Saturday 30 August 2014

Interview with BEAK


I originally reviewed today's guests début EP – Eyrie – back in April 2012. To tell you the truth I forgot all about them as it's been a long while since we have heard from them. Shame on me as I have revisited Eyrie the past few weeks now as I have been preparing for this interview.

BEAK are about to release their eagerly awaited full length record - “Let Time Begin” - in Sept 2014. I have been hearing a lot of great things about this record. I declared these guys as one of the next breakout stars of the post-metal scene back in 2012. High praise indeed but BEAK actually do have something about them to make them one of the best upcoming bands from the burgeoning Sludge/Post-Metal scene.

I can't wait to review this record which we will be doing soon as it's been ages that we have featured BEAK on Sludgelord HQ. But all that is going to change with this interview and a future review of Let Time Begin.

These guys are going places so before then lets see BEAK has to say to ourselves.

Q1 – Hi all. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you today.

Hi there. Things are great. We’re excited to finally be releasing our follow-up. We are honored by your praise and glad to talk.

Q2 – Can you tell our readers a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

We’ve been playing music together for around 10 years now. When I joined up with Jason and Chris, they were the Timeout Drawer, playing another kind of post- or something music. Back then there was a lot of experimental electronic and rock going on in Chicago. It was back in the days you could be in a band with a pair of CD players and a mixer. 

We took elements of what we were hearing around us and made our own brand of instrumental rock. After our final record Nowonmai and its EP Alone, we decided the form was too rigid and we wanted to strip the music down while focusing on the heaviness. We were getting older and angrier and we wanted more catharsis in our music. These days we get together as old friends and push ourselves to make the best heavy music we can.

Q3 – So it's been a long time since your début EP – Eyrie – was released. 2.5 years. What have you been doing since then.

Yeah well working at jobs for all of us. We’ve played a lot of shows in Chicago and neighboring cities. Jason and I made other bands that play around on occasion. Chris got a baby. Opened for some of our favorite bands. We wrote Let Time Begin and recorded it in the midst of all that.

Q4 – I praised Eyrie to high heaven when it was released back in April 2012. What was the overall response to the EP. And where you happy with responses that it received.

The record was received the way that all of our material has been received it seems. Critics who listened to it and wrote about it gave it a lot of praise. We got a lot of positive response from friends and fans. We’re very grateful for the attention it got when it got attention. I can’t say we did much more than break even financially, but in this climate breaking even is a win.

Q5 – Finally you’re about to release your début album – Let Time Begin. Bet you guys are excited it's finally being released upon to the world. What can people expect from the album.

I think there is a lot more confidence in this record than Eyrie. When we wrote Eyrie, there were 10
songs we tracked. 5 of that 10 didn’t make it because they were part of our transition from post-rock to the heaviness. The 5 that made it had a sound that we were just discovering in ourselves. We took that momentum into this record and evolved it. Much tighter arrangements. More melodic. Those who’ve heard it tell us it sounds like we mean it this time.

Q6 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for.

The writing was easy. Like I said we came out of Eyrie finally knowing what to go for. The concept was there from the start. We almost called Eyrie Let Time Begin, but I’d written the title track to Let Time Begin by the time we got around to titling Eyrie, and I wanted to build the record around the themes the title suggests. Almost all of the basic ideas for Let Time Begin were in place as Eyrie was being released.

That’s the writing. Then comes the tracking and mixing. We are very methodical about our recording process. We also have to work around everyone’s tightly packed schedules, and that prolongs the process even further. Add healthy amount of second guessing at every milestone and here we are 2 years later.

Q7 – What influenced you when recording the album.

The title came from the book Legion by William Peter Blatty. It’s part of the Exorcist series, and Jason can’t get enough of that guy. There’s a theory the main character has in the book that the Big Bang was Lucifer and his minions falling from heaven. Earth as we know it was made from the light they brought with them, and we are all a part of that fall. I took that and added passages from Paradise Lost (Milton), Leviathan (Hobbes), and other collected phrases I keep for the writing process. I’m a subscriber to the “cutout” method made famous by the likes of William Burroughs and David Bowie. I tried to maintain an underlying theme of the Big Bang itself. I wanted the concept to suggest these massive universal forces and our place as frail temporary forms of life despite them.

Q8 – I have read the album is going to be a prequel to Eyrie. Was that an easy or hard decision to do. Is your sound different or a natural progression to Eyrie.

I’m not sure that what you read came off perhaps the way we might have intended. The concepts around Eyrie were around the idea that everything fades and all things must end. At some point life as we know it won’t be sustainable on this planet, etc. Big surprise. Metal band shouts about the apocalypse. I’d like to think that I have my own spin, but I’m sure all the other metal bands would also like to think that. 

Since we based this record on our universe coming into being, you can see how conceptually this record precedes Eyrie. Musically we were just trying to make more cohesive songs while trying to maintain what we liked about what we did with Eyrie.

Q9 – It's being released via your drummer Chris record label – Someoddpilot Records. Was that another hard or easy decision to make. Did you have any other offers to release the record. Or does this maintain some sort of self control and ownership of your music.

Honestly we didn’t want to take on the monumental task of self-releasing our record. It’s part of what took us so long. At the same time we didn’t trust a majority of the prospects of which we were aware. We did try to shop it to a select few of the labels we did respect and trust, but in the end the best option was for us to release it ourselves. Today’s labels don’t give you anything more than street cred and maybe a little financial support. Maybe. SomeOddPilot already has the same distribution the other labels have, and Chris can make images that bypass the need for any introduction. The rest is the legwork and that’s on us. With a label it would still be on us.


