Meet Beardsley by Julie Garisto
It’s been a while since a cerebral indie pop band has grabbed my attention. I’m hoping Beardsley will become a mainstay at the Tampa/Ybor music venues. They bring the melodic majesty of Beatles and Beach Boys to eccentric song structures. It’s kind of like when member Andy Craven talks about the silly and the regal. You could characterize Beardsley’s music in a similar manner.
The guys who range in age between early 20s and early 30s agreed to let me find more out about them and will be the featured tbt* band on Oct. 17.
The line-up: Jason Kushner, vocals and guitars; Louis Kern, bass; Andrew Craven, keyboards and synthesizers; Brian Berry, guitar, vocals and lap steel; Ricky Delgado, guitar, percussion; and Ben Hudland, drums. Kern, Craven and Berry answer questions.
CD: Fighting Strangers in the Alps, 2008
What’s the album title about?
Kern: (album title) It’s a reference to the Big Lebowski, as it was aired on TBS and censored. Like so many of the great lines in the movie, there’s a line that says, “You never f*** a stranger in the a**.” It’s Walter saying this to a kid he thought stole his money or something like that, and they edited it, and it came off as, “You never fight a stranger in the alps.”
And the song, The Ballad of Doobie Keebler?
Craven: It’s from NewsRadio. It’s when they think Mr. James is D.B. Cooper, and they sent Matthew to find out and when he asks, he mispronounces it as Doobie Keebler. So I wrote a song about D.B. Cooper but I called it the Ballad of Doobie Keebler.
Do you guys share songwriting duties?
Kern: The songwriting material is mostly you two (to Craven and Berry) and then Jason Kushner, who’s in Philadelphia right now.
Berry: He’s working on his second documentary.
Craven: He just won a student award at local film festival. I think it was called Docs in the Sunshine. He made a documentary called Post-War Florida, which is terrific. It’s about World War II veterans who somehow all settled in this area. On the record, it’s me, him and Brian, but we all write separately. Each song is typically written by one person and that person will sing it.
Kinda like Beatles-style?
Craven: Yeah but now we’ve gotten smarter and pawn off the vocals on whoever can sing it better, depending on the song!
Berry: Everyone but Ben, at some point, has sung lead on a song.
Craven: You could say it’s a Beatles dynamic. You could also say it’s a group of people that can’t really make a decision.
When did you form?
Craven: Christmas 2004. We used to practice at Ian’s, our old drummer’s, house. It was one of our first practices. We managed to blow out a transformer in the street and set it on fire, which then set the lot on fire. The fire department came out.
You really, literally blew it up!
Kern: I’d like to think it was my overdrive bass pedal. I put on this weird effect and all the ampage went up.
Berry: Rudy, Ian and Jason were in a band, and Andy and I were in a band. Ian went to one of our shows, looking for a keyboard player for his band.
Craven: I just happened to play keyboards at that one show.
Berry: He was bass player before that. So, Ian asked him to play. I was living with Andy. I think he played a show. He told them that I could play lap steel, but I just had a lap steel. We were going for the alternative-country thing, which we don’t do anymore at all, so I played one show with my guitar and that’s how I joined.
Craven: Ricky joined under similar artificial circumstances. When Brian joined, we have a multi-instrumentalist. He’ll play guitar and other things. Now he primarily plays guitar. When Ricky joined, he’d play percussion and other things. Now he just plays guitar.
I haven’t seen you on any Tampa bills.
Craven: We played Masquerade a couple of times before it shut down – that gives you an idea of how far back this goes. We played the Orpheum. We were under a different name for a long time – Magnetic North.
Berry: We found out there was another Magnetic North from New Jersey. So we got a little write-up in (a local publication) that reviewed the wrong MySpace Music profile. So they said we sounded like Incubus, but we don’t sound like Incubus. In order to avoid any confusion, we made sure we had a name nobody else had. There were two or three things named Magnetic North, including a rap group from California, which is hilariously awful.
Where did you come up with the name Beardsley?
