Interview with Folk/Americana duo, Beta Radio
Hailed as "sonically lovely" by the Huffington Post, the Americana-Folk duo that first met at summer camp has now turned their passion for music into a life-long career. Ben and Brent recently stopped by our headquarters to perform a few live for the HALF UNITED staff (and our Instagram followers during a live stream). After their amazing performance, our team sat down for a chat to get to know band members a little better. Read below what they had to tell us about life, music, and their ideal superhero theme-songs.
So, how did you guys meet?
Ben: We first met at summer camp as kids. But then when we were about 16 or 17, we were in a rap metal band together.
Brent: Yeah, it was called, "Sickle Fist".
What instruments did you guys play in the "rap-metal" band?
Brent: Their bass player moved, and they needed a new bass player, so I joined in and took his place.
Ben: I was the rapper, haha, and that’s as far as that conversation is gonna go!
So from Sickle Fist, how did Beta Radio begin?
Brent: Well, when Ben left for college, he left the band. I stayed in the band for a little while, but I didn’t stay for too long after he left. Every summer, when he would come home, we would just get together and play and write music, with no real thought of it turning into anything. So it kind of slowly, over time, morphed into this thing where we thought, “hey, this could actually be something”.
Ben: Yeah, the timeline is very murky, until about 2009. That was the year that we went and recorded our first record.
Brent: It was supposed to be an EP, all acoustic, but it turned into a full length album, with full band.
Ben: Pandora [radio] heard it, and they started spinning it, and it sort of just took on a life of its own. One day, I looked in our bank account, and there was money in there. And I was like, “Brent, did you put money in the account?” And so it was then that we realized someone else, besides Brent and myself, was listening to the music. It was a really surreal moment.
So what do you have planned for the next album? How will the sound change?
Ben: I think the next album we make is going to be a lot less Americana, something else. We’ve been using a lot more synthesizer. But it’s not like synth-pop. It’s more synth, more layers... It’s going to be a little more bizarre, but it’s still us, it’s still going to be rooted in our sound.
How do you, as artists, move past what people identify you as, and become what you want to be without turning your fans against you?
Brent: We talk about this a lot. Like, “are we going alienate our fans?” But ultimately, I think that if we don’t grow and change, then we are just going to release the same kind of thing again, and again.
Ben: With my own favorite artists, if they speak to me on a record, it’s not because they play a certain style of music, or because they sound like this or that, it’s because I identify with their soul in the music. In reality, some people aren't going to like it, but you have to grow and be true to you, and hope people are willing to go on this journey with you. I think we need to grow, I think we need to change, because if we don’t it will just become soulless work.
Brent: If we don’t, we will just become stagnant.
Do you guys have any fond memories revolving around food?
Ben: Ok, yeah, well, I love ice cream. To me, it’s euphoric. I don’t ever want to dance, but whenever I eat ice cream, I have to dance. I think there’s a problem there- I think it might be some blood sugar thing? I don’t know. My true answer- my honest answer is yeah, any time I eat ice cream, it’s like being on drugs. And anyone you ask, who knows me, will say it’s true.
Brent: Ever since I was a little kid, my mom would make me vegetable beef soup. It was my favorite meal then and still to this day, it's my favorite meal. Now my wife makes it all the time. I actually just had some the other day.
Do you find it important in your lives to help people in need, and is there anything you do to help people in need?
Ben: Probably not in the same organized way you guys do, but if I see someone who needs something, I like to try and help them out- buy them food, or buy them perhaps what they’ll need- but I think the more specific way I want to help people is by creating music that is transcendant. That may be a cop-out thing to say, but I really think that if you create something that someone needs, artistically, I think that that really feeds their soul. Creating something that speaks to them at the deepest part of them, is a very nourishing thing.
Brent: We didn’t play live shows for a really, really long time. When we did, my favorite part was talking to people afterwards and finding out what our music meant to them. We’ve gotten letters from people about how our music has helped them. How it has helped them deal with stuff- like deaths in the family- and that’s so much more meaningful to us.
Band members, Ben Mabry (left) and Brent Holloman (right).
Ok, this is a speed round, so answer these as fast as you can.
Coffee or tea, and how do you take it?
Ben: Coffee. With cream and honey.
Brent: I like tea. But specifically, chai. Chai latte. Hot or cold.
Morning person, or night owl?
Ben: Night owl.
Brent: Night owl... but I think I take mornings better than he does.
Would you rather live your life with lobster claws instead hands, or as a merman, but you’re the only merman in existence.
Ben: oh gosh! Umm, I would say merman, because I could just make a deal with a witch.
Ben: You couldn’t play your guitar with lobster claws.
Brent: No, but I couldn’t play guitar under water, either.
Ben: But, you could pinch a lot of people.
Brent: Yeah, that is true….. I’m gonna say the lobster claws.
Really? But you kind of look like a merman. You would probably make a cool merman.
Brent: I’m going to change my answer now! Gosh… but to be lonely… ok, lobster claws!
If you could be a superhero, what would your name be, and what is your super power?
Ben: I would always want to fly, so I don’t know- Birdman is already taken so… Birdguy. Or Airplane Guy.
Ok, and the last question is, what would your theme song be?
Ben: I love the superman theme song, so I would steal it from him… or the Jurassic Park theme… or Back to the Future… or Schindler’s List.
Brent: Shape shift. And that way, I could shape shift into a bird and fly. My name would be um… Shifty.
Brent: I don’t have one. Silence.
The silent killer…
Brent: No, I just don’t have one. That could be my catch phrase, though!
Watch Beta Radio's new music video for their song, "On a Frame", below, and check out their new album, "Colony of Bees," on iTunes or Spotify.
Learn more about the band and see if they will be coming to your town soon, by visiting their webstie, http://www.betaradio.com .
Interested in being being featured on "The Philanthropist"? Please email inquiries to Natassja@halfunited.com