Move to the Beatby Mahala High Five Brigade / 26.07.2013
Beatenberg are a pop trio who’ve been making tracks together since 2008. With Robin Brink on drums, Ross Dorkins on bass guitar and Matthew Field on voice and writing duties. This Friday they are playing at the Puma Social Club in Braamfontein, but before they do we chat with Matt about how electro is effecting Beatenberg’s sound, whether they wish they could sing with Sting and if they really cried that one time at &Union…
Mahala: Who are Beatenberg?
Matt: Matthew (speaking), Robin and Ross.
When did you guys get together?
We met when we were all on holiday in Rio De Janeiro. We only started a band because our comedy show, also called Beatenberg, flopped.
Indie pop – is that like indie rock but less depressing? Do you ever have angst in your songs or are you generally up beat guys?
We’re all about up-beat angst. Who said indie pop? Did we say it? Shit…
Has that sound changed much over the last few years?
Yes, we’ve really changed a lot. You have to hear to understand.
How do you keep your music interesting to your fans? How do you get new fans?
I think we’re doing stuff that is proper now, so I think we’ll get lots of new fans.
Do you write all the songs Matthew? What is your creative process? What moments of your days do you feel moved to sing about?
Yes. My creative process is inconsistent. Sometimes I just have an impulse to write, and then I do. Sometimes I’m in the car and get a mad feeling, rhythm, lyric or melody in my head, and then when I get home I put it down and develop it. The tricky bit is following through and fine-tuning, but that’s just about discipline and practise.
Do your songs tell stories, or are they just reflections of particular emotions?
I’ve never subscribed to the use of the word ‘story’ when speaking about music. Maybe I am just being otherwise, but it always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. My songs are definitely reflections of particular emotions. That’s a good way of putting it. But they are mostly just songs.
What made you decide to add an electro dimension to your music? How has it changed the way you write and perform?
I guess it started with me taking the personal demos I make on Logic more seriously, and so I began to believe in the sounds I used a bit more. I also often found it necessary to write an extra part, and had nobody to play it!
What’s the weirdest sound effect you’ve incorporated in a song?
Who inspires you? Who are your biggest musical influences?
I’m inspired by a lot of jazz guys, both past and present. Guys like Bill Evans, Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkel have all at different times made me feel good about the idea of a life devoted to music. Beethoven has been a great inspiration purely musically.
I get inspired by pop music and contemporary artists in a different kind of way. Often it’s just song by song, but sometimes an artist or act’s career is also inspiring.
Your music style is pretty gentle with elements of Paul Simon, Sting etc. But you’re young guys and these are old references. Are you old before your time? Do you wish you were born in the 70s? How did you get into this stuff?
I listened to Sting a lot as a kid. My parents gave me a tape of The Police, and they had all his solo CDs too. I thought he was really cool: charismatic, handsome and he could sing high and play fresh basslines at the same time.
I think the ‘old references’ are actually the songs from our Soundcloud which give the wrong impression. Our music now is pretty different from the music on Farm Photos. We should actually have a different name now but it’s not that convenient to change.
I do not wish I was born in the 70s. Besides, Sting was born in the 50s. I think we’re actually young before our time.
Where is the best place to play? Do you notice much of a difference between the crowds in the different SA cities?
We’ve only really played in Cape Town and Joburg. Joburg is very cool and vibey, but we’ve had great crowds in Cape Town too. I think the best is when people know and like the music, then it doesn’t really matter where you are.
You guys are playing at Park Acoustics – who are you most excited to listen to there?
I’m keen to see Dear Reader. I keep hearing about them but I’ve never sent them play.
How are you planning on staying warm at Oppikoppi? Whisky or long johns?
Both, and that’s probably going to turn out to be the absolute truth.
Heard a story you guys were gutted by the response of the crowd at a gig at &Union. Apparently you tuned the crowd they were being rude talking over your set and that they should show more respect. How did that go down?
We’ve played at &Union a lot and, although a lot of the crowd can be pretty noisy, we always seem to have great gigs there with a good vibe, and we’ve been happy with the crowd. But now that you mention it, I remember that I once said something like that as a dry joke. My delivery was obviously too convincing, or my humour is too far-out.
Your stuff is quite low-tempo. How do you expect crowds to behave at places like &Union and the PSC, where people are on the jol?
I think our music is medium-tempo thank you very much. Is low-tempo even a thing? But seriously, we’re going to be playing a new set on this Joburg tour, and I think we’re way more suited to people on the jol than we’ve ever been before. We’re going to be on the jol for fuck’s sake.
What can the crowd at the Puma Social Club expect this Friday?
A bloody great vibe and some deep songs.