Bestival: Interview with Beaty Heart

The alt-pop band Beaty Heart have been on our radar for some time – if it wasn’t for their catchy rhythmic hooks or their balanced concoction of electronic pop and melodic vocals, it would be for their dynamic and colourful music videos that accompany it. Sharing the same energy of experimental pop rock names Animal Collective and Yeasayer, Beaty Heart seem to successfully pin down that same unique, animated spirit and with it create an appeal that can stretch beyond the experimental shoebox and out into the ears of the masses. Based in Peckham, the trio are soon to embark on an American and European tour to promote their second album Til The Tomb - a more carefully crafted and thoughtful response to their own sound. Before they begin their tour haul and ahead of their upcoming Bestival appearance, we caught up with the band’s Josh Mitchell to talk songwriting, festivals and the lasting effects of a bad seafood experience.

How did you all come to meet each other?

Well we’ve known each other for about fifteen years, we went to school together and we grew up together. We didn’t actually all start playing in this band until we all moved to art school in London. We were all at different schools in South East London, so I was at Goldsmiths, Charlie was at Camberwell and James was at London College of Communication. So yeah, we kind of formed a band as an outlet for all our creative ideas that we were going through at that time.

You’ve been described as not “trying to reproduce any specific aesthetic from their influences”. But, if you could name some musical inspirations that have informed your sound in some way, what would they be?

There’s so many – it’s difficult to cut it down. I think with this recent record we listened to a lot of Arthur Russell, Roots Manuva and a lot of hip hop and a lot of R’n’B, and just a lot of pop basically.

What was it like working with Dave Eringa on your album Mixed Blessings?

Yeah, really good! He’s like a really great guy and he is so experienced. He hasn’t necessarily done a lot of work similar to what we do, he’s done more rock and pop. So I think he was really up for the challenge of working with us. I think what Dave brings to the table is that he’s really good at finding space for all our different sounds and organising the chaos. A lot of the sounds on the record are the same sounds we recorded on the demos on our own. What he’s good at is blending the old stuff with the new stuff.

I have to bring up the Seafood music video. What was it like filming that and eating all that jelly?

It was absolutely horrible (laughs). That was a really intense night. Charlie used to live in a big old office block, he was living at something called the Guardian Scheme where people reside in houses that are up for sale. They’re often really big buildings like schools or offices and Charlie’s was like a massive office block in Hackney. We spent all day building this ridiculous set out stuff we’d bought from the market, loads of seafood and fish. It was really disgusting. I have really bad memories of making that video.

So your second album Til The Tomb came out last month, how do you think your sound has developed since your Mixed Blessings album in 2014?

It’s very different since the last record and I think that’s just because of the way it was written. The first album was written in these really intense jam sessions where we’d all meet up and just kind of produce this really care-free, joyous energy and we weren’t really concentrating that much on songwriting, it was more about the energy we brought as a group. This new one was written in much more isolated environments and it was much more subdued, and that allowed us firstly to focus on the songwriting a bit more but also, those spaces created a completely different atmosphere in the song textures as well.

I think you can definitely pick up on that when you listen to the two albums separately. You weave together instrumentals, percussion and samples together to create your sound, how do you begin with writing music in this way with so many elements?

It usually starts with a sample, not necessarily a sample we’ve sampled from another artist or musician but one we’ve just made, like a little loop we’ve just made with whatever we have around and it’s usually quite simple at that point. Just a rhythmic loop or a melodic loop. Sometimes we use samples from other artists and then we construct the song around that sample, and a lot of the time, that original sample will not end up being in the final edit of the song. I think that’s just the way that we write, you have a sample, whether it’s from an older song or something you’ve just made – it just sets the tone for the song and you kind of build the song around it.

So you’re playing Bestival this year, a good way to end the summer. Have you played before/been before?

Yeah, we played Bestival a couple of years ago. We clashed with Chic who were the headliners, so not many people turned up. Well there were a few people at our set and they were having a great time but it was the one band all weekend that we didn’t want to clash with. So this time, we’ve got a slightly more sociable slot on the Saturday.

Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to at Bestival?

I think it’s a good atmosphere at Bestival. It’s one of the best festivals for me, because everyone’s dressed up and it’s visually stimulating. Also, it’s a good size. It’s not too big.

What are the Beaty Heart festival essentials?

Baby wipes, willpower, and champagne.

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Once the festival season is over, what do we have coming up next for Beaty Heart?

Well we’re heading to Pukkelpop in Hamburg this weekend, then after that Bestival is the last one. We’ve got a US tour coming up in September and then when we get back we’ve got a European tour. We’re playing the Bussey Building as well, which is kind of where we started out. It’s a really important one for us and it’s really great to be able to play our hometown and obviously going around America and Europe is going to be super sick as well. We’ve got another single coming out from the record and a video for that and some more remixes. All the stuff.

Beaty Heart’s latest album Til The Tomb is out now. To grab your Bestival 2016 tickets visit www.bestival.net.