Radio BurgerFuel

Interview: The Beths

Posted by Lee Densem


So I think, we always had a pretty good relationship, but it's super important that it stays good now.

Liz & Jono of The Beths came into Radio BurgerFuel to chat with Lee Densem about what 18 months locked in a van with your mates really does to you.

"Doing a show is a different nervousness. You do it, and after 45 minutes it's done. With an album, this is going to be here for the rest of my life."

RADIO BURGERFUEL: Since releasing their debut album a little over a year ago, You could be forgiven for thinking that The Beth's had not been up to much because we haven't seen them in New Zealand so much, but that is far from the case. They've been traveling the world playing sold-out shows everywhere and we're lucky enough to have them back in New Zealand now with the Homecoming Tour coming up. It is my pleasure to welcome into the studio from The Beths - Liz and Jono. Welcome.

Liz: Thanks for having us.

It's so cool to have you here. So first of all, is it nice to be back home?

Oh, so nice. This most recent run was a long time away from home and in a different place every night. We left in May and just got back a couple of weeks ago, so we've been looking forward to coming home.

Nice to be back and especially today, we've picked a horrible day for it, but that's alright. Welcome back to summer in New Zealand.

Jono: Yeah. I'm very vividly reminded of my gorgeous summer holiday in Spain between tours. That was nothing like this.

I guess it's still only September, so we're kind of, we can do better than that.


"I'm really a big believer in these arbitrary reasons to check your life...Take that opportunity and think about things"

So let's take it back to the start. How long ago did The Beth's come into being?

I'm scared to count, so there'll be a reminder of how old we're getting. But I think probably about five years ago we started jamming together. It was a pretty slow process. We rehearsed a lot before we played and then we played a lot for a year before we recorded anything. It was nice to kind of just hobby band. It wasn't until we started releasing music and touring a bit around New Zealand that we started to think it maybe had some legs.

Was there a certain point where you sat down and said, actually we should try and make a real good go with us? Or was it just one of those things where you were just spending a bit more and more time on the band?

There was definitely that moment. I'm really a big believer in these arbitrary reasons to check your life and just check-in. New Year's resolutions are a classic one, or towards the end of years or even birthdays or some other significant event in your life. I reckon it's great. Take that opportunity and think about things. That kind of came up for us towards the end of 2017 and we had pretty much finished the record. We were happy but working some simple (pretty down the train tracks) jobs and stuff like that, so we took the opportunity towards the end of that year to have lots of conversations about what we wanted to do and how the record was going and where we wanted to take it.

I think it was sounding good and I think we just had to put some faith in it. I started just booking a DIY tour of Europe, making plans to get to the USA, and started talking seriously about looking for labels overseas.

At the stage this was all still self-managed and you were doing it all yourselves?

Yeah, so the first big push was pretty scary

Take the Whammy Bar that is Auckland's best dive bar. We wanted to find 20 Whammy Bars all around the world that we could play in and that was what we set out to do.

That was actually really, really nice. It was kind of weird. You pick a city and really zoom in and find bands that were around a similar level to us that might want to play with us. And it was really nice to zoom in on a music scene that you're not a part of and see that there are so many similarities. You can see that there are definitely bands that are at the core of it all and music venues that they revolve around in the same way that they do here. It's kind of nice to see that it's similar in other places but different.

And then to actually go and play there and to be welcomed in at the end of the day. You know, we've definitely made great friendships along the way mostly through doing exactly that. I don't think you make the same kind of friendship by playing a big promoted London headline show as you do when you find the vegan punk scene and play there and have a great show, even though there were only so many people there. It's so good.


"all I really wanted to study was music"

Was music always going to be a thing for you guys? When you were growing up, were you playing music, singing, and everything?

I feel like for me it was.

I think we both really found a passion for music at a similar time in our early teenage years. And Liz started writing songs around then. I know this cause we were at the same high school even though we didn't know each other very well.

We were both gigging even before and then we both decided to study music, which almost just felt like the first step for me. I was even thinking "Oh maybe I'll study something else". But all I really wanted to study was music and I keep learning about it and I felt like definitely a narrowing of the pathways or something.

In terms of the last 18 months, how has it been?

It's been good. It's been the biggest change that I've ever had in my life. I've never moved cities - I was born, raised, and studied in Auckland and then just got jobs and kept doing my thing. So I haven't really had a real big zigzag situation in life. And this is definitely that. Over the last 18 months, I think we've had 12 weeks at home. The lifestyle change is huge. I don't know how people do this if they're really young, and I see bands who are big partiers and I don't know how they do it either. I just think you have to take such good care of yourself. And I don't know, it's just been so huge for me.

