Published on June 12th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron0
The five-piece’s second album She Beats bursts with breezy optimism, the fuzzy jangling guitars and sweet vocal harmonies painting your mind’s eye in green and blue and yellow.
Like the laidback suburbs of Melbourne the band calls home, there’s a refreshing lack of pretension or self-consciousness—Beaches simply love playing and that authenticity disarms and pulls you deeper into every song.
There’s space between the notes to stretch out and soak in the sun—this is unapologetically fun music.
Stylistically falling somewhere between psych-pop and lo-fi indie, vox/guitarist Ali McCann and vox/drummer Karla Way say the band (with Gill Tucker on bass/vocals, Antonia Sellbach on guitar/vocals, and Alison Bolger on guitar/vocals) never set out to sound like anyone in particular. “We have always had trouble describing our ‘sound’. From the very beginning we never set out to formulate songs that fit into a particular genre or style.
“Our sound just evolved from the five of us together in a room.
“In terms of guitar sound, between the three of us—Antonia on lead guitar, Ali and Al on guitar—we play through a number of different pedals and different amps that sometimes result in a ‘psych’ sound by default, I guess.
We never set out to formulate songs that fit into a particular genre
“If you listen to our first two albums, there are songs that don’t necessarily fall into the ‘psych’ category. Our sound has been described as everything from ’60s pop, shoegaze, prog, southern boogie, krautrock, country…”
When BNU first reached out to Ali for an interview, she was in the middle of organising her records for a DJ set supporting the Melbourne leg of Tokyo band Sundays & Cybele’s Australian tour, but was having some difficulty emerging from a week-long Todd Rundgren binge. Was Rundgren a big influence on Beaches?
“We have no specific influences. We have never sat down and discussed who we wanted to sound like. Of course in retrospect we can pick up elements of specific bands/songs that we are into or have been into in the past that waft in and out, however, once again, this has not been a conscious thing. We have such eclectic tastes. We love so many different genres of music.”
What else has Beaches been listening to lately?
“Between the five of us we have been listening to Guided by Voices, Totally Mild, Fair Maiden, Dead Moon, Bo Hansson, Kendrick Lamar, Lidaju Sisters Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up (Compilation from Numero Group), Strong Love (Songs Of Gay Liberation 1972-81, a comp from Chapter Music), Galaxie 500, Kim Jung Mi, Curtis Mayfield, Dory Previn, Jean Claude Vannier, Sam Cooke, Klaus Weiss, Hawkwind, The Luv’d Ones, Bobby Gentry, The Cure, The Breeders, Scott Walker, Kate Bush, Moon Duo, Dennis Wilson, The Stone Roses, Gene Clarke, Harry Nilsson, Brian Eno, this list could go on, and on, and on…”
“The process has remained the same since the band’s conception. We meet at a rehearsal studio/bungalow/room in one of our houses and jam. Sometimes an impromptu jam formulates, sometimes one of us will come in with a guitar part/bassline that we then build around. The songs shift, change direction, become more refined or more expansive and experimental.
“When recording, we play live and then lay down overdubs with extra guitar parts, percussion, vocals, backing vocals and additional instrumentation like sax, synth, keys, and so on.
We were all quite drunk but managed to pull off a good show.
“We love the recording process. It’s a chance to create something that cannot be achieved live. We enjoy layering additional textural sonics. We are all quite democratically involved in the mixing process.”
Beaches formed around 2007 and began gigging soon after, first at house parties, later at live venues around Melbourne, and soon expanding to national and overseas tours on the back of glowing media reviews and word-of-mouth support.
By 2011, the band had embarked on its second US tour, taking in Austin Psych Fest—now known as Levitation—and sharing the stage with the likes of Spectrum, Roky Erikson, and Crystal Stilts. What’s an average Beaches show like?
“This question prompted us to look through the archives and we came upon this Pitchfork review of our SXSW showcase from 2010. We were all quite drunk but managed to pull off a good show. It was reviewed favorably, so I guess our strategy worked, whether intentional or not. An old review, yes, however it can still be applied to how we possibly still sound live. However, now we have more vocally driven songs.
“Memorable gigs? The first ever show we played was at a house party at [bass player] Gill’s house. The “Rocktober” parties were an annual music extravaganza where eight or so local bands would play in a packed lounge room. Always loose, messy, and fun times. We and many other bands cut our teeth at the Rocktober goodtime get-togethers. Comp CDs were made for prosperity with shonky hand-drawn covers.
The Tote is such an institution and so incredibly supportive of local and international acts.
“ATP, Australia, 2009 [Curated by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds] at Mount Buller and Cockatoo Island were incredible. The lineup was fantastic and the locations were stunning. We got to see Spiritualized, Harmonia, Silver Apples, Robert Forster performing Go-Betweens songs, Rowland S. Howard, The Dirty Three, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Saints—we shared wine with Chris Bailey on a rocky ferry ride back to Sydney from Cockatoo Island—Psarantonis, The Stabs, Afrirampo. It was such a gas.
“The Tote (Melbourne) shows are always so much fun. That place is such an institution and so incredibly supportive of local (and international) acts.”
Speaking of The Tote, what was it like to come up through the ranks of the Melbourne music scene?
It’s like a creative extended friendship, like-minded people having a good time making music.
“Really, really great. We have been surrounded by so many great bands/musicians. There are so many creative people with a prolific approach to making music. We have always been supported and been supportive of the local music scene. It’s like a creative extended friendship, like-minded people having a good time making music.
“There are so many venues here in Melbourne. There is a real emphasis on live shows, which subsequently results in many albums being recorded.”
Beaches is an important part of a new wave of Australian indie/psych bands currently taking over the world led by bands like Tame Impala, Twerps, Pond, Sun God Replica, and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Overseas interest in the Australian indie scene is as strong as it’s been in a while.
“There are so many. We are going to stick to (relatively) contemporary bands otherwise the list will get too extensive. Currently we are loving Constant Mongrel, UV Race, Total Control, Panel of Judges, Peak Twins, Nun, Twerps, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, Lakes, TOL, ZOND, Little Ugly Girls, Terrible Truths, Jonny Telefone, Power, Laura Jean, New War, Taipan Tiger Girls, Kitchen’s Floor, Pearls, Pond, Love of Diagrams, Ooga Boogas, High God People, Lost Animal, Exhaustion, Lindsay Lowhand, Cease…
“This is a drop in the ocean, really…”
So what’s next for Beaches?
“We have started recording our third album, which is exciting. So, we will finish that and release it later this year or early 2016, then tour locally and overseas.
“We just want to make a really good third album. But first and foremost, we want to keep doing what we are doing and still enjoy it.”
— Story by Beige Baron with Russell Sullivan