To introduce their song “Dumpster Fire,” the members of Black Beach put together a quick edition of our Three Great Things series. Read about frontman Steven Instasi’s love of free jazz, bassist Ben Semeta’s obsession with My Name Is Earl, and drummer Ryan Nicholson’s admiration of Dave Grohl, and stream the new track below!
— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Associate Editor
1. Free Jazz
I got into jazz much later than other genres in my journey of musical exploration, but it quickly became my number one obsession. It’s still the first section I check in record stores. I was drawn mostly to free jazz because it seemed like punk music that predated punk. It was inherently political despite being predominantly instrumental; emerging in the middle of the civil rights movement, free jazz was a “fuck you” to the oppressive class who preferred the also-budding genre of jazz fusion, instead opting to create a total cacophony of sounds that connected cultures and communities and disregarded monetary gain.
I like that there are no real boundaries or rules to the genre or how the music should sound, a contrast to the rigidity that is often the case in the countless subgenres of rock music. Free jazz can be fast, loud, and violent (i.e. Peter Brötzmann’s Nipples) or soft, restrained, and beautiful (I.e. Albert Ayler’s “Our Prayer-Spirits Rejoice”). Spirituality also became a big part of the music, taking influence from Eastern religions and philosophies similar to all the ‘60s psych bands that decided to pick up a sitar, but way cooler. Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda is the closest to going to church as I’ll ever come.
I was thinking about jazz a lot when writing stuff for Tapeworm, from the Reid Miles-inspired album cover to the songs that rely mostly on one repetitive riff that just kind of drones on similar to the more spiritual side of free jazz. Spoiler alert: there’s saxophone on the album and it was meant to sound like Ayler meets The Stooges. “Dumpster Fire” revolves around a jazz manouche chord but it sounds more Jesus Lizard than Django.
— Steven Instasi
2. My Name is Earl
Falling asleep watching TV — I love getting so comfortable that I don’t want to go to bed and then finding myself waking up on the couch at 3 AM in some weird position with, like, the theme to That ‘70s Show still playing. Maybe this is why I don’t get a lot of sleep. I don’t know.
More than that, something I think is great is the TV series My Name is Earl. I recently rediscovered it, and it’s so underrated.
Jason Lee — yeah, I know, he’s great — plays Earl. He’s a small time crook who has been doing all these shitty things and hurting people around him in the process… then he wonders why his life sucks. After getting hit by a car within minutes of winning $100k on a lottery ticket he finds himself in a hospital bed watching Carson Daly. That’s when he learns about karma. He realizes he needs to make up for all his wrongdoings if he ever wants a better life. So, he makes a list of all the bad things he’s ever done and one by one he sets out to make things right.
The show deals with some questionable content in a way that’s almost innocent through characters who are likable in spite of their flaws. Earl, like everyone else, has these unconscious biases, but he starts to think through them in a way that most of us don’t. He learns something new every episode and feels this sense of pride when he’s able to right a wrong. He’s just trying to be a better person; his name is Earl.
— Ben Semeta
3. Dave Grohl
I found Dave Grohl’s drumming on the Nirvana records to be incredibly inspiring. I’ve always been turned off by drummers who seem to be obsessed with “over-doing it” and the inherent competition in music that comes along with all that. Instead, it has always made more sense to me to just simply play the song; playing appropriate parts perfectly, rather than flexing chops and knowledge of rudiments. After studying Dave’s drum parts at an early age, I really felt I had gained access to a more melodic form of drumming, one that was primarily feel-oriented as opposed to the technical snobbery I was becoming fed up with.
At heart I am much more a music lover than a drum virtuoso, and I’ve always hated feeling like I need to prove myself on the kit — I just love playing songs passionately. Something about the simplicity of Dave’s drum parts really pull those Nirvana records together, despite the lack of complex rudiments, polyrhythms, etc. The success of those records, to me, validated the fact that a great drummer doesn’t need to outplay everyone in the band. Having a good feel and communicating passion and energy through the kit has always been paramount to me when it comes to playing in Black Beach.
Recording Tapeworm was probably the first time I felt accomplished as a drummer. I took care to make sure that every single note I hit was entirely deliberate and a compliment to the other parts of the song. I absolutely love the tone of the drums of this record and I love the space they occupy sonically — I truly feel that if I tried to take my drumming to a more technical level, it would take away from this record as a whole. The emphasis on repetition and melody are something I find to be really effective on the song “Dumpster Fire.” At the end of the day, a passionate performance and a good ear will always be the most valuable components of a great drummer in my eyes.
— Ryan Nicholson
You can catch Black Beach on tour this fall:
10/16: Hong Kong — Boston, MA
10/19: Dusk — Providence, RI
10/20: Trans-Pecos — Queens, NY
10/21: Joe Squared — Baltimore, MD
10/22: 1984 — Wilmington, NC
10/23: Fuzzy Cactus — Richmond, VA
10/24: Static Age Records — Asheville, NC
10/26: Blockhouse — Bloomington, IN
10/27: Open Community Arts Center — Louisville, KY
10/29: Pauly’s Hotel — Albany, NY
10/30: Sun Tiki — Portland, ME
11/19: Le Voyeur — Olympia, WA
11/20: LoFi — Seattle, WA
(Photo Credit: EV Krebs)