Electro-prog duo Beacons recently unleashed an EP titled Black Boxes, their first effort since their debut HOME from last year. In case you aren’t familiar with how dope these tunes are, I’d recommend you watch a a super interesting music video for their song “Obsolete,” a slow building atmospheric track. The video was filmed and edited by Edward Heavrin and stars Louis Bowman, the other half of Beacons. Check it out:
If you haven’t already, get your ass out of your mom’s basement and get yourself a copy of BLACK BOXES at one of Louisville’s fine record shops. Whether it be Guestroom, Modern Cult, Matt Anthony’s, Astro Black, and Underground Sounds, you’ll be in good shape.To get you excited about this new release from BEACONS, we reached out for an interview. Lucky for you and me, they were kind enough to answer a few questions about the new album, what makes them tick, and more…
Never Nervous: Aside from your music, we aren’t familiar with how Beacons came to be. Is there a fascinating tale of destiny?
Corey: BEACONS rose out of the ashes of a neofolk/freakfolk band. We used to play strictly acoustic instruments, had a bag of spare percussion like goat hooves, waistbelts, a bamboo shaker we bought from Kizito Cookies and a 55 gallon barrel that we turned into a drum. When we disbanded, Louis and I shifted our attention to samplers, drum machines, EBows, delay pedals, and Louis began circuit bending.
“BEACONS rose out of the ashes of a neofolk/freakfolk band. We used to play strictly acoustic instruments, had a bag of spare percussion like goat hooves, waistbelts, a bamboo shaker we bought from Kizito Cookies and a 55 gallon barrel that we turned into a drum. When we disbanded, Louis and I shifted our attention to samplers, drum machines, EBows, delay pedals, and Louis began circuit bending.”
Beacons was actually the working title of the first song we wrote as a duo, which started as a series of loops and eventually became Anatomy Theater. Most of the sounds on that song are from my Roland/Boss RE-20 Space Echo and his Korg Kaossilator, which he also circuit bent (those huge drums at 4:30 are a result of his bends and a pitch knob…we love gear).
I know you didn’t ask, but you may be interested in some fun techniques that we used during the making of BLACK BOXES:
Vocals on For All To See were recorded on a PaperJamz Louis bought for $5 at the thrift store. At 3:35, where the vocals slow way down, he had recorded that part onto a cassette, popped the face off of a cassette player and recorded out of it, while slowly pressing down on the reel.
The really subby pulse on Him is Fear is Louis banging on his closet wall with our mic set to omni. We also ran an acoustic through a Moogerfooger on that song.
Louis: It was a lot like the movie Predator, with the only difference being that I don’t have a laser guided canon mounted to my shoulder. Corey was naked and covered in mud, however.
“It was a lot like the movie Predator, with the only difference being that I don’t have a laser guided canon mounted to my shoulder. Corey was naked and covered in mud, however.”
NN: How does your song-writing process work? Is it on the spot, or do each of you come to one another with ideas and go from there?
Corey: In the past, I would go to Louis with a skeleton of an idea and we would start to build upon it in the studio, take the subsequent ideas home and rework them individually. Then we would discuss what works and what doesn’t and start tracking, hoping that we would approve of the finished product.
With BLACK BOXES, each track was a much more concerted effort from the beginning. From lyrical content and melodies to song structure and hook writing, we collaborated in a different way than before. For instance, on the track Obsolete, it all started with the hum (which Louis made on the Kaossilator with a few bends). Louis wrote the lyrics to everything up to the “past and future lifetimes” part. The hook at the end just sort of spilled out of me while walking around Crescent Hill reading his lyrics and listening to the hum on repeat. Then on For All To See, our roles were reversed.
When it comes to art and music, to most everyone else, the finished product is what matters most, but to us, the process of making it is where we learn about ourselves and find meaning. Our process is evolving, we are growing together as songwriters and we embrace the uncertainty of what the future has in store for us.
Louis: Electronic butter churn.
NN: Are there any particular inspiration or influences, whether musical or not that you draw from while making music in Beacons?
Corey: The interesting (and sometimes frustrating) thing about making music is that often times we don’t know what will inspire us to create. Strangely enough, at times I find myself getting inspired by something that I don’t like (such as those pharmaceutical commercials where the actors seem so happy with their new anti depressant while the narrator reels off a list of side effects way worse than depression itself… “worsened depression, thoughts of suicide, uncontrollable muscle movements, increased risk of death and stroke” and on and on) as easily as by something that I do like (such as the Invisible Touch album by Genesis…or Cherokee Park in the springtime).
Louis: God, love, drugs, and Sci-Fi movies.
NN: Talk about your latest release Black Boxes. For those that haven’t heard it, how is it different than last year’s “Home”?
Corey: Louis and I describe Home as a sort of mixtape. Our sound was developing; we were trying out a variety of approaches to songwriting and sound making. It was fun and it ended up being a huge mix of genres and moods. We trimmed the fat on BLACK BOXES. Although musically diverse, it still feels cohesive and to the point.
Louis: I don’t know what you mean, I still live in the same home as last year. My walls have always been black.
NN: Where’d you get the idea to put an album out via USB ports?
Corey: No one buys CDs and we can’t afford vinyl. We toyed with the idea of cassettes and square shaped mini discs. Then we found a guy online who could get us laser engraved USBs. Yes please. They look so cool, with a little LED in them, and they are infinitely reusable. It’s a good way to combine the physical and digital without feeling dated and without losing the sensation of having something physical. We’ve been told that they look like some technology from a Sci-Fi movie, which suits us perfectly, seeing as how the cover art for the album was based off 90’s Sci-Fi movie covers.