Q10 – I love the freaking album cover. Mysterious, bleak, hostile and very cold. Chris – What influenced you to design this cover. And did you have much input from the other band members.

CHRIS - Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad it has impact. One of the best parts of being the drummer in the band and artist, it allows me to have a completely immersive understanding of the music concepts, and I find the ideas for our covers coming straight out of me, almost naturally. The other guys trust me to do that, and of course I am being led by Jon's concepts.

I've done 40 album covers over the years, and I've come to understand them backwards from the moment they are lifted out of the bin at the store - what's the most iconic impactful form the concept could have when I first pick it up? That's what I'm thinking. Often that involves ambiguity - my favorite thing about this one is that you can't tell if the pyramid is rising or being submerged.

I admire Storm Thorgerson, who designed nearly all the big rock covers of the 70's and 80's and was a master of the mysterious narrative, and Factory Records designer Peter Saville who is equally the master of the simple and iconic. I took the photograph while vacationing in Wisconsin, atop a 200 ft cliff looking down at Lake Michigan. I knew the record was about the beginning of time, and the vast body of water - the scale of it! - just screamed something to do with origins. I had a crying baby with me, and I had little to no time to get this picture. Such is life!

Q11 – What formats will the album be released on. Please say VINYL!!!

I really want to say vinyl. I do. At first at least we’re going to do a small run of CDs and downloads of course. We’re going to get a feel for the market and hopefully we can find a way to get it on some vinyl shortly thereafter.

Q12 – What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Most of the songs come from a riff that Andy or I have. I get pretty involved with the arrangements because that comes from the lyrics and vocals of which I’m in charge. Most of the songs I’ll get to the almost done point and we will then play the shit out of them and changes will emerge or not. In the end it has to be a consensus and the band has to be satisfied. Into The Light was the most collaborative I think, and I think it shows as it’s one of the more dynamic and complicated tracks on the record.

Q13 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians. Any particular band or album stand out that influenced you to become a musician.

These days it’s all over the place. I would say a couple of the most influential bands for this record would be Enslaved and Killing Joke. The self titled record of Killing Joke they released in 2003 has been with us from the beginning. Enslaved keeps getting better with everything they release. We look up to them or their attitude and their musicianship especially. I think everyone would agree on those two. Any other influential bands would be different for each of us.

Q14 - What is your musical set-up when playing live or recording your music. Any hints and tips would you like to give to the budding musicians out there.

I personally am never satisfied with my sound. I’m always trying to get at something I never feel is perfect. Andy has had his sound dialed in since day one. Jason has a love/hate relationship with his keyboards. Chris has played on the same drum kit for close to 20 years now if you can believe that. My advice to budding musicians would be that it’s in the playing. That is after you’ve at least done enough for your setup to make it work for you. But it’s the playing that makes the difference. As a band. You don’t even know what you’re working with until you can play as a band.

Q15 – Do you like being classed as part of the Post-Metal scene. As some bands are really annoyed by that term. How would you describe your own music.

I guess I don’t feel one way or another about being classified as post-metal. If that makes it easier to write about it then it is what it is. We never sat down and said “let’s make post-metal now”. We were playing what we felt and it turned out to be called that. I don’t have any other thing to call it, so it’s fine.

Q16 – Do you play many gigs in Chicago or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly.

We get enough shows in Chicago to keep us pretty busy. We’ve branched out here and there and it’s been hit and miss. Because there’s no money for bands at our level, it’s hard for us to get out there as much as we would like. We are grateful for what we can do however.

Q17 – What is the local metal scene like in Chicago. It does have an affinity with Post-Metal with bands such as Pelican and Russian Circles coming from that area.

There are great heavy bands everywhere, but Chicago does seem to have some of the most interesting. I really enjoyed the Bloodiest record and I keep hearing great things about the latest Lord Mantis record. There is a lot of talent here and Chicago breeds an energy that is perfect for heavy music.

Q18 – What is your whole view of the crowd-funding scene. It's very controversial at the moment with theHard Rock/Metal scene. Some bands are for it and some are against it. Would BEAK ever participate in a crowd-funding project.

You mean like Kickstarter? Shit man, if we didn’t do that Kickstarter project for our first record, we’d be in debt for it no doubt. To be honest I was against it when the idea was proposed, but in the days when music is otherwise free, it makes sense to at least tell the people that it costs money and time to make the music they’re listening to. It’s another form of what bands do when they distribute their music. Just more direct.

Q19 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What would it be.

Play a lot. Play all the time. Make it your religion. Make it fun. Be good to each other and respect that the other dudes or ladies in the room are all there to make music. Get over yourself. The sooner the better.

Q20 – Will you be doing an extensive Tour to promote the album. If so, when will you be touring.

We have an east coast tour in November we’re looking forward to. We hope that momentum will pick up from there. We’re down for whatever.

Q21 – The last thing before you go, Do you have anything else to say to your fans.

Shitsya. Thanks for listening. We know you have many other choices when you fly, and we are honored when you fly with us.

BEAK thanks for doing this interview. As I said before I can't wait to hear the album. All the best with the albums release and forthcoming tours. Been great talking to you.

Yeah again thanks for giving us the time.

Thanks to Jason Goldberg for arranging this interview.

Check BEAK from the links below. Our review of Let Time Begin will be published very soon.

Written by Steve Howe