Definitely. It's a real balancing act to try and stay mentally and physically healthy. I think we do okay mentally, but physically you just sit in a van all day as you drive from one venue to the next venue

Then do your thing at night and stay up to crazy hours in the morning.

And just the idea of staying up longer than that and going partying or something, it would just be a really, really difficult thing to do I suppose. When we talk, it still just the four of us, like we drive ourselves and we show up in the venue and do all our own merch and stuff like that. There's just so much work. And then it's difficult to imagine adding a huge hangover to the top of that every day.


"It's a real balancing act to try and stay mentally and physically healthy"

Did you guys expect there to be that much admin?

Yeah, we kind of knew what we were in for and, then things have gone better than we could have ever dreamed. So now a lot of things are taken off our hands by, the people, here in the Beths extended team who do various jobs. But I feel like that just means you can do more stuff, because you've got more help so everyone ends up working really hard anyway and you just get more done and to make more tours and make more records.

I started having a look to try and work out how many shows you might've done. I was looking through Facebook and I don't know, I counted a hundred stopped because that seemed like a lot for the last year. Do you actually know how many you've done?

I actually have done a count recently. So the Auckland show that we play on November the 17th is the last show of this album run and the Homecoming wrap-up show. Since the album release, that will be our 207th show. That includes everything - every time we've gone on stage.

Basically a show every two days on average. It's pretty crazy. Obviously you've been really busy but you're back home for a little bit now. Have you actually had any time at all to stop and reflect?

A little. We got back a couple of weeks ago and immediately jumped on. I left to see some New Zealand nature and just be in a very quiet place for about a week. Mostly that was just recovering from van brain or something, I don't know. It's a big thing to reflect on. We're gearing up to record the next record and it's really nice that that's going to be at home. We're looking forward to being in Auckland. Maybe when we reflect a lot and think about it, another record is making another musical statement. I guess we'll do that over the summer. We're looking forward to the summer.

Yeah. I think the next arbitrary time for reflection will present itself.

"It's a by-product of loving what you do and showing other people that you love what you do. And then getting that love back."

Obviously lots of things have changed. In terms of a band - how you guys play and be a band together - has much changed in that time as well?

Yeah, I reckon it has. We've become way more intentional about being sensitive to where each other are at and thoughtful because we spend every hour of every day together. So I think, we always had a pretty good relationship, but it's super important that it stays good now. We have done a lot of thinking on that point to try to get that stuff right. And that included everyone so that everyone feels satisfied and connected to the music and to the band.

We've settled in now to the same group that I think it's going to be for a while and that's good. I don't know. We all love each other. We've been touring nonstop together and then we've come back and been rehearsing most days, but, and today's a day off, but we're all going to go have dinner together.

So it's kind of a big family now.

Yeah. People always ask, do you hate each other now? And it's like, no. I love all these guys. We're good friends. But I do think that Jonathan's right, that it's something we have to be quite intentional about - leaning on each other on tour because it's a lot of time together.

Yeah. And I'm sure not everyone gets on the whole time and people need different things at different times. Right?

People need space sometimes. And that's fine. It's always fine.

You guys were talking about how you're gearing up to make the new record. When you're away on tour, do you actually sit there and write or do you need to set aside a better time (like now) to sit down and work on new material.​

For me, touring seems to not be a very creative time for my brain. If I'm productive enough, keep on top of it, it's just like actual writing. I free write... That sounds so much more extreme than it is actually is. It's journaling, a stream of consciousness kind of prose. And so, if I can do that pretty regularly and I just end up with pages and pages of nothing and then sometimes there'll be little bits that if I can go back to and I'll use those as a basis for writing when I'm back home, when I'm in a bit more of a stable space. To write musically, I need to have a little bit of time to be, bored or something to the right kind of space. In terms of actually rehearsing and running new material, which we managed to do a little bit of it on the last tour, we can run some things at soundchecks but it never really works that well. Occasionally we managed to get a day off where we can go to a rehearsal room and actually workshop a new song and try and play it live. But I think it definitely depends on energy level.

Yeah. The couple of times we've done it have been well planned in advance, so we all knew it was happening - we were going to practice and get two new songs off the ground and ready to go into the live set. And that was totally manageable. But if I've just done six days of shows in a row in the van and I have a day off, I'm going to sit on the computer and watch YouTube.

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