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Beep Beep

An Interview

It may be easy to dismiss Beep Beep simply as the black sheep from Omaha, Nebraska's Saddle Creek Label. With lyrics like, "OH NO! Why should I fight this force that compels me to make your lap a snack and your skin my religion", your first listen to Business Casual may bring you to the conclusion this may be a highly sex driven soundtrack off your favorite Girls (or boys) Gone Wild video. In our interview with Chris Hughes and Eric Bemberger we attempted to find the story of an album that isn't like everyone else's. We certainly found them to be more unique than your everyday tijuana topless teen.

SF Station: Your album Business Casual has been out for a few months now. Have you been able to digest any of the input that you've been receiving from others?

Eric: Oh sure, yeah definitely, it's always been interesting. I personally enjoy reading record reviews, I've been really surprised how thoroughly people understood what we were trying to do and seem to really enjoy it as a result. Then there are the other people who heard us coming from a completely and different masculine and upset place, and so those are interesting to read as well.

SFS: Do you want to tell us a little bit about the artist who did the cover art?

Eric: Actually I was vacationing in SF and I went to the MOMA, and there was a SECA exhibit and they give awards to, I believe, six different artists in the Bay Area. John Bankston was one of them; I was completely blown away by them and couldn't stop thinking about them. I knew that we needed a cover so I thought, "O.K., we are going to be really fucking stupid and solicit this very successful artist to make a fucking record cover, which is disposable art." And for some reason he really wanted to do it. We talked on the phone extensively and explained to him we didn't want him to literally interpret our songs and just to listen to our record, try to enjoy it and see what he was inspired to make as a result. Chris met with him in San Francisco.

SFS: (to Chris) You had a chance to speak with John Bankston here in SF?

Chris: I did. He let me see his studio and work he was preparing for a show in Italy and we got to talking; it was an honor to meet him in person. What really blew my mind was when he sat me down and played our CD and had me explain each song to him so that he could get some more insight when he was working on the artwork. That to me couldn't have been a better situation. I really think highly of Bankston.

SFS: So he had a chance to listen to it before?

Chris: He did in fact, and he was just curious. Some of the lyrics are pretty straightforward others, you know, he just wanted clarification on stuff so he could get an overall feeling that would shape what he did for us. The end product is just toe curling for me to see because that image on the record cover is what I want to see from John Bankston. It really is in keeping with his other work. It was really impressive to me. It was such a long shot. Here we're taking this artist that actually is way bigger than we're ever going to be and calling him up and saying, "Hey you know, would you be interested in doing it?" It's something he'd never done before but fortunately he was familiar with our label (Saddle Creek) and he was familiar with some of the bands on it. It was a really distinct privilege to have Bankston do that. It had never been done before at our label; most of the bands do their artwork in house. Although Eric and I definitely felt that we could have created our own cover art but it would have just paled in comparison to anything Bankston would have done.

SFS: (to Eric) Is there anything that you would like to mention about this tour or anything or place that you're excited about going to?

Eric: I've only been to Nashville once, so that was probably the most anticipated for me and it didn't disappoint me. I was very pleased with that town. I mean it's completely republican and all that. There are several cities in the country that have been able to maintain a pure American culture but that's one of the cities that certainly is rich with a particular type. I just love the musicianship there as well. Anyone there can play guitar better than most anyone in Independent music. Granted, the style they choose to play in isn't very appealing to most of our audience. It's an amazing city overflowing with talent to the point where you can go to any bar and see an amazing band and not pay a cent because they just have a tip jar put up there that they work for.

SFS: (to Chris) Eric had also mentioned that when you guys were brainstorming for lyrical content you were able to find a place where you could both meet subject wise. Have you guys known each other for a while?

Chris: Oh yeah, I was in another band with Eric in the past and we thought musically then but it was a different genre of music. I've known him probably for nine years. There are times when we come across as an old married couple. We bicker in a loving way. We have a pretty extensive record collection but he gravitates to certain genres and I gravitate to other genres and it is a lot of times a meeting in the middle, and this next record is going to be quite a collage. I've been going off the deep end with things I don't normally listen to.

Eric is a pretty eccentric person; he'll be making his futuristic music that people won't appreciate for years to come. He'll bring in something like 7/4 or 12/4 -- you know some cockeyed time signature not even world music would be in and then he'll be like vocalize over that. I mean futuristic in the sense that you play it to a hundred people and may be ninety-five people are going to say I haven't heard that before but I don't necessarily care for it either. So he's covering new ground but is it something people want to hear? Not always. So that's kind of the challenge and celebration at times to try and take this abstract idea and make it discernible and palatable. He's more complex than I am, I'm a
simple guy, I like Pop music. I grew up with Rolling Stones, the Beatles; it's beaten in to my brain. I don't know where he comes from. Because the music he identifies with it involves different types of rhythms so that where it becomes a challenge for everyone to come up with ideas.

Business Casual is pretty straightforward. I think we spared the audience some of the atypical hooks we could have gone on and done. You know I read the reviews and they say there is no chorus, there's no repeating chorus, there are -- we're just not doing it in the "six bar verse-two bar bridge-four bar chorus-repeat". It doesn't have a formula in that sense, it is formulaic but maybe more of a jazz structure, where it's a sixteen bar verse and there isn't a bridge.

SFS: Yeah, I think its possible that critics are looking for something that's on the edge but still has those popular tendencies.

Chris: Well and that's a fine line you walk, you want something unique but then at the same time you want everybody to sing like Elliot Smith. Well, if your singing like him than your not doing something unique, you're doing something that's already exists in this world. And only a few people can crack through that shell and do something that's absolutely catchy, rhythmic and amazing. And of course, I would probably say that Elliot Smith is one of those people. He did it, some of his vocal melodies, some of his rhythms are so amazing that everyone is ripping them off and now it's hard to even appreciate his music because you hear it in everyone.

Beep Beep play Saturday, February 12 at Bottom of the Hill appearing with Every Move A Picture and Catholic Combs