By: Shannon Murphy
From March 3rd, 2019
On Sunday, March 3rd, The Beths played a sold-out show with Bad Bad Hats at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. A local band called Sieve opened the show.
The Beths have been touring with Bad Bad Hats since mid-February, when they kicked things off with two shows in Canada, and have been making their way across the U.S.. The New Zealand-based band consists of Elizabeth Stokes, Jonathan Pearce, Benjamin Sinclair, and Ivan Luketina-Johnson. Some members met in high school, but they all attended college together at the University of Auckland, where they each studied jazz.
Though the first full-length album, Future Me Hates Me, doesn’t bear much resemblance to their classical training, it is clearly the product of seasoned musicians. Stokes’ lyricism is punchy and candid, and, often sad, with track titles like “Happy Unhappy”, “Little Death” and “You Wouldn’t Like Me”. But, those lyrics are backed by addictive pop melodies and catchy guitar parts that make for youthful, fun ballads. It’s the kind of music you would want to dance to in your pajamas in your adolescent bedroom while singing the words into your hairbrush, but with the melancholic twinge of hindsight.
Though The Beths were quite far from home, the crowd was packed with energetic and adoring fans who knew the words to every song. (And they must’ve been devoted: Philly attendees braved a blistering snowstorm to make it to the venue.) Before the show, I sat down with Liz Stokes, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist. We chatted about everything from musical inspirations, to favorite tour food, to the treacherous Northeastern weather.
So, now that you’re about halfway through tour with Bad Bad Hats, how has it been so far?
“It’s been really fun. We started out in Canada which was cool having never been there before. It was very very cold and on the drive from Toronto to Montreal the storm was coming at us from the other direction, so we added like 3 hours to the drive and got there just in time to give Bad Bad Hats their amps and get on stage which was not something that’s ever happened before.”
Any particularly special experiences at any tour stops so far? Favorite food to get on tour?
“Tristan who is the [current] drummer has spent some time in New York before so he was able to pick out a few…It’s the worst when you don’t know where to get food and it’s kind of the group of you standing around trying to find a place that looks like it’s okay. We got a really nice pizza. It’s good when someone decides. We had a cheesesteak today from Joe’s.”
As far as the album and music, who are some of your biggest influences when you are writing?
“I’m pretty easily influenced by whatever I’m listening to song to song, and just within a song section to section. I was listening to a lot of Alvvays when I was writing a lot. I got into Cloud Nothings for a bit, and we were always listening to bands like Weezer for guitar sounds. Rilo Kiley, too.”
In January and early February, The Beths were the opening act on indie legends Death Cab for Cutie’s UK and Europe tour. Death Cab played a new set every single night on tour, catering each show to make sure they played new songs for the city.
“We toured with Death Cab for Cutie in Europe and just seeing that band playing every night and how well they play…it’s really special and inspiring that they care so much about each place.”
Who are some of your other influences for live shows?
“It’s always nice to see a really nice live set. Bad Bad Hats who have been playing with us for this tour have been really inspiring to watch live. They’ve been super tight and super fun and it sounds amazing every night. They’ve got their performance down. It’s nice to see and hopefully be like a tight band. It’s exhilarating to try to get things right, which maybe doesn’t sound that musical but it’s really fun.”
What was it like being involved in music in college? A lot of our WVUD members are in bands themselves or interested in a career in music, so what advice do you have for them?
“Studying music is kind of… you end up usually involved in it because it becomes your life for four years, being surrounded by people for whom it’s all they want to do and it’s all you want to do. It’s a good head start into the amount of hours you put into [music]. A career is an interesting thing because if you want to make music as a career, the way to do that is to get really good at your instrument and be like a session musician. If you want to make music creatively you just have to keep making music and getting good at that. If it’s writing, keep practicing. It’s hard because when you talk about the music industry or a career there is so much luck involved. There are so many amazing bands that never seem to take off. As long as you are passionate about what you are doing that should always come first before the stuff that comes along with it.”
If you weren’t doing music as a career, what do you think you would you be doing right now?
“It was only in the last year of high school that I decided to study music. If I hadn’t, I probably would’ve studied a Bachelor of Arts, something to do with language. I really like languages and I like English, so I probably would’ve done linguistics. I don’t know what that would’ve been like because now my entire entity is wrapped up in music. It’s weird to think I’d be an entirely different person.”