An Interview With Beep Beep.
Racketeers Jeff and Jonathan got to go backstage at a Beep Beep show and hang out with the guys. We went back and found Joel and Chris fetching water for Eric, who seemed to have sweated all his fluids away during the set they just completed. That’ll teach him to wear a sweater during a performance. As he recovered, Mike and I talked about caffeinated mints, In ‘N’ Out Burger and Florida. Soon, Eric has restored his vigor with water and diet soda (an admitted addiction) and our interview got underway…
Racket Jonathan Yost: with touring, have you guys been playing any bigger shows, or sticking to smaller club shows?
Beep Beep Eric: For this tour, mostly club shows. Nothing particularly huge. Even when we did a headlining tour, we were only doing three hundred capacity shows.
Racket JY: How’s the switch from headlining to opening?
BBE: Not bad at all, because that’s what we did for nine weeks with the Faint. So we’re pretty used to that.
Racket Jeff Curtis: How was touring with the Faint?
BBE: It was really good! They helped us a lot, actually. They helped us learn how to perform. You can practice your songs to death, but you can’t perfect performing to an audience…you just have to do it.
Racket JY: Does Saddle Creek encourage you guys touring with label mates?
BBE: No, actually Saddle Creek doesn’t have anything to do with who tours with who and when. It’s just been that the Faint had wanted to take us out for a long time and we just put out our record, so the opportunity was there.
Racket JY: Is there camaraderie at Saddle Creek?
BBE: Oh, yeah! Everyone’s kind of connected because that’s just how it is. Omaha’s not a very big city. The label kind of established itself based on the fact that everyone was so supportive of everything everyone else was doing. Without each other’s money, it wouldn’t have happened. People pulled from their own pockets to put out the early LPs.
Racket JC: What caused you to get signed to saddle creek? Did you approach them, or did they approach you?
BBE: Three-fourths of the ban had a record on the label before and we all had other things going on. Then, we were still friends, but we stopped hanging out for awhile after Chris starting dating my ex-girlfriend, which I didn’t have a problem with, other than the fact that they were both trying to hide it from me, which just made it weird. So there was this weird period of about two years where Chris got fat and didn’t want to make music with anyone, at least with me. For some reason, he decided to get back into the swing of things. During that period, for some reason, people think that I knew how to play guitar, so there was a lot of bands that wanted me to play with them. And I tried that, and it was like, look, I write what I play, and what I write it usually part of the structure of the music rather than accentuates something that already exists. I don’t really know how to play "lead guitar," and that’s what everybody was looking for, like bright eyes, son, ambulance, cursive…they ally wanted me because they thought "well, you’re a good guitar player." What I play doesn’t mesh well. But at the same time, I was really freaked out and insecure and whatnot. So, after trying all that, then Chris and I starting working together again. He broke up with my ex-girlfriend, not that that was a problem and then he dropped like seventy pounds and became a new man. So we started writing songs and we found Mike Sweeny, who is the best drummer is Omaha, as far as I’m concerned.
Racket JY: The album that had three fourths of the band, was that a Beep Beep record?
BBE: That was a different band.
Racket JY: Which one would that be?
BBE: God damn it. It was Gabardine. Chris tried real hard to get in touch with his feelings and express himself lyrically and seriously. And at the same time, I was trying to be melancholy and introspective and the best guitar player I could be. We had this frame of mind that the harder it was to make music, the better music it had to be. So none of it was enjoyable to play or to make and it was this big snowball effect of stress and second-guessing, so we just kind of crapped out.
Racket JY: So if Gabardine was introspective, Beep Beep would be…
BBE: I don’t know. Beep Beep’s description is annoying rock, as we like to say. I think it’s accurate, and at the same time, we avoid falling into the weird specifics of constantly rotating subgenres that makes me crazy.
Racket JC: When you guys started, were you going out to play this type of music?
BBE: It’s always been in me, personally. Chris, when I first met him, he had this wonderful pop band called the Magnetos that had Todd from the Faint and Conor in it. Absurd, ridiculous lyrics that weren’t anything. Of course, he wanted to turn it into a hardcore band and he thought for some reason I could help do it. We collapsed after two practices. He’s always wanted to go in this direction, and I’ve always kind of been there, and I grew up identifying with early sonic youth. That sort of thing was in my gut and we knew that nothing was going to become of Beep Beep, so we just started making music that made us giggle. We kind of made it to a point where everything was fun for us.
Racket JC: Did you discover, then, that when you stopped trying to make something, that everything just came together?
BBE: Oh, absolutely. We definitely didn’t slack on writing or anything. But once we figured out what made us happy, it was a lot easier to start. I typically write a bulk of music and structure it and having the inspiration of Chris’ absurd lyrics just kind of made it all fit together.
Racket JY: Have you guys worked on any new songs?
BBE: We have a couple of songs in the set that aren’t on the record that we’ve tried to write while on this tour. We really haven’t had too much time. Once we’re done with this tour. We plan on writing for the rest of the summer and recording in the fall.
Racket JY: Do you just sit down and write, or jot down ideas and go back to them?
