TSOFDs: Let’s get the most annoying question out of the way first. Why the name ‘Beeef’?
Perry: It was kind of a mixture of a few different influences. The first was when we first started playing together, there was a trend of indie bands having names with no vowels, so in a way, it was kind of poking fun at that trend by adding an extra vowel. At some point in time, we were toying with the name The Burgers, but it seemed a bit too ordinary—there were probably other bands called that, so somehow the two ideas were combined and we ended up with Beeef (probably with no mind that we’d end up actually recording any music).
TSOFDs: Your output is a fab combo of sharp songwriting and killer arrangements. It’s all really neatly pulled off and you seem to squeeze every interesting possibility out of your songs without them outstaying their welcome. How do you arrive at this point – is it all mapped out by one person when the song is written or does it come from hours of jamming and individual band members adding their own ideas?
Perry: Well thank you, first off, that’s an extremely generous analysis. We’re lucky in that we all have influences that are diverse, but cohesive, so we typically have a common sound in mind, but are always pulled in different directions depending on what we’re listening to. Typically, I will put together the song’s basic structure and lyrics and then as a band we will refine it and put our own individual spins on it. Sometimes a song will go down a very different path once we all start playing it as a band, and that’s when it really gets its dimension. We often overthink things, too, which is a blessing and a curse.
TSOFDs: How does a song typically begin life before all of this? Are there topics you suddenly feel inclined to address in song or is it more the case you get a chord sequence or a melody in your head and then simply search for words you feel are the right fit?
Perry: Most of them either begin in the shower, on my bike, or in the car. Places where I can really space out and just think. Usually it’s led by some kind of hook, either a lyric of the chorus with a melody, or some sort of riff or motif, and then I’ll try to record it on a voice memo somehow and then flesh it out. Topics can be pretty broad, but often take the shape of meditations on getting older or changing or letting go of something. It’s all a bit nostalgic and sentimental in a way that’s certainly not unique in the indie rock realm, so we try to at least make it catchy so it’s not overly wrought.
TSOFDs: You formed in Boston which is a city that’s notable for a number of acts that have gone on to achieve global recognition. Are there any in particular you’d cite as major influences or as inspiration? If not, tell us about any other songwriters/bands that made you want to be a songwriter/in a band.
Perry: We’re very much shaped by the music that has come out of Massachusetts. A few of us actually started a blog here in Boston called Allston Pudding, many years ago, which in many ways brought us closer to the music we were so influenced by. Early on, I grew up right outside of Boston and was listening to bands in high school like Furvis and Drug Rug, both of whom continue to have a huge influence on our sound. Josh and Neil grew up on the North Shore and were listening to bands from up there like Piebald or Apollo Sunshine, who also have probably shaped our approach in some way. In the years since, so many other local bands have inspired us in so many ways—far too many to mention. Dan also grew up in Brooklyn, so he had an entirely different perspective coming in. That said, we’ve found a lot of common ground around the styles and sounds that we all bring to the table and listen to regularly.
TSOFDs: Please tell us about the live music scene in the city – were there any venues that have proven crucial to your development as a band? Is there anything happening to help prevent venues closing down during this challenging time?
Perry: Boston has great venues, but there are fewer and fewer every year. Great Scott and O’Brien’s are two Allston venues that have been extremely kind to Beeef over the years. Lilypad in Cambridge is another one that we’ve played regularly over the years. Unfortunately, Great Scott announced its closure this past spring, and at the time of this interview, the future of O’Brien’s is now up in the air, too. Despite an outpouring of support from folks in the city who have felt a great connection to these places over the years, they’re still succumbing to increasing rents by landlords and an abundance of red tape from the city and its permitting/licensing policies. Boston is a great place for the arts, but sometimes it does feel like it’s a city that doesn’t do enough to financially support its arts community.
TSOFDs: It’s a crazy time right now in a myriad of ways. How have you been finding this pandemic period? Was it frustrating not being able to go out and play gigs or was it good at least in the sense it offered you some extra time to work on songs?
