BEAK>: 'It's just called the third album; we've always been awkward sods and this is an extension of that'
- David Pollock
- 17 July 2019
Billy Fuller of the Bristolian psych-rock trio talks about the bands's indefinable sound and rather weird album-title formatting
When Bristolian psych-rock trio BEAK> started recording their debut album in 2009, they had barely spoken to one another. 'We turned up in the studio, got our instruments out, the engineer turned some mics on, and I just started playing a bassline,' says the band's Billy Fuller. 'Everyone began to play along, but we didn't even talk to each other, we just recorded it. That was the first song on the first record, the product of us being shy and not knowing what to say, really.'
The group had their roots in a 2007 pub Christmas party for co-founder and Portishead fulcrum Geoff Barrow's Invada records, where Barrow, Fuller and Matt Williams first got up on stage to jam. Williams departed in 2016, to be replaced by Will Young on the recommendation of Blanck Mass and F.Buttons' Benjamin John Power; but, says Fuller, 'Geoff and I are in our tenth year and we're still very much good mates, still sharing a room in the Travelodge, you know? Single beds, but it's close-quarters living … still looking for that Christmas number one so we can have a room each!'
After 2009's eponymous debut album and 2012's follow-up, >>, the band only released their third record, >>>, last year, although Fuller points out they've maintained a presence with a number of singles and the soundtrack for Tom Geens' 2005 film Couple in a Hole. Their sound is indefinable but rooted in a particularly classic and off-kilter sensibility, grabbing diverse inspiration from early electronica, horror-folk and Krautrock. 'It's called the third album,' says Fuller, when asked if the diverse album-naming system is a veiled Neu! reference. 'People think it's "Three Chevrons" or "Three Times Greater Than" or "Three Beaks" … It's just the third album; we've always been awkward sods and this is an extension of that.'
Their sound has always been deeply rooted in improvisation, although lately they've yielded to using the occasional overdub. Onstage, however, it's a different story. 'We play live with pretty much zero improvisation going on,' says Fuller. 'What we do is relearn what we improvised in the studio and play it again. People may find that odd, but we want to put on a good show. I've been to loads of improv gigs and some of them are great, but 80% are terrible; there's nothing worse that hearing gloomy rock going on and on and on. We're aware of that, so we keep the improv for our own amusement, you know?'
BEAK> play Doune the Rabbit Hole, Sat 20 Jul.