THE NIGHT BEATS
“For the Benefit of Mr. Night (Beats)”
by Ryan Muldoon
Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” And if he hadn’t have died about 120 years before the formation of the Seattle-via-Texas trio known as The Night Beats, we’d think for sure he was referring specifically to their brand of psychedelic stomp. (Of course, there’s also the whole missing ear thing, which may or may not have kept the painter from falling head-over-heels for ugly garage rock.)
The band’s growing collection of razor-edged, soulful psych-slices brings to mind the night, both the darkness and “richly colored” parts, in a way that recalls the perfection of short, stabbing songs like “Cry in the Night” by (like Van Gogh) another bit of Dutch weirdness, Q’65.
We caught up with all three band members – Lee Blackwell, James Traeger, Tarek Wegner – as they continued working on their night moves, in advance of Austin Psych Fest 3.
I understand that you moved to Seattle from Austin. What differences (aside from climate) have you noticed from the perspective of making music in the two different cities?
James Traeger: Seattle’s bands work together more here. Austin does to an extent, but yeah, Seattle wants to push other bands as much as their own, it feels.
Lee Blackwell: I came from Dallas for the most part, where there’s no underground or desire to break the mold. Deep Ellum will live again!
Are you from Austin originally? If so, how did Austin contribute to your musical identity? How have you seen your musical interests evolve over the past year or so? What’s one album that you could have never guessed you would really enjoy – but you do?
Lee: Originally, no. Dallas. Austin’s psychedelic music and Texas blues have been etched onto my brain. It’s continually proving that less is more … and that’s the greatest lesson.
James: The Last Shadow Puppets surprised me. Alex Turner writes great melodies.
Night Beats strikes me as a rather evocative name, one that can be taken any number of ways. Can it be that the name is just as simple as it sounds? What does the name mean to you?
Lee: Sam Cooke’s magnum opus.
Tarek: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Shake Rattle & Roll.”
Speaking of night and beats: Have you ever read the neo-beat classic, “City of Night” by John Rechy?
Similarly, the music you create can generate a variety of reactions. Songs like “Stampede” seem to be set in motion by an almost nihilistic, Link Wray-ish swagger – while the vocals are caught up in the fight, but maybe howling for an escape. How much do you analyze your sound – and how much do you just let happen?
Lee: Fire. Needs fire. Some feet to walk on, or trip. I want a story, or a feeling to be told or retold.
Tarek: I’d touch myself with Link Wray’s fingers if I was him. I’d let anything happen.
What music have you been listening to lately?
All: Talk radio, broken muffler, people talking, people coughing, Bo Diddley, Turkish punk, radio evangelists.
Do you recall who the first band you ever saw perform live was? What band has impressed you live lately?
James: Erin Evermore.
All: Bands from tour, Christian Bland and The Revelators, Strange Boys, Juvenile.
What differences have you noticed in the Night Beats live performances vs. what you have recorded so far? Is there a conscious difference in approach between recording and performing live?
Lee: It’ll always be different live, the day, the hour, the ideas going through my head … all effect the live performance.
How did it come to be that you would be performing at this year’s Psych Fest? Any bands in particular that you are interested in seeing live?
All: They picked all the pretty flowers, and when they got to us they rolled us up and smoked us. We will enjoy the shit out of all of the bands! Can’t wait.
What’s next for The Night Beats?
All: Eliminating racism in Mexico, eliminating homophobia, eliminating the stench in our van, Kwanzaa in Denmark, prostitutes at the Cherry Patch Ranch.7 inches, rare 12 inches, more 7 inches … soon a full length.
The Night Beats – http://www.myspace.com/thenightbeatswilleatyou