Perry: It has been pretty sad, I’d say. Music is a great means of connection for many people, and its absence is one of the many ways that people are experiencing loss right now. We had some great gigs in the books for the spring and early summer, including one with Polaris, a band that has had a huge influence on Beeef for a really long time. We’ve definitely been writing a great deal of new stuff, but I know that especially in the early stages of the virus, I found it especially difficult to be creatively focused. That said, at some point, we’ll have a stack of new songs that we will be able to do something with.
TSOFDs: I’ve read you are a high school teacher. Whilst, rightly, there is much discussion currently how musicians are unable to make a living from music alone, perhaps the flipside is it’s potentially really rewarding to work a different job. Where do you stand on this question?
Perry: I am, and actually Neil and Josh both work in the field of education as well and Dan is employed full-time by a tech company. We have all had full-time jobs since forming the band, which we all view as a blessing, but it also by default kind of set certain limitations for the band. We’ve never really been able to go on long tours, and we sometimes have to be a bit selective about gigging. That said, not only do I personally love being a teacher, but I think not having to rely on music to make a living is a great advantage. Not only would we basically have no money, but we’d likely feel a lot more pressure and probably would have long since hit burnout. It’s a great privilege to be able to play music and still keep a full-time job, and we have great admiration for bands who are able to dedicate their lives full-time to touring and recording. The music industry these days isn’t quite designed in their favor, and bands like us who don’t rely on it financially probably aren’t doing them any favors, yet they persevere and find creative ways to make it work. But I know for me, I really love both music and teaching and wouldn’t want to give either up. Working with young people is the best, and they have undoubtedly lent inspiration to more than a few Beeef tunes.
TSOFDs: That’s a great way of looking at it. We live in an age where computers offer a lot of artists the chance to make music at home. You appear to eschew this option in favor of going into proper recording studios. Do you think other artists are potentially missing out by doing everything themselves?
Perry: We’ve had great experiences in studios, but if bands and artists have the talent and knowledge to take a DIY approach, I think that’s such a huge advantage. Josh is really well-versed in recording and mixing relative to the rest of the band, so we have actually done a fair deal of home-recording on both albums. We have also worked with a couple of really great producers, Jeremy Lee for our first record and Justin Pizzoferrato for our second album. We would recommend both of them endlessly—they’re super talented and extremely patient. But anyone who can manage to work efficiently at home, I think there’s a huge advantage there if you can get a sound that you’re pleased with.
TSOFDs: We stumbled across your video ‘Airplanes’ on Instagram and as a result felt the urge to tell people about your music. Any bands you’ve stumbled across recently you’d like to do the same for?
Perry: Oh man, too many to mention, to be honest. In terms of folks we have played with, Carinae out in Western Mass put out an excellent album last year and we’ve had the pleasure of gigging with them a handful of times. They’re one of the best live bands out there right now. Pushflowers also played a bunch of fun shows with us the past couple years and they’re really excellent. In New York, a few of the last bands we played with before the virus hit were GIFT and Petite League. We’ve had the chance to collaborate with TJ from GIFT on a couple projects, and they’re an awesome live band, and Petite League basically writes the songs that I wish I was writing. As far as other locals, Sidney Gish, Anjimile, Squirrel Flower, Kid Mountain, Water Cycle, and Squitch are all some really terrific bands we’ve had an eye on.
TSOFDs: Some great stuff there to check out. What’s next on the cards for Beeef? Any new material in the pipeline?
Perry: Definitely, just figuring out the best way to put it all together. We’ve experimented with recording each of our pieces from our respective places, to some trial-by-error success. It should all amount to something, either in the age of COVID or post-COVID depending on what that timeframe looks like. In the meantime, we’ve got vinyl available for our second record, Bull in the Shade, and we have a couple other interesting things that we will be releasing over the next couple of months.
TSOFDs: Thanks so much for your time Perry – looking forward to hearing what you come up with next.
Find Beeef’s music here.
Beeef band photos by Andrew Gibson.