“No one buys CDs and we can’t afford vinyl. We toyed with the idea of cassettes and square shaped mini discs. Then we found a guy online who could get us laser engraved USBs. Yes please.”
Louis: Give it a couple years and you’ll be able to plug that shit directly into the base of your skull.
NN: Are there any current bands in Louisville that particularly draw your attention?
Corey: Hold onto your butts…lots of things to say about Louisville music:
We have been huge fans of CABIN for several years. Everything from their latest release, It Is What Is Looks Like, all the way back to Govern the Good Life has had an impact on me and Louis. Louis can probably give a more in depth description of what that band means to us.
Twin Limb has really been on our radar of late. Both times I’ve seen them play live, once opening for Houndmouth and then Murder by Death, I was blown away. Their songwriting is on point, Lacy and Maryliz’s voices compliment each other very well and Kevin’s guitar work provides incredible atmosphere. Go see them play!
1200 is another dude who we back. His stamp on Louisville transcends local hip hop. He seems to have a grasp on the true sense of community and how that involves much more than a specific artist, band or even genre of music. Dude has his hand in a little bit of everything, including the Louisville Orchestra. Plus he has incredible flow.
Sloe Pink just dropped an album called 27 Club and tracked the vocals for it at our studio. This dude can make you laugh, question what you hold as truth and depress the shit out of you all in under 4 minutes.
Dr. Dundiff, another guy that’s been creating some great material, provided instrumentation on 27 Club. It’s been on repeat since it’s dropped; I’m actually listening to it right now.
Touch AC. Enough said. But really, Touch is everything you want in an MC. He’s incredibly insightful (dude started out in spoken word; he doesn’t even need a beat to rock your world), he has incredible stage presence and and he can reference the Old Testament and black magic all in the same verse. He and Dundiff are dropping their Pages of Cups cassette this Friday, May 15, at Taproom.
A Lion Named Roar are solid individuals, great songwriters, and put on an absolutely killer live show. They just dropped their Mano a Mano EP and Honest should honestly be on the next 007 soundtrack. Just saying.
GRAFFITI is another band that has caught our attention. Kinda stony, kinda sludgy, with a drizzle of psychedelia. And the dudes are opening for J. Roddy at Headliners on May 22! So rad!
ST. KITTEN is both a powerhouse vocalist and is on a mission, writing catchy tunes that you can’t help but dance to paired with lyrics that you can’t help but cry to. It’s gonna be fun, raw and devastating all at the same time. And we may or may not be collaborating with him. Ok, we totally are and the stuff is rad. Look out.
Louis: Everything about CABIN. Also, BEACONS attracts more than just my attention. What handsome fellows.
NN: What was the best show you’ve been to so far this year? What bands were playing where, and what made it so great?
Corey: Sufjan Stevens at the Palace Theatre in Columbus. Being the Carrie and Lowell tour, I was expecting a stripped down, low key show. Boy was I wrong. Blue Bucket of Gold live was one of the trippiest moments of my life…psychedelic experiences included.
Louis: Did someone say CABIN?!?!
NN: Louisville is home to some pretty dope microbreweries. Is there one you prefer over the others?
Corey: We are big fans of Against the Grain. Seems like they can’t make a bad brew. Flat 12 (we know…Jeffersonville) and West Sixth (we know…Lexington) are some others that have won our affection.
Louis: Pfft, these hipsters and their microbreweries. You ain’t had good beer until you’ve visited a Microbe brewery. Talk about small batch…
NN: What about record stores? Do you shop at one more than the others?
Corey: I love the resurgence of record shops in the wake of ear X-tacy’s closing (never forget). Each shop has a bit of a niche. It’s as if the spirit of ear X-tacy lives on through these smaller shops. As far as places we’ve shopped at and who have backed us up to this point, our 5 shops are as follows: Astro Black, Underground Sounds, Guestroom, Modern Cult and Matt Anthony’s.
“I love the resurgence of record shops in the wake of ear X-tacy’s closing (never forget). Each shop has a bit of a niche. It’s as if the spirit of ear X-tacy lives on through these smaller shops. As far as places we’ve shopped at and who have backed us up to this point, our 5 shops are as follows: Astro Black, Underground Sounds, Guestroom, Modern Cult and Matt Anthony’s.”
NN:If you could change your middle name to anything, what would it be? And why?
Corey: Brundlefly (see below)
Louis: I’ve actually already changed mine to Andrei.
NN: What is the hardest pre-Playstation era video game you’ve ever played? Have you beaten it?
NN: For you personally, what is the most disturbing/disgusting scene in Cronenberg’s The Fly?
Corey: Growing up, it was the arm wrestling scene. I think I told my friends about that scene for months after first seeing that movie. Now when I watch it, the insect politics scene is the most striking, where Brundle has almost made the transformation. It was inspiration for our song, shamelessly titled Insect Politics.
Louis: Definitely when the dude gets the VHS tape shoved into his torso, or maybe when the dog sprouts all the tentacles. Any scene with Matt Damon.
NN: Before you go, talk about the best record you’ve heard this year that you hadn’t previously listened to, whether it be new or old.
Corey: I can’t choose just one. As far as older albums I, for whatever reason, never really sunk my teeth into before, I’d have to say Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique. My experience with the music of Beastie Boys is very limited and I’m not sure why. Probably for the same reason I had never seen Peewee’s Big Adventure until I was 25. It just escaped me all of my life. Paul’s Boutique is clever, perfectly layered, timeless, manic, and just downright fun.
As far as albums of 2015 that have rocked my world, they are as follows, Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly, Sufjan Stevens: Carrie and Lowell, and Elliot Moss: Highspeeds. I have a consumption problem when it comes to music; I know I have several albums on the back burner that I will later wish I would have mentioned here. So it goes.