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Night Beats Interview

Have you ever experienced this? You’re listening to this new record by a band you’ve recently discovered, then somebody comes into the room and asks you “Hey, what old 60s record have you dug up again now?” That’s what happened to me and what might happen to you if it is Night Beats’ new record Who Sold My Generation (the question mark is left out intentionally as you might discover if you read on) playing. Drenched in droning guitars and with rhythms that want to make you dance like a character from your favourite Tarantino movie, the music composed by these three lads from Seattle certainly gets your retro groove on. However, with their very distinctive own, fresh tinge added to it, Who Sold My Generation might not only be a question, but also the answer, granted that you’ve been asking yourself if there’s any great music coming out in this day and age. Before their gig in Cologne I talked to Lee and Jakob about musical influences, their cooperation with Robert Been (BRMC) and guitar mysteries. I think one could say that you have quite a distinctive retro or vintage sound. Do you remember what got you into this kind of music? Was it something like a special moment or just something like musical socialisation, something your parents listened to?Lee: No. (laughs) I mean, Blues music was my first passion. Texas has rich history in Blues music. And then, I wasn’t really exposed to too much stuff, my family isn’t a musical family by any means. But there’s a lot of influence and listening around. LA Woman by The Doors was a big one for me, my brother showed me that song. My brother’s into Spiritualized, so that was a big one when he showed me that Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space record.Jakob: The Velvet Underground and Nico definitely is a big one for me.Lee: Being 90s kids we were the first wave of illegal downloads, that sort of thing, Napster and stuff. I remember seeing a Strokes interview or something and they referred to The Velvet Underground, and I was like “What’s that?” So then I downloaded it and I was like “Wow”, it just blew me away. That opened up a whole lot of stuff.Would there be any historic gig you’d like to attend, say, if time travel was possible?Lee: Ray Charles. When the Stones toured with The Ronettes, I’d love to see that.Jakob: Oh yeah!Lee: Back in 1966 or something… Woodstock, seeing Hendrix doing the National Anthem, that would be something.Jakob: I would like to have seen Louis Armstrong anywhere in New Orleans.Lee: Ike and Tina Turner, that would also have been amazing, that’s definitely on the list.Now, I don’t know anything about recording equipment or technological stuff, but is it like you have some kind of special equipment to achieve your sound? Are you maybe like recording-technology geeks who go to special sales and go for the old stuff?Lee: No. (laughs) Well, I guess we just kind of go with what’s worked for us in the past, which just happens to be analog tape. It’s the same thing like with a digital camera versus a film camera. There’s digital cameras, but you try to recreate a look, fake, you know, it’s like buying jeans with holes in them already versus actually wearing them down. I guess it’s technically an older form of recording.Now, I guess you’ve been asked this question before a lot by now, but I’m a big fan of BRMC, so obviously I’d like to ask you about the co-production Robert Been did for your latest album. What would you say, how has he specifically influenced you on this record? Or was there anything he could especially help you with?Lee: Well, first of all I’m a big fan of his music and Peter’s music. Overall, just being exposed to them at a young age, they were like the first band that I saw that were playing Rock ‘n’ Roll, you know what I mean? Whatever happened to my Rock ‘n’ Roll / Punk Song, that was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen or heard. So then I became a devoted fan and ten years later I could produce this album with him, that is just a blessing. I came into the thinking like “Okay, this is a human being, a good guy”, even if he wasn’t going to agree with something I’d say, I’d still be me and it will all be rational, if he likes something that’s good. But yeah, just his overall presence and his understanding of the songs in the way that he would… He did most of the bass on the album, he paid an amazing amount of attention to the songs, like in the past I wrote a song and then the bass would play just the notes. He added parts and ideas, Robert was the creative opposite, he came with pages and pages of notes and stuff. That was really impressive. It was like “Okay, cool, you’re investing in this, you’re investing some care of thought into this”. So that was really cool.So has he maybe got some kind of hidden talents that you wouldn’t have expected?Lee: No. (laughs) I mean, I think very highly of him. So, the thing is, he didn’t come in as a member of BRMC, he came in as Robert. And he brought a different bass, he brought different pedals. He went to the mindset of the Night Beats. So he’s like an honorary member, sort of. (laughs) Yeah, as far as being impressed with the different sides of him goes, yeah, sure. But at the same time he was high on my list of respected artists. I used to go to every show they played in Texas when they came to town.