Beak, ‘Billions of Eyes': Prepare for a Musical Apocalypse — Song Premiere
Beak aren’t interested in being heavy for the sake of being heavy. There is a purpose to the power they unleash on record, using dynamic shifts as part of the storytelling movement and narrative. Noisecreep is not only pleased to premiere “Billions of Eyes,” which we don’t want watching us, as well as having picked Jason Goldberg’s brain about what makes Beak tick on Eyrie. The album is out today.
A post-metal quartet from Chicago, Beak admit they were “birthed out of years of living together as an anti-faith mental commune.” They dole out “blistering, morose, yet beauteous sound” and their passion is palpable. You can feel it emanating and oozing from the music. They also have a sense of humor, as you’ll find out when you read on.
“Think the apocalyptic presence of Killing Joke, the musical prowess of Pelican and both the fierceness and musicality of Isis and Neurosis,” Goldberg said. “Anyone who’s had enough of the post-metal genre’s waterlogged ideas and lack of energy should engage in Beak [as we’re] definitely tapping into something more primal and unhinged than most new bands in the style, with powerful song composition, and strong mix of melody and unbridled rage.”
Check out Noisecreep’s exclusive premiere of Beak’s “Billions of Eyes,” plus our in-depth chat with Goldberg, below.
Listen to “Billions of Eyes” From Beak
You’ve said that you are not interested in “skulls” or just riffage and being heavy for the sake of being heavy. Can you share with us how you are able to bring storytelling into such noisy, aggressive music? It’s very interesting. Is it through the dynamics?
Firstly, we do in fact employ dynamics to bring an element of storytelling into the music. More specifically, the use of analog keyboards to create an ambiance, or atmosphere within the song. This we feel yields more moodiness to co-occur sonically, and provides more of a ‘soundtrack’ type feel; the soundtrack in a film as we all know, for instance, lets us know how we are supposed to feel, like when the little girl loses her dog, or your girlfriend falls out of the boat into otherwise semi-shark infested waters; storytelling through sound, then.
Our ‘breakdown’ segments typically harbor this type of sentiment within our canon. When the bass filters down, the guitars go clean, the throat-grinding ceases, and the keyboards come in to emphasize the melody or progression, in contrast to the home base of cold, stark, asphyxiating claustrophobia that is our sound.
Keyboards are also useful when ‘padding’ or supporting what should be emphasized rhythmically; like when there’s a nice, major ‘C’ in an otherwise minor melody, the keys will nail it, telling the listener when to bang his or her head, or pump his or her fist, and topping the mix with some grandiosity. Sound effects and noises are often present to give an intro or verse, etc. a naturally occurring, or organic feel, as if the song landed on, or grew out of the earth itself, as opposed to having a man-made feel. It is also not uncommon to create these moods through the use of guitar effects, as our guitarists will adroitly do.
This brings us to the point of not being into “skulls” or riffage for its own sake. We like to believe that we are doing something cathartic, and as much as we love some one and a half riff hard-core, verse/chorus pop, or some god forsaken one-lick ebb and flow post, that’s just not our intent, and for that much more attention that this may demand, we’re willing to sacrifice those who may be looking for a quick fix. And as intelligently marketable as it may be to stamp some skulls, inverted cross, or zombie corpse regurgitating and defecating another zombie corpse, that just ain’t us either. Call us old fashioned. I’m just kidding.
But seriously, all of the members of Beak have collaborated on past efforts, some dating back two decades, none of which have been strangers to electronics or storytelling, including the post-rock outfit The Timeout Drawer, and various other thrash, goth-industrial, punk, hardcore, indie, IDM, ambient, classical acts… you name it.
We are fans of it all and are or have been participants in most of it. There’s some story to be told in general and in light of our dynamic past, and Beak may be the most focused effort yet. The heavy and the aggro may be coming from a pit a long time lidded and boiling, and perhaps we’re benefiting from our own timely combination of sorts. When I hear bands that are making some of the coolest songs ever, like Radiohead, or something more classic like Pink Floyd, I often find myself thinking, ‘Man, why the hell aren’t they screaming their asses off and banging the shit out their instruments?! I know they’re really angry.’ I could be rusting my own trombone, but for me, Beak is just that; some cool songwriting with the wrecking ball kick in the balls feel these people need. Alright, I know, what people?
