For lovers of feel-good bops and undeniable hooks, indie pop rockers The Beths are returning down under this month. After a stellar spot on the 2019 Splendour in the Grass stage in July, they’re back in Australia for six intimate shows across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth that will kick off this week.
Since the release of their debut album ‘Future Me Hates Me’ and EP ‘Warm Blood’ in 2018, the Auckland trio have been pinned as an act to watch by the likes of Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. Most recently, the accolades have been coming from their peers. Lead vocalist Liz Stokes’ lyrical quips on ‘Happy Unhappy’ scored her a spot as a top 5 finalist for New Zealand’s song-writing Silver Scroll Award. The Beths also swept up four nominations including Album of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2019 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.
After touring the album across Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand over the last year, the three long-time pals are ready to jump back into the studio to record some new tunes once they’re home in a couple of weeks. With a few songs already in the works, Liz hints that the new record will follow similar personal recollections of friends and relationships to the first record.
Before they return to Oz, we had a chat with Liz about why she loves smaller gigs, being recognised by her peers and what we can expect from the new record.
Music Feeds: What can we expect from the Australian tour?
Liz Stokes: It’s been a while since we last played there, aside from Splendour, so it’s just nice to be able to come back. It’ll also be the first time we’re heading to Perth and Adelaide, so having not played there before, it’s going to be exciting. But what can people expect? I don’t know! We’ll be playing everything on the album and we’ll be trying out some new songs too.
MF: Oh, cool! Is the new record already in the works?
LS: A little bit! We managed to do a little bit of writing over the year and in the last couple of weeks we’ve played a few of the songs to road test them while we’ve been back in New Zealand. So we’ll throw in some new ones at some of the shows and see how they go. But it’s always a bit scary when you’re playing them for the first time.
MF: I can imagine! I’m sure it’s a cool way to see what works with the fans while the songs are a work in progress as well.
LS: Oh, totally! Because once you play them live, you get a different sense of what feels right. For the previous record, everything had been played live before recording so it’s nice to do the same for this record too. And also, we’ve just been playing the album songs hundreds and hundreds of times so it’s almost exciting to be a little bit bad at songs again (laughs) and really have to think about them. We’ll be practicing them a lot but it’s always a bit scary and fun at the same time.
MF: You’re touring with a bunch of local artists like Major Leagues, Tamara and the Dreams and Oscar The Wild. Are you looking forward to hanging out with them?
LS: Yeah, definitely looking forward to that. With Major Leagues, we’re doing a few shows with them and it’s always fun to get to know some bands a bit better when you’re travelling with them. And yeah, it’s always good travelling with local bands even just to be like “Hey, where’s a good place to get dinner before the show?” (laughs).
MF: Now that you’ve toured the likes of North America, the UK and Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand, have you noticed a big difference between the crowds depending on where you play?
LS: Yeah, every crowd is kind of different. Even different cities in the same countries have different vibes. We’ve connected really well when we’ve played in Scotland. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something similar between New Zealand and Scotland.
All of the US shows have been great, too. There’s just something about how enthusiastic people are over there. They’re not reserved about saying if they’re into something. My initial thoughts about the shows in Australia is that they are bit rowdy in a way that’s kind of fun. There’s definitely a big love of guitar music in Australia that runs pretty deep.
MF: I’m sure even different venues within the same city give off their own vibes too. Are you looking forward to some more intimate venues after playing at Splendour in the Grass earlier this year?
LS: Yeah, definitely. It’s exciting to play to bigger crowds and there’s that element of playing music to people who are unfamiliar with your music. That is something that I kind of enjoy. It’s nice when people say “I don’t know who you were and I saw your set and now I’m buying a t-shirt” (laughs). But I think at your own shows, you have more influence on the culture of the show and it does feel like that you’re welcoming people into your space and they’re welcoming you into yours. It does feel more intimate and more personal.
MF: You’re a top 5 finalist for the Silver Scroll Award for ‘Happy Unhappy’. This is the second time you’ve been nominated but it still must feel like a huge honour, right?
LS: Oh, yeah! It’s super nice and the fact that it’s voted on by peers and other songwriters makes me feel really humbled. It really is an honour. I feel cheesy saying that (laughs) but it’s really cool.
MF: Is there a particular lyric in ‘Happy Unhappy’ that you really love?
LS: I really love singing the pre-choruses. They’re super wordy and have silly rhymes and you have to get the phrasing just right or you just come to a crashing halt. I like that it’s kind of hard to sing (laughs).
MF: Speaking of awards, The Beths have been nominated for four awards at the 2019 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. Does it feel surreal receiving this type of response for your first record?
LS: Yeah, it’s pretty wild. Bands that I grew up with would’ve been nominated for those awards. We’ve been playing for a while and it doesn’t feel like we’re now in some upper echelon or something, it just feels like we’ve been making music for a long time and going to things like this, again, it’s our friends and peers and also people that you look up to.
MF: After the tour, you’re settling down to work on the next record. How long have you set aside to work on it?
LS: When we get back from Australia is when we start recording with a capital ‘R’ but we’ve been in the studio for a while. Everything’s set up and we’ve been recording our rehearsals and listening back to them. We’re hoping to have it finished by early next year. We’ll be recording pretty solidly.
MF: Can you tell us anything about how the record will sound?
LS: The last record came out a year ago and the songs were finished a year before that and some of them are even older. So these songs pick up from there. When we look at a collection of songs, like an album, you can’t help but spot patterns. Like conflicts within social circles, friends moving away and I think everyone in the last few years has had an experience where they don’t want to interact with someone in their circle because of Me Too-esque reasons.
So there are a lot of songs about friendships and relationships. It’s strange to think of your life as a piece of media with themes but I suppose it does kind of happen that way.
MF: Yeah, I can imagine it is weird and to think that people are relating their own lives to the stories you’re telling as well.
LS: Yeah, I don’t really like talking about what songs are about because I find it really difficult to express. For some reason it’s just easier in the song. With a lot of songs that I really connect with, half of my brain is thinking about the songwriter and what they’re feeling and the other half is pretty selfishly just thinking about my own experiences. I think that’s what makes me connect with a song or certain records.
MF: Last year The Beths released a cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, do we have any hopes for a new carol this year?
LS: (Laughs) We don’t have anything planned. I would hope that the one we did last year still has some legs but we’ll see how we go!
The Beths are embarking on a nationwide tour, kicking off in Melbourne on Thursday, 3rd October. Find out all info here.