(And here we go fangirling about BRMC for a bit…)I’d like to ask you about the album title: How did you come up with, or what’s basically the idea behind it? I mean, it’s a rhetorical question, so all kinds of things might come up in your mind…Lee: Yeah, sure. “Who sold my generation”… There’s intentionally no question mark. A lot of lyrics and things I do… I like to have the listener to have their own interpretation about what it means.But it’s a comment on our current state in America. It’s kind of like wanting to see if our generation… people complain and, I mean, you can sit behind a computer screen and type all this shit, and criticism, and all these things, but never step outside their door and do anything about it. That’s weak, you know? And with what’s going on in the news today, everything, ranging from politics to entertainment, to foreign policies, differences like that, it’s not really good in the United States.We have a developing pseudo-police-state-type thing. And I’m not saying “Fuck the police!”, but “Fuck the institution!” in a way that people are given such power that corrupts it. We have a lot of police brutality, we have a lot of people who get shot for no reason. But also, at the same time, we turn on the radio and we hear just garbage all the time. It’s like “Is this the best we can do? When did we sell out like this?”So, yeah, it’s kind of a good question, but also a statement and someone in our generation has to decide what to do about it. Hopefully the coming generations won’t have to deal with that problem.I mean, you can take it light-hearted, you can take it serious, it really depends on how you want to look at it. It could be about like you go into a party and being like “Damn, this is lame!” (laughs) Or like turning on the TV and listening to a main presidential candidate saying some really fucked up stuff. Yeah, it could be all sorts of interpretations. But you gotta say something. If no one else is doing anything about it, make them ask themselves a question in order to realize it and actually see some change.So Ian’s got a question for you: The car on the cover of the album – who owns it?Lee: Moni Howard. And she has a big Dead Moon emblem on the front of it.And what kind of car is it? What make of a car?Jakob: A 67 Buick?And he would like to know if there is any special history connected to this car, or a special story.Lee: The car is kind of like… I mean, I won’t say “famous”, I’m not from LA. The emblem is the main thing about the car and it’s kind of a nod of the head to the band Dead Moon.I think you can also see that in the No Cops video, can’t you?Yeah, you can, for a second. It‘s a little bit of a linear connection between the car, the band, and us, and the fact that Dead Moon is just an incredible band. They’re hard-working. They would play the smallest venues for decades in Seattle, we’d play with them all the time. And that was really cool, but it was also like “Damn, they just do it for the love and the game”. And it’s also that mostly, in my opinion, the car is also Dead Moon. You know, we’re sitting in Dead Moon’s house. (laughs) In the house of Dead Moon, and we’re playing Rock ‘n’ Roll and touring and just working.Now, with your song ¿Porque mañana? I was thinking “¿Porque Español?”Lee: There’s not too much to it, I just love the Spanish language, I’m not very good at it and I just think it’s kind of cool to have songs in different languages, because that also opens up some different fanbases. The Beatles had songs in French, in German, Spanish, they had all types of songs. It’s just opening the fanbases and it’s like letting people know… or maybe have people from Spanish-speaking places, or Spanish kids get into it, because they understand the song in their own language.Are there any more languages that you could imagine singing in then?Well… actually, partially it was that reason. But the other reason was that I like to try and teach myself a language sometimes, like when I’m singing in it or try to understand it. Off the record, I have this band where it’s all in Turkish. It’s like five or six songs, it’s all sung in Turkish. I wanted to learn