Can you pick one song on Eyrie and share an intimate story, funny or serious?
Everything regarding Beak’s existence is serious and funny. Serious because of the intent, funny because no matter how serious any musician thinks they are, we’re all just a bunch of clowns falling out of a compact car when the door bursts open in the end. So, we’re mixing Men at Arms at Engine Studios in Wicker Park, Chicago, with engineer Neil Strauch in the A Room, which is very serious. Nodding back to dynamic, nuance and texture, Neil is no stranger to this, being the man behind several Sage Francis, Iron and Wine, and Bonnie Prince Billy recordings.
A dynamic worth mentioning as well, is the one between a frail, nasal engineer with a fucked up sock collection and Beak’s collective brand of brash, demoralizing and uncivilized social conduct. We’re the kind of guys that will relentlessly criticize everything perceptible about you, even if you’re trying to help us, and then criticize each other for each others criticisms. Friends who thought it might be awesome to roadie for us so they can see a bigger band that we were opening for free have vowed never to do it again. So back to the mixing session.
Our drummer, Chris Eichenseer, likes to lay down a lot. This isn’t code for he likes getting laid a lot, although who doesn’t, he just simply lies on the floor a lot; in between songs at practice, in the studio, wherever. There’s usually a small, sugary or salty snack beside him as well. You see, Chris feels he has the most responsibility out of all of us and therefor is justified in being the most tired. This provokes a lot of yelling and demoralizing, and eats up a lot of time. The final mix of “Men At Arms” was no exception, and Chris was buried face down on the couch at the back of the room. Mind you, the most bass heavy and high-end deprived spot for one’s tired, little head to be during an expensive mixdown.
There came a debate before committing the digital mix back down to tape regarding the high-end in the snare – where from? Chris’ buried head. The others in the room suggested he simply stand the hell up in order to hear it correctly, but no, “This is where I’ve been through the whole session, so it makes sense for me to judge it from here to be consistent with my perspective…if I get up, it’ll change my perspective”. To make a long story a little less long, there came an eruption from everyone else including the engineer, “Stand the fuck up you moron!,” for example, and so forth. At one point our guitarist, Andy Bosnak, the largest and oldest of the bunch dove behind the mixing board and underneath the monitors and began yelling, “Hey Neil! Can you turn the high-end up a little, it’s a little muffled down here!” Needless to say, we never leave home without our maelstrom! We really are those people you can’t take anywhere. A little too close all the time, are we. Maybe this isn’t funny, but serious in a sad way.
The concept of Eyrie is also thought-provoking. Can you share a little bit of it with us, since it certainly can entice the reader to check out the music!
In the realm of music, let us not forget the lyrics. There are epic records out there that just wouldn’t be as epic if it weren’t for the lyrical content, regardless of how good the vocals are. Jon Slusher’s lyrics on Eyrie are thematic. They employ a double meaning tactic to convey tense and chilling themes; as he states about the record, Eyrie is the nest of a bird of prey built in a high, inaccessible place. The album is conceptual. It’s the path of ruin, the crumbling of empires, the marching of time. It’s the death of kings, perched above, trapped by their power and ultimately stripped of it by the unrelenting force of entropy.” Lyricism is damn near a lost art, and we’re proud to stand behind Slusher’s in this instance. One success we believe to have been achieved on the record is the marriage of the words and the music – both are bleak and kind of scary, as if told by an omniscient voice (or two), to the last sentient being standing in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and complement each other well.
Watch Beak’s “Hands Collide” Video
Do you have any non-musical skills/hobbies/talents?
I will speak collectively in this context, as to not single any one of us out as an idiot savant. All or some or one of us are adept at, but not limited to: graphic design, photography, vegetarian cooking, gardening, break dancing, writing, reading, critiquing film, caring for the sick, elderly or disabled, flooring others with laughter, DJ’ing (OK, that’s musical), running up debt, sound engineering (OK, that’s musical too), mountain biking, camping, philosophizing, debating, hating, chess, dominoes, intoxication, etc. We’re all human, so this is a good example of what most people are doing, I think – except break dancing.
Beak’s Eyrie is available now via Someoddpilot.