Thursday, 21 June 2012
New Beard (Interview Pt. 2)
No need for me to waffle on again about how great the album is, without further ado here is part 2 of my interview with Ben Wigler of New Beard...
DDMB - Can you tell us a little about the new album?
BW - The album really started life as a way for me to get over leaving my long-time band Arizona. Arizona was started with another high school-era friend Alex Hornbake, and Nick Campbell who now goes by the artist name Wages. A lot of people thought that Arizona was one of the best and most overlooked bands of the mid 2000’s, and I have to say I agree - we were making magic, magic music, but no one really ever heard of us. Eventually, we got desperate to do something people would take notice of, and were in the process of making a pretty bland sounding record when I eventually quit. We started out life as a NYC band, but moved to Asheville, North Carolina, which is an amazing city, but not the kind of place where our creativity flourished. It was like we got creative blue balls - or impotence or something. I was barely able to write music for a while.
After quitting AZ, I moved back up to NYC to live with my girlfriend full time, and take one last stab at trying to make an album I thought was more in line with what I thought AZ fans would have wanted. The first song I wrote for the album was "Arizona Angels" - a beautiful but very, very sad and mournful song, that I actually wrote in the AZ tour van on the way to our last gig, which was at the 40W in Athens, Ga.
It was a big traumatic thing, leaving a band that I literally had a tattoo of. It was my first real band, you know? That's a big thing - I never wanted to be in another band, I only wanted to be in that band.
But it was all for the good - shortly after moving back up to NYC, I found my creativity coming back, and bit by bit I was writing the best music of my life. The album evolved from being this big crybaby "you're gonna miss me, you fuckers!" type of a thing into a true challenge to make my dream album come true. The material still reflects a bit of those early feelings, but once Tony and Joe became deeply committed to New Beard, the whole feel became about something I never had: fearlessness, fun, total warmth and epic ambition that wasn't connected to career dreams, but rather a love of making really great, challenging but accessible music.
Nowadays, I can't really even remember Arizona, but not in a bad way. I'm still very close with all of those guys and I wouldn't be surprised if we made something new sometime soon. I'm just so ALL in with New Beard, and experiencing a joy that I've never known in my entire life. When New Beard plays a show, there's no bullshit, it's pure fun, pure beauty and leave-it-all-on-the-stage energy. So there's a lot of that kind of energy on the full album, and Gustav Ejstes coming on board really helped make the album have a cohesive feel that is fully its own thing. Tony and Tuba Joe are really the heroes of that album; their performances are so unique.
The one last thing I'd like to say about the album is that it's homage to the wonder of living in a big modern city. In our case, it's New York, but it also has influences from Tokyo & Stockholm. We wanted to capture the chaotic beauty of a big city, the sense of magic that you can meet anyone at anytime. The feeling of destiny courses through the veins of big cities, and I wanted to tap into that for New Beard City. I think we did!
DDMB - Why should people listen to your music (and where should a new listener start)?
BW - For my tastes, a lot of Indie Rock music is too genre specific. When New Beard started, a lot of my music biz friends would try to tell me "just pick one of your songs and make the others all sound like that" or "you're never going to be able to sell your music if you don't pick one style" and blah blah blah. Are you ONLY an angry guy? Or a happy guy? Or a sad girl for your entire life? Does each person have to pick one emotion and only that emotion, and embody that emotion forever? I like Radiohead just fine, a lot of Radiohead's songs are Perfect 10's, but all their music is "oh we're so unique" - I kind of feel it's all one emotion. And that gets even worse when you get to modern indie rock bands. I don't want to name names, but there are some bands I've watch grow from shitty bands that could've opened for Arizona into giant acts, mostly because they picked "sad bastard music" and stuck with it. Good for them. I much prefer to represent all the different emotions and feelings a person can have. If you've ever seen El Topo or The Holy Mountain by Jodorowsky, those are movies that are all over the map in terms of their genre and aesthetic shifts, but Jodorowsky's voice remains very true throughout each movie. That's sort of what I hope to channel when making a record.
Not to sound like a totally self obsessed person, I think my singing voice is a very unique thing that does provide consistency throughout all of my recordings. It's the avatar of the human journey - you might be sad one day, ecstatic the next, confused on another day, and then totally enlightened but you're always you. That's what I try to do with my vocal performance in this band - tie the room together, as The Dude Jeffrey Lebowski would say about his rug.
One thing is for sure- We will keep you on your toes, give you music for every mood you might experience, but also a consistent level of quality, with a consistent voice, so you'll always be able to rely on New Beard. We're going to keep making new music until we die, and we're getting better with each day. I really look forward to making our next record, because hopefully people will know who we are and we won't just be shooting in the dark, and we'll be building off our past accomplishments, instead of starting in a place where I'm feeling like I have to make up for some of my past failures. But New Beard City is an epic record, with more beauty and life than most bands can ever conjure. I fully stand behind NBC and I'm very excited to be putting it out there.
That said, we made an EP called Moment of Peace after we finished the LP, but we released the EP first. Mostly to get things started from a business perspective, but I think it gets across the live sound of the band more accurately - it's mostly recorded live, and that little EP has a ton of energy and enthusiasm. It still covers a lot of emotional ground, but it's very glued together, very not-laboured over.
As I continue as a musician, and I think everyone else in the band agrees, I want our music to sound more and more natural.
DDMB - If your band was a shape what shape would it be?
BW - I guess it would be the shape of a pentagram inspired goatee?
TW (drums) - The shape of a 1994 Kevin Bacon from "The Air Up There" movie wearing oversized tighty whities which people might mistake for diapers.
DDMB - I guess you're planning to tour the US extensively for the release; do you plan a trip to Europe?
BW - Of course we're trying to get out there in the US, but TubaJoe has the fortune to tour Europe extensively with his other band Gato Loco. It's our dream to find a European booking agent who would take a little risk on our band - I really think European audiences appreciate live music more, and are less stuck in their ways than US audiences. From what I understand, European audiences are hungry for new music and really like to have a good time at live shows. New Beard puts on a hell of a live show, and I hope we get a chance to take it overseas. I will probably try to at least hitch a ride with TubaJoe some time and sneak away for scaled-down versions of NB just so we can start laying down some roots over there.
DDMB - Finally, what's the most interesting fact about the band that no-one outside the band knew before reading this?
BW - We were almost called "Potentially Rad" lol.
TW - Yazan actually *is* Frank Zappa!
DDMB - Thanks for sparing us some of your time.
BW - Thank you for letting me ramble on and on and on about myself and this band, which I care so much about! Truly a pleasure and maybe a little too self indulgent, haha. I've been on twitter all day, so thanks for the opportunity to talk in more than 140 characters!! :)
That’s the interviews over then; next up will be the album preview, and I’m going to try a track by track breakdown for the first time so let’s hope it works!
Just a reminder, you can keep up to date with New Beard journey by clicking any of these: