Mix Talks: Beauts gear up for Gridlock Festival

On Friday at 4pm, the gates will open, kicking off the inaugural Gridlock Festival in Halifax. One of the best new local Halifax bands, Beauts, play the main stage on Saturday at 4pm. It’ll be a reunion of sorts for the band as friends and family gather for the weekend. The five-piece band with a knack for knocking anthemic pop rock songs out of the ballpark released the Waves/wash EP last month and are already back in the studio working on more songs. We caught up with guitarist and vocalist Darryl Smith to get the lowdown on the latest Beauts news.

For more on Gridlock, check out our festival guide.

Mixtape Magazine: Even though Beauts is a fairly new band, most of you have played in the Canadian music scene for long time. What’s it like making new music with that experience already at your disposal?

Darryl Smith: It’s been really helpful to have all that experience behind us. It’s helped inform a lot of the decisions we’ve made about what to focus our energy and time on, so we feel less like we’re spinning our wheels.

Where you all come from different backgrounds and different bands (Writers’ Strike, Kuato, Night Surf, Rich Aucoin’s band), how does the songwriting process work?

The songs usually start as instrumentals that then get delivered to Jeff (Lawton) who writes lyrics and melodies for the songs. He’ll bring them back and the rest of the band will kind of vet what he’s come up. The earlier songs were written a little bit more by either myself or Palmer (Jamieson) and then brought to the band, but the newer ones are a lot more collaborative where someone will have a riff that we’ll roll with and flesh out into a full song.

Sometimes you go to an awesome live show, full of energy, but the recordings feel flat. On Waves/Wash you really capture the energy of a Beauts live show. What’s the secret to maintaining a dynamic live and recorded sound?

I’m glad that you think the record doesn’t sound flat. We’ve been really lucky in that regard as both Joel (Wadell) and Palmer went to recording school and have worked recording bands in various capacities for years now. Beside recording the stuff to sound exciting, we spent a bit of time really working over the arrangements of the songs and ditching parts and adding others on the fly to make sure the record sounds exciting. Because the songs are written really collaboratively, I think there’s a spirit and sense that the songs are more important than anyone’s specific parts, so we’re able to put attachments and egos (not that anyone has a big ego) aside and just really work to make sure the songs are the best they can be.

A pop-rock band with a front person not playing a guitar is a rare sight to see these days. With a couple free hands, how does Jeff stay entertained during live shows?

Jeff had never been in a band before this one, so I think just getting over nerves and finding the confidence to step up and play the songs is preoccupation enough that he’s not bored. I also think that Jeff writes really strong lyrics, he means what he’s singing and trying to convey that meaning to the audience also occupies his time.

You folks have lived in Halifax for a while now and know Gridlock is the sort of summer festival that hasn’t happened in the city for years. What are you most excited for with Gridlock Festival? Any artists in particular you’re excited to see?

Obviously we’re very into the bands that are playing Gridlock and the lineup is totally stacked so we’re all really excited to see all those bands play. Specifically, I’m really excited about Wolf Parade, because they are probably my favourite band ever. As a band, we’re really excited about Waxahatchee, Beach Slang, American Football. There are lots of cool local bands like Walrus, Kim Harris, and Vogue Dots to check out as well.

But on a deeper level, I’m really pro anyone taking chances on putting on something good. Anyone who knows (Gridlock organizers) Jeremy and Matt knows they’re not in it for the money. They just really want to try to bring something cool to Halifax. So I’m really hoping that they succeed and that people turn out to support all the work they’ve done to bring something this cool and exciting to Halifax.

It has to be asked: the song of summer sixteen is _____ ?

My friend Ben Dalton (of Southern Shores, playing Gridlock on Sunday at 5:15pm) used to name every summer back when he lived in Halifax. I distinctly remember him naming one”the summer of bitter regret” which always seemed really bizarre to jinx your summer like that. Gridlock is definitely shaping up to be the highlight of my summer and I have a lot friends and family coming down for the festival, a lot of whom used to live in Halifax – so I’m going to call this summer “the summer of nostalgia.” Ben has christened this one ‘the summer of endless sunsets.'”

What’s next for Beauts after Gridlock?

We’ve got a show at the end of July opening for The Dirty Nil, which we’re super excited about. Also, we’re already back in the studio working on new tunes that should be out by October or so. We’re trying to just stay busy and keep putting out music. I think one thing I learned in Writers’ Strike is that it’s really easy to lose momentum and energy, so we’re just trying to stay busy and enjoy the process of making music together.

Edited for clarity by Jonathan Briggins.
Photo supplied.