BBE: We write separately. Either I play to a drum machine in my basement and try to record everything and then have a bank of music ideas, or we piece them together. Chris kind of does the same thing and then we’ll get together and either I’ll help him structure some piece of music he doesn’t know what to do with, or we’ll take structured music that has no vocals whatsoever and he’ll go through his piles of lyrics and see what fits best. And then there’s third style of writing where we both plug everything in, hit play, and whatever happens, happens. For some reason, a couple of songs have come out that way. "I Am the Secretary" came out that way. You have a song instantly, but then again, you don’t because you have nothing to sing about.
Racket JY: Have there been any other bands that have expressed an interest in touring with your guys?
BBE: I know that TV on the Radio wants us to out with them, in early fall, but I don’t know if we’re going to do that or not. By that time, we’ll have been touring for fifteen weeks on the same album, and it’s not fair to the fans to play the same thing.
Racket JY: Are there any bands that you want to tour with? BBE: With this tour, we kind of went out on our own, but I’m a big fan of chromatics and shoplifting, so I’d be interested in touring with either of those two bands.
Racket JC: Other than the usual van malfunctions, what are some of the just unbelievable things that have happened while touring?
BBE: We’ve been pretty fortunate. We always rent a minivan for like twenty-five bucks, so if the van ever breaks down, which is never has, we just call up National or Alamo and say "get me a new van!" But we did have an interesting situation in Nottingham, England, where this man tried to beat down this couple’s hotel door with a hammer. He had been attacked and believed that his attackers were in this hotel room. He was covered in blood, and just bludgeoned this door with a hammer. Splinters were everywhere, and he totally destroyed the electric keypad key entry. Now there’s blood spattered on the door, blood on the elevator. We didn’t know about it; were going to meet up at Joel’s room. Getting on the elevator covered in blood, I thought, "this is bloody mary mix, or something. This is not real." I almost touched it to taste it. I would never do that, but I was just daring myself because I was like "there’s no fucking way this is blood. You know it’s not blood!" I went up to Joel’s room, but he wasn’t there. He and mike went to the lobby, since Joel’s room key wasn’t working and, unfortunately, the dude comes down the elevator. I’ll let you take it from here, Mike…
BB Mike: Yeah, he came down the elevator, and there’s this spiral staircase that goes up to the second floor, and we were kind of peeking over the wall. The guy, like Eric said, was just covered in blood. There’s fucking blood streaming down his face, streaming down his hands. The guys at the hotel tried to see if he was okay, asking if he had been hurt, and he tried to pry open these revolving doors that had been locked, and the hotel staff was trying to convince him to sit so they could call an ambulance for him. He then picks up on of those posts that they use for the velvet rope, and just launches it at the door. The door doesn’t open, so finally they open the door and as the guy’s walking out the door, he looks at the two guys and tells them to call an ambulance. They ask why and he says that there are two people on the 8th floor. The hotel guys ask if they are okay, and the guy says, "No, they’re dead." And walks out leaving a trail of blood across the lobby. Chris, Eric and I walk downstairs and just look around.
Racket JC: Did he say, "They’re dead" as a threat, or as a fact?
BBM: He said it as a fact!
Racket JY: Holy crap! He killed them!?
BBM: No. Apparently, he just beat the fuck out of this door trying to get inside this room where two girls were staying, but he didn’t get through. I don’t know where the blood was from; I think it was his own.
BBE: They were locked in their fucking room as this madman was pounding on their door, trying to break in. When we go up there to take photos, and we overhear the manager saying, "Well, we’re going to get you another room." You better get then another fucking year’s worth of stay at that fucking hotel chain!!! You just don’t have that shit happen and not compensate. That was insane. But the weirdest thing was all the guy had to do was push the handicap button on the door, and it would have opened automatically. So, to answer your question, no. Nothing bad has ever happened to us, but we did get to witness some pretty interesting things.
Racket JY: Any groupie’s clothing on stage?
BBE: No, no, no! I think my attire repels that kind of behavior. Most are confused as to what gender I’m attracted to.
Racket JY: Is that anything you’d like to clear up?
BBE: Oh, absolutely not. No, no. I much appreciate the ambiguity of all that.
Racket JY: What cities or venues have welcomed you best?
BBE: Truthfully, Birmingham, England, of all cities. More so than any other city. The kids in Pomona are always fucking awesome. I love this town because they love music, and they’re passionate about it. But in the states, shows in Texas have just been really welcoming.
Racket JY: Any shows that were disappointing?
BBE: We’ve never had a good show in LA that I know of…at least not ones that we would consider successful. Chicago’s pretty stiff, too. Too many people have this fashion conscious/self-conscious approach to music. The music is more a prescription of what to wear more than anything else. I know it’s an over-generalization, and there’s plenty of great people in both cities. But overall, Chicago is particular, at least in the people I’ve interacted with. People who have interviewed me have talked down to me because they didn’t think that my record collection is amazing, so they’re better than me. They treat music like trading cards and I hate that. There’s one guy in particular that I never want to see again.
Racket JY: (suddenly worried) I hope this one has gone better…
BBE: Oh yea, it’s been great.
Racket JY: Well, great, because we’re done.
BBE: Oh, all right.
By Jonathan Yost and Jeff Curtis