100 Musicians Answer the Same 10 Questions
Part Forty-Four: The Besties
instigated by dave heaton
Towards the beginning of this year, NYC's The Besties released an extremely pleasurable pop album in the form of Singer (Skipping Stones Records). The songs on it are breezy and fun, and have a nice sense of humor, but of course there's genuine emotion, real day-to-day-type feelings underneath. And at the same time the songs are tuneful beyond belief – absolutely catchy and easy to play again and again to infinity. For more information check out their website and MySpace. The group's band's four members - Kelly, Marisa, Rikky and Frank – answered most of these questions together as one, except where indicated.
What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?
Writing new songs, which sounds like sort of a stock answer, but it's really true. This is a really awesome time for us - we feel like we're coming into our own as a band and really figuring out what works for us. It's exciting.
What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?
It's discouraging that people tend to one-dimentionalize everything that's presented to them. We readily admit that Singer is a pop record, and that the songs are a lot of fun -- which is definitely something that we were aiming for -- but there are also a lot of melancholy, sweet moments in the songs, and it's frustrating that people can't really see past the titles.
What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc).
We're getting ready to go on a short summer tour of the east coast. In September we have a 7" coming out on Hugpatch Records, which is really exciting. The two songs on the 7" are the first that we've recorded with our new drummer, Frank, and they really represent a departure for the band. We're also in the early stages of planning a European tour this fall.
What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
Our initial response to this question was, undoubtedly, playing a squat in the South Bronx that burned down the next day. But truth be told, the answer should definitely include the recording of Singer, which we did in our un-airconditioned loft in Brooklyn in the 100 degree heat last summer with "help" from a friend who was, apparently, nursing a serious drug habit (we had no idea). How did it affect the quality of the recording? You tell us!
In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?
We really can't emphasize enough the effect that the "79 Lorimer" loft has had on the band. The Besties probably wouldn't exist had we not moved into our crazy loft in Hasidic Williamsburg three years ago -- a friend of ours had a huge Hammond organ that he needed to get rid of, and due to our spacious (if filthy) living arrangement we were the only ones who had enough room to take it. The first Besties songs were written on that organ, and the house has played a huge role in the evolution of the band, from providing a place to practice and host shows to inspiring the songs themselves - most notably, "79 Lorimer Song." In a totally different way, we also feel like we owe a lot to the places we grew up (Florida, North Carolina). We all feel very influenced by country music and sourthern culture, and we have an amazing shared history since we all grew up in Florida (it also doesn't hurt that Marisa and Kelly have known each other since second grade). Of course, none of this applies to Frank. He's a Yankee. Frankie the Yankee.
When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?
We actually wrote two songs around the same time - the two that will be on the new 7". In addition to being our first songs written with Frank, they're much more overtly personal than songs we've written in the past -- one is sort of a love letter to the island where Marisa and Kelly grew up, the other is about not being afraid to pursue the things you really want to do.
As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?
Sadly, I think we're slightly less interested. Being in a band and focusing so much on your own music tends to foster a weird sort of self-absorbtion, which we don't like. On the other hand, we get really excited about the music that our friends are making -- having your friends play you a song that they've just written is incredibly fun and inspiring. Of course we still listen to a lot of music -- but we maybe have a little less room for it than we'd like.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?)
Kelly: For a while now I've been hitting that girl groups box set pretty hard. Especially this one song -- "I get a bikini... as small as they come (yeah yeah yeah yeah yippity yeah) - I really like that one. Also, thanks to the person I live with, I am really developing an appreciation for power pop, like the "Yellow Pills" comps.
Rikky: Lately I find my self listening to a lot of old timey music. Lot's of carter family, lots of Elizabeth Cotten, anything in that vain. I also have been listening to lots of NPR podcasts. I don't often find myself listening to music that sounds like ours, but I do like a lot of the bands that we play shows with.
Frank: I've been listening to 69 love songs, the new camera obscura record.. the lil hospital, heavy metal.. and the new specific heats record, which has not come out yet..
Marisa: Punk, for sure. Particularly early 90's west coast. I'm a sucker for hooks and harmonies, and damn it doesn't deliver every time. I guess it sounds silly but for me it's the musical equivalent of soul food. I think it actually contributed to my recent decision to quit my job and go on the road for a while.
Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician?
Rikky: I flat out love the Replacements, I think that plenty of people listen to them. Right now I am really into the reigning sound. Everyone should listen to them, right now.
Frank: I love j. robbins from jawbox/burning airlines.. both for his bands and the ones he recorded.. I really admire musicians that wear many hats.. I feel that it comes through in the music..
Marisa: Easy- Greenday. It's genius, every note. I don't get why more people don't take them seriously.
Kelly: I'm gonna be a nerd and say Matthew Sweet. We were thinking of cover songs the other day and I made the rest of the band listen to this song that was on that record that he released only in Japan - the song is "Ocean in Between." It's so great.
What's the saddest song you've ever heard?
Rikky: This is a really hard question for me. I think I am going to have to go with Townes Van Zant's "waiting around to die" but I can think of a million that are just as sad.
Frank :"guess I'm doing fine" by beck off his album sea change.. I have to fight back the tears every time I listen to it..
Marisa: "Korean Bird Paintings" by The Mountain Goats. I can't listen to it at all. John Darnielle's portraits of suffering are incredible in their way of demanding empathy.
Kelly: "Pretty Pathetic" by The Smoking Popes. It makes me want to puke.
To check out the rest of the Q&As, click here.