Craven: It’s actually my fault. If you’ve ever seen Lolita the Stanley Kubrick film adapted from the novel, Beardsley is the name of the college that Professor Humbert goes to teach at. I go that sounds like such a stately name, such a regal name. I’ve also loved the absurd mixed with a fancy name … the way I love calling little kids sir or ma’am.”
Berry. We definitely want to play more. It’s been hard because we worked on the record on and off for years. Our former drummer Ian, his brother recorded the drum tracks, most of them. Andy and I had some basic recording set up and we did the rest of the album ourselves, and while not going to school or working. With as many people in the band as we had and trying to get our schedules to jibe, it took, like, two years to get the whole thing together. We used a digital/audio workstation. Andy would work on a song, I would work on a song and then we took it to MorriSound Studio to have it mastered.
Who did the artwork?
Kern: It’s actually a photograph that my girlfriend, Susan, took. And then we just sort of form-fitted it. Jason and I organized the collage inside. It’s of a painting I did that’s half-finished, and she arranged the peacock feather in front of the picture. We really liked the aesthetic of it.
It’s got a warmth to it. There’s a brightness to the sound that I think kind of matches the cover.
Craven: Listen to the record! You’ll hear some dark stuff.
Oh, no, I think you have good use of both light and dark. What are some upcoming shows you have planned?
Berry: We’re playing with the Semis, and we’re playing with the Modern Skirts, an Athens band….. All of us in the band have made the mistake of living in Orlando at some point. Being in Clearwater, most of the action takes place in Tampa, in Ybor. In Orlando, more of the bands have some similarity or camaraderie. Whereas all of our shows – I’m not trying to degrade what they’re doing – but they’re heavier than we are. So because we’re not outright rock, people would give us the bird during our entire show. That happened during a gig at the Masquerade, and then we played at Emerald. I was on stage and I could hear them say, ‘This fucking sucks.’ We made contact with one band that was sort of similar, that really liked us, and they wound up screwing us over. They booked us a bunch of gigs that fell through. One of the clubs closed and they failed to tell us.”
Craven: Remember the Junction in Clearwater? It was a pretty good venue the short time it was around. We got a gig there and then we showed up for a show and realized the place had closed a week before.
What’s your stage presence like?
Kern: I’m pretty stoic on stage.
Berry: I’m the most animated on stage. One time we played at Gasoline Alley. I jumped and landed on the side of my foot. I’m pretty sure I broke my foot during the show! It was so painful and swollen, like it was broken.
Berry: Our style is heavier now. We have a new EP coming out in November. It’s called More Music, More Music. The plan is to do a couple of EPs, stream them online and then package them together later as an LP. … You’ll find that 80 percent of the stuff we do live is stuff that’s not on the record.
Kern: Except for Moved to New York, Magnetic North.
Berry: We also do Kirsten.
Craven: We played at Barnes and Noble once for a book signing, for Stephanie Myers. I never want to repeat that again! Her stuff is like younger chick lit. We were told it was Romeo and Juliet meets Vampires. Andy, Jason, Louie and Ricky at one point and our former drummer used to work at Barnes and Noble. Management wanted us to play. What are you going to say when your boss says that? … Nearly all of us worked at Barnes and Noble at one point.
Kern: I worked there for one day. It was a strange situation. I think they thought they had more room on their payroll than they actually did. They let me train, said I did a good job. I called the next week for my hours and I had no hours!
About the drummer …
Craven: Ben has a history. Read on our bio. He’s from a smaller town in Massachusetts near where I’m from. He had an actual career before moving down here. He used to be on YepRoc records (who’s signed artists Robyn Hitchock and Nick Lowe). He was in Jake Brennan and His Gentlemen. They were pretty big in Boston for a little while. He moved down here to live with his girlfriend. It gave confidence to have someone like him like our music and want to play with us. … We tried out drummers of all different skills
Craven: And manners! Skills and manners — that’s what makes up a good band. We all went to finishing school!
Berry: He adds a little weight. He’s a little heavier and extremely skilled.
What national acts have you played with?
Craven: We played with the High Strung, on Park the Band, Dr. Dog’s label. We bugged them at length about working with Bob Pollard.
Berry: They called him Bobby, which I thought was cool.