, though definitely should not be considered a replacement of the members’ previous work, do yourself a favor… Take a look at this fan video for their track, “MONO,” and judge for yourself.
I caught up with drummer Geoff Barrow to talk a bit about the band, their latest release, >>, and why we shouldn’t expect to see too many performances from Beak> in the near future. Damn academics!
G- Hi there! My name is Greg Allis and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. You guys are going to be playing a very short run of dates in the US and you’re supporting your sophomore release on your own record label… Tell us about it, man.
GB- Is “sophomore” the second or the third?
G- That would be the second.
GB- I never quite got that. We never say that over here (in the UK), so yeah (laughing). So yea it’s our second release. We just did a European tour, so we’ve kinda been used to it. We’ve got our light show, and we can’t bring it out because it’s too expensive and too big, so we’ve been trying to find different ways of doing stuff.
G- For sure. So, if you could, some of our readers may not be familiar with, well, they’re familiar with yourself and your previous work (Portishead,) but there are some people who may not be familiar with Beak> as a whole, so if you could, could you introduce everybody and tell us what they play?
GB- Yeah. Well, basically there’s Billy Fuller, and he plays bass. There’s Matt Williams who plays everything else, guitar and whatever he fancies, so it’s a very… Beak> is a very small musical set up. It’s a drum kit, a bass guitar, an organ, a synth, and a guitar. There’s no kind of huge processing or laptop stuff. It’s kinda like a jazz trio really. We play really close together, and we’re basically a bop band that got together in Christmas 2008 on my record label, Invada, in the UK.
We were having a Christmas party and I did a night where musicians came together and did some improv. So Billy and I played together with Matt, and we kind of enjoyed it and said… We didn’t think about making a record or anything… We just said ‘Let’s get together.’
So, in the New Year, the 3 of us got together and set up and made sure they could play at an abrupt touring level. And we didn’t talk to each other much, really. We didn’t know each other that well, and the first track we played is the first track on the first album.
G- (laughing) No kidding?!
GB- Yeah we just played it, and that’s very much part of what we are, really. We would just enjoy making music together. Now, with this year and the industry, with the business and stuff, it really is that thing where people come who love it, you know?
People obviously know me, and my work with Portishead, and Billy has played with Robert Plant.
We enjoy it, really. It’s fun.
G- That’s great! Now, in addition to your record label, you’re a busy guy… You’re a very busy guy, so what I wanted to ask is, from your perspective, what would you say is the most difficult part of being in a band, or on the road, especially as a label owner?
GB- I think being on the road is the most difficult because it limits your ability to actually make music. I’m not a technical guy…
At this point, the Skype voice call cuts off and I wait for a call back.
Sorry the internet dropped out. But being on the road and being unable to do other things. The traveling time, I spend a lot of it on the phone doing other business, but you can’t replace it that way. I can’t, a lot of other people can, but I can’t.
G- Understandable. Now, you just finished a European run and you’re going to be doing a very, very short run of dates in the US… I think it’s 4 dates, and how would you say the reception has been to the songs, and would you say there are any fan favorites off the record thus far?
GB- Yea there’s a track… I think there’s a few people like. There’s one we released as a 12” record, and some people know that. We’ve kind of got a base group of freaks, and that’s really nice. They’re not mainly there because of the Portishead stuff, and if you’re expecting Portishead, you may find it very difficult.
G- (laughing) Yes, I would agree with that.
GB- So, we’re just about murdering ourselves with the music and not being restricted to singles and play lists and all that kind of stuff.
G- That’s wonderful! And how about for yourself? You have a record before this as well, but do you have a favorite song that you’ve written for Beak>? Or, if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard you before, to try to make a new fan, what track would you give them, and why?
GB- Probably “Spinning Top.”
GB- Because it seems like something Public Enemy may have sampled.
G- (laughing) Nice!
GB- And we didn’t write it. It was just a groove.
There’s a few really. There’s a track that’s not on the album which we released as a single called “Mono,” and that’s us probably our most audibly positive.
G- I believe that’s the one I saw on Youtube with this really, really interesting animation behind it. That’s a wild track. Great animator, too!
GB- Yeah that was a fan video that got made for us. It’s of a woman in the 60’s and her animation, so it’s a proper fan video. We tried to, kind of, connect the dots, you know what I mean? It’s become almost a video.
G- Oh yeah… Definitely.
Now, just 2 last questions… Do you have any plans for more extensive touring with Beak> in the future? Do you think other people besides the 4 lucky cities who are going to have you in the next couple of weeks are going to get to see you soon?
GB- No. I mean basically, I’d come out for months, but Matt is studying at Goldsmith Music University in London.
GB- And it’s his school break.
G- (laughing) Oh!
GB- He kind of dedicated his break to the tour, so I don’t think so, unfortunately. I’d like to, but no.
G- So, all of you lucky fans out there who are going to be in the right city at the right time, make sure you go check them out or else you might not get to see them for a while.
Just one last question for you this morning. Well, this morning here, the afternoon where you are…
G- As a member of Portishead, Beak>, and a label owner, you’ve made some tremendous strides personally and professionally in the music business, and the music dream will never die. There are kids out there who buy guitars and drums every single day, and they could really use whatever advice you could give them. So, what advice would you give some of the up and coming bands out here who want to try to make it in the music industry, who want to make it on tour, and who want to be a professional in this business like yourself?
GB- Umm, don’t listen to people like me. (laughing)
G- Is that because you’re a drummer? I’m a drummer, too, and nobody listens to us.
GB – No, nobody listens to us. No, I would say absolutely 100% go with your guy on everything. If something doesn’t feel right, if you don’t feel right about doing something, musically or artistically, simply just don’t do it, because it’s not right for you. You know what I mean?
GB- I mean, especially if it bowls you over for a couple of weeks,
And also, nobody actually has a formula for success in music. The record companies tell you they do, but they don’t. We’ve seen that in the miserable failure of major industry. They stopped becoming patrons of the arts.
You’ve just got to follow your gut. And age does not mean wisdom in the music industry.
G- True. Very true. Well look, it was very sporadic this morning, but thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. Safe travels on your tour and I’m sure the shows are going to go over well! I look forward to seeing you and hearing more in the future, ok?
GB- Cool, man! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.
G- Not a problem at all, man. Glad to do it!
GB- Alright. Take care!