Beat Connection

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story/ Aly Vander Hayden

photographs / Angel Ceballos

Beat Connection is more than just the title of a LCD Soundsystem song.  This tropical-psychedelic-pop duo composed of Jordon Koplowitz and Reed Juenger—with the help of vocalist Tom Eddy and drummer Jarred Katz—are trending their way into the electro-surf scene, even though they are from Seattle.  Their 2011 debut EP, Surf Noir, is self-described as “a labor of love reflecting the wait for the summer months when everyone cuts loose… The first sunny day, getting the girl, slacking off, partying…” The guys definitely know how to let us slip back into that perfect summer memory of “waking up to a sunset” during the dreary winter months with these washed-out, dream-like tracks.  After a cluster-fuck of showcases at CMJ, I got to chat with Koplowitz and Juenger about their “more concise” new album, the possibility of getting a Wikipedia page, and their obscure (read: fictional) recording locations.
What were your influences for Surf Noir?
Koplowitz: We have a ton of different influences, especially each of us individually. For me I would say like The Warning by Hot Chip was pretty influential, and Air France as well.
Juenger: A lot of things that influence us I don’t think came off that strongly in the record, which is kind of funny.  Air France is a really important one for me, and also The Avalanches, but I don’t know how apparent that is.  A lot of it was also like production on the DFA Record label and things like that.  When we recorded that [Surf Noir,] I was basically listening to Nas’ first album Illmatic.  I guess it influenced me somehow but Surf Noir sounds absolutely nothing like it.  Aesthetically, a pretty big influence as well is that we both started out as DJs.  Creating something that flowed together and was concise beyond one song was something really important to us.  It’s something that we experimented with and continue to experiment with.

The album art of Surf Noir and the collage for “In the Water” are amazing. Did you guys create those?
K: Yeah, we do the album art. I learnt how to use InDesign and Illustrator basically because of this band, so it’s been fun.
J: Those collages were all just born out of when we moved into this new house that we all live in now. It’s Jordan and I, the guy who plays drums [Katz], and a bunch of our friends—you guys went to pick up a couch, is that right?
K: Yeah, we went to pick up the couch and the guys asked us, “Hey do you guys want a bunch of National Geographic magazines?”  We were moving into a new house and didn’t have anything so we were like, “Yeah sure we need some stuff.”  So he handed us these copies of National Geographic and he has around 80 boxes. We got every single National Geographic from 1958 to 2000.
J: Yeah, it was pretty crazy. We trolled though those and sliced up pictures that we found interesting, and that’s what the collages came to be.  I still find scraps in my bedroom in random spots.

Your live shows are pretty intense with all of the lighting and amount of electronic equipment you guys have. How did you design the lights to go along with the music?
J: Okay live show, light show.  It’s all pretty nerdy to be totally honest. My computer is on the verge of crashing at every single one of our live shows; it’s really stressful. Obviously that’d be rough—and it did happen once at CMJ—but I’ve got four separate applications all working together that play the backing track, and also the vocals are going in at the same time, keeping the lights synchronized.  That’s what’s going on there, and it kind of came about as an opportunity to make our live shows a little more exciting.  A lot of venues that we would play at didn’t really have light shows or anything like that, and it would just be a little awkward on stage. For a while, it was just Jordan and I without the drummer, and I think it’s just a more fun now.
K: I think it added a little bit more to our live show. We didn’t have a singer and we were kind of stuck behind tables. We wanted to give the audience some lights that they could all get stoked out on.

What are you guys listening to a lot of right now that you think our readers should listen to?
J: I’ve been listening to a lot more ambient music lately.  I’m really, really enjoying Tycho’s new record. I think I’ve actually listened to Dive two times today, so something along that line.  Also, bands like The Field.  High Places’s new record is really good as well.
K: Some of the weird future R&B kind of stuff like How to Dress Well and Star Slinger remixes. I really like this band Groundislava, I think it might just be one producer’s, but it’s really good.
J: And Silky Johnson.
K: Laughs. Yeah, and Silky Johnson. And African tapes, like weird tapes from Africa.  It’s this blog website [Awesome Tapes from Africa] that has all of these old tapes from Africa and African bands.  Some of it’s like jungle music, but there’s some rap and stuff too. It’s sort of weird because it’s taken from these little tapes so the sound quality’s pretty funky.

So I read “In the Water” was recorded in a sorority basement “secret late at night” and you guys were caught.  Tell me about that.
J: Ah, we’ll have to dig deeper into our lie then.
K: Laughs. Yeah, that’s all bullshit.
J: But we have recorded in a lot of weird places—like my apartment shortly before going to parties. Jordan usually recorded in the basement of that party room, just wherever there was a place with a good set of speakers to work on.
K: But not actually in a sorority basement.

Laughs. Yeah, a lot of your online biography is satirical, so I wasn’t sure what to take away from that.
J: Laughs. I think some of it was done in a fraternity basement actually.  I definitely did some of the stuff on the bus going to work with headphones and stuff like that. It was anywhere we could work on it at any minute.
K: A lot of it was done in our attic.  Our attic is really nice though now; it has a lot of room.  That’s where we actually put everything together and finished Surf Noir, in the attic of the new house that we’re at now.  That is where we are also recording our new album.

What’s the new album going to be like?
K: Probably more concise than our last album on a genre level.
J: Some of it is also really wide-focused. It’s hard for us to [stick with one genre]—actually this is just more concise than the last album. Laughs. I don’t know.  It’s still all over the place in a good way. We’re using a lot more real instruments now, which is cool.
K: It’s probably a little bit more dance-y overall. Not in like a—
J: There’s no dubstep on this album.

So unfortunate.  If you were the age you are now in the 70s, what band’s poster would you have on your wall?
K: I would probably have a Beach Boys poster, even though they’re not from the 70s really. I’d be livin’ in the past.
J: The fact that I, well we, make electronic music is a little bit of a rebellion to what my parents subjected me to as a kid. So it was The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan and stuff like that, and I was just like ‘No, fuck that, I don’t wanna listen to your records from The Cure and shit like that. I wanna make electronic music.’ I guess with that in mind, I’d probably be into the emerging punk scene or I would randomly be into the funk that became hip-hop.
K: Actually now thinking about it, I’d probably be into disco because I’m still into disco. Maybe like the underground disco. If anything it’d be jungle disco. I’m sure on Reed’s wall would be “Thrown Love in C minor.” Laughs.

When are you guys going to get a Wikipedia page?
K: I don’t know.  Will you make us one?  We got interviewed once when we were over in England, and the guy said that he was going to make us a Wikipedia page—then he never did.
J: Just add for the genre: Meta-pop.
K: Laughs. The guy was super stoked on the idea of coining this term for us, being like ‘I’m going to put that on the Wikipedia page.’
J: When I actually coined the term meta-pop.
Well, I’ll definitely pull through and make you guys a Wikipedia page.
K: I want you to just make one and put a picture on there and have no definition. Just say, ‘This is the band.’
J: Then it’ll be just taken down by the Wikipedia committee!

What’s some advice you’d like to pass along to our readers?
J: You are beautiful, you are awesome, you can do it. That’s more of a motivational statement than advice.
K: This is a hard question. I don’t think I can pull out any gold here.
J: Don’t think too hard about questions in interviews!  That’s some advice for you.

Check our more of Beat Connection in our Nostalgia Issue!

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