Turkish, because my sister married a Turkish guy. I kind of keep that a secret, I have it like in all fake names and the band name is Spanish, but the language is Turkish.When I was listening to Bad Love for the first time I was thinking “This could be on a Tarantino soundtrack”. So I know that some bands have an ambivalent feeling about their music being used in films or in TV shows. I don’t know, has any of your music been used somewhere? Or how would you feel about it if it was?Lee: Yeah. It’s great if it’s cool. It’s kind of funny, H-bomb has been used in a lot of sex scenes. There’s this HBO show called Sr. Avila, and there’s this sex scene. So we got the offer. I mean, honestly, like commercials, it’s kind of a necessary evil for a band to make money, like you gotta do it if you’re doing music full-time. When you get an offer… I mean, unless it’s something like fucking, I don’t know… it depends. We generally get approached by surf or skate companies and that’s something we’re down with, because we all grew up skating. I wasn’t really good, but I skated a bit.Yeah, it depends, you know. Well, technically, if I did it for 500 bucks, I could buy that guitar I wanted, so then it’s like “Argh… okay, fine, good”. And then I get a new guitar. (laughs)You don’t want to compromise your art, but at the same time we live in this “click, click, click” (indicates clicking on a mouse) generation or whatever. It doesn’t matter if some song that means something to me is played in a sport show or something like that. It’s like “Fuck, why not?” And if people judge a band based on that? They don’t know what it’s like to be in a band, I mean in a real band. They don’t understand, so fuck them.Is there any show or any director that you would really go for?Lee: Oh yeah, totally. I mean, Boardwalk Empire is cool, True Detective, any Tarantino thing… Paul Thomas Anderson, I’d love to work with him. So, yeah, if we’re fortunate enough to work with a director that we love, that’s amazing. We’d love to do it.Now, the No Cops video, what was the idea behind it and how did you come up with it? Or who came up with it?Lee: My friend Riley Blakeway. He came up with the idea, but we were pitching ideas together. We had long conversations about it. We had this one idea that would be… It sounded really cool, but one day before the shoot, he said “Fuck, this is exactly like this other video!” You know M.I.A., the hip hop artist? She had this really intense, controversial video that came out where it was kind of like about the police state and mass killings. And that was sort of what we were going for, but the concept… I give the credit to most of the work to Riley, but I had my input and stuff. It’s about the crazy abuse of power and we also wanted to add a kind of weirder side to it as opposed to just show a cop-killing-people video. So we made it creepy and found the right actor for it. We want people to be scratching their heads at the end of it.Will there be any continuation of the video then for another song? Will we find out what happens to the poor guy?Lee: You know what? That’s something we’ve talked about. We’ve got a video for another song coming out pretty soon. That one’s a lot more just like stylistically, visually… There’s no message. I mean, there is, if you want to go there. But I think it’d be cool. I’m always into storylines and Easter eggs and stuff, for instance the first two videos that we shot for H-bomb and Shadows in the Night, there’s a little bit of a link. It ends with this water and then there’s a train and then a train in the beginning of the next one. So it’s a little linear, but this would have to be a lot more, with the plot and everything.Yeah, because I was thinking “This can’t be the end now! What happens to the poor guy?!” Like, this cliffhanger feeling, and I just went “Seriously?!”Lee: (laughs) Yeah, well, you only have three-and-a-half minutes to go there. Speaking of Paul Thomas Anderson, we were really trying to go for that style, like looong shots, the kind you see in Good Fellas. It’s one of the most iconic movies of all time, I love that, it’s really cool.I’ve got another question for you from my friend Jo in Scotland: Who is Arlene?Lee: Arlene?She says it’s on the headstock of a guitar…Both: Airline!Lee: On the headstock of a guitar? Ah, that’s just a company… Yeah, it’s an old kind of a guitar. I wonder where she could have seen it, because I haven’t played it for years now. Unless she saw it just now.Yeah, just a couple of shows ago.Jakob: Ah, in Glasgow?Probably, yeah… She lives close to Glasgow.Jakob: There you go, Airline Guitars!Airline Guitars, we’ve solved the guitar mystery! I think she must have thought something like “Arlene… maybe a long-lost lover or something..:”

Night beats Interview