UTG INTERVIEW: Beijing Discuss New Album, Bandcamp, and What Lies Ahead

Beijing

We’re pleased to bring you this exclusive interview with Beijing, the band, not the city in China. They just released a brand new full-length called Night which you can catch a review of soon here on UTG.

We had the chance to speak with vocalist/guitarist Eric Thornberg about how the band originated, their new album, and some details about what they have planned for the future, so read through and get acquainted with an up-and-coming rock outfit called Beijing, from New Haven, Connecticut.

Firstly, can you explain why you guys landed on Beijing as your band name? Are you just fans of China or is there a specific story behind it?

When the four of us were throwing around suggestions for the band name there was a common thread which we all agreed was important to us. We wanted a name that sounded big, something which we could grow into and something that people would remember when they heard it. After quite some time and some really silly suggestions we finally decided on Beijing.

So how did you all come together to start making music as Beijing?

I was out of the music scene for a few years and was just writing and recording stuff on my own when one day I decided that I really missed playing music with other people and that connection that you feel when you do. I posted an ad on Craigslist and almost immediately Thom responded and sent me some stuff he had been working on. I recorded a vocal idea on one of those songs and sent it back to him. I think the next day we met up and it just clicked. Things happened real fast and Thom brought in Bill, our drummer. Bill had played with Thom in previous bands so it was just a bassist that we were lacking. Thom also knew Jack who also had been out of the music scene for a few years. He’s actually a guitarist who decided to play bass to jump on board. Getting him in the band was the best thing that happened to us, as the rest of us are pretty scattered brained. Jack keeps us focused with his simple logic.

Where would you say most of your inspirations come from that have helped shape your sound and the themes in your music?

Personally, I was deeply attached to the Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary album. After being introduced to that record, my thoughts about music in general completely changed. Music became more than just something that I heard through my headphones. It became a place to escape to and a way for me to get out my own personal emotions. I’ve always been drawn to sincerity and honesty in music. I like the feeling I get when I hear somebody putting themselves completely out there and being able to just tell that they are pouring their heart out through their music.

So your debut full-length, Night, just released in May. What can you tell us about the album in terms of its lyrical themes and overall sound? How would you say it differs from your previous EP?

Lyrically, the album touches on a few topics quite regularly. Love, loss and hope being the main three. While a lot of the lyrical content may seem a bit dark and dreary, the prospect of hope and redemption is never too far away. With the EP we released in 2011, we were a very young band still exploring our sound and finding the way to the path which eventually led us to, Night. I feel there is a tremendous amount of difference between the 2 releases, with It’s Not So Simple being something we were excited to put out as fast as possible and Night being the record that we gave time to let breathe and grow as we developed our sound together.

When you began the writing process for the album, what were your goals of what you wanted to focus on for the songwriting and lyrical content?

I wanted to tell a story of heartbreak and finding peace after those feelings have faded. The idea that people come and go in your life for reasons we could never know at the time but after looking back on it, there is always a much more defined meaning for it.

Now that the album is out, would you say that it turned out the way you had originally envisioned? Is there anything you wish that you’d have done differently now that you get to listen to the finished product?

The record came out greater than I could have expected. Jack, who recorded and produced the entire process simply amazed me and I think himself a little bit too. We knew we had a special group of songs going into the recording process but recording it ourselves was a bit scary at first. It was such a learning experience for all of us involved but it was such a great way to do a record. We did it our way, on our schedule and it allowed us to tweak things here or there until we were all 100% satisfied with the finished product.

I really enjoy the album art and I was curious about it. Can you explain where the front and back images come from and why you chose to use them for your album?

A great friend of mine, David McCarthy, is an incredible world traveling photographer who amongst other things, enjoys to photograph urban decay. Immediately when we were discussing artwork for the record, he came to mind. The image we chose for the cover was taken at the Undercliff Institution in Meriden, CT. It was basically a place in the early 1900s where sick and diseased children, and eventually adults, were taken; mostly to die. It’s a dark place yet there is still some sort of haunting beauty about it that really shines through. The back image was taken by David at the Georgetown Wire Factory which is an abandoned wire factory in Georgetown, CT.

A lot of bands these days are using Bandcamp and I noticed that you have the digital download for free. Not even the “pay what you want” option. Do you find that it makes it less likely that listeners will purchase the physical copy that’s available if they can just download the album legally for free?

We decided that for this release, the best approach was to give away the album for free, no strings attached. We want as many people as possible to listen to and download the album and in our opinion, offering a “pay what you want” option creates a certain guilt barrier for a potential new fan. For people that want to support us financially, there’s always concerts, CDs, and other merchandise.

So far, the free downloads haven’t slowed down physical album sales for us. I think that people still like to have something that they can hold in their hands, even if it is more of a keepsake than anything else.

I’m a huge fan of Bandcamp personally. What are your thoughts on its involvement with music and how it’s allowed bands, primarily unsigned/independent, to kind of take control and offer unique things for their fans?

Bandcamp is an incredible resource. The amount of random new fans that we have made through it is insane. I actually really like that they haven’t tried to turn it into yet another social media site with comments and friends and likes and all of that other junk. It’s nice to have a simple, customizable place to go where people can just discover, listen to, and download new music.

Now that your album is released, what have you guys been working on? Any big plans in the works?

We’ve been just playing as much as possible and we have started writing new material for our next release.

What do you aim to do on your next effort to improve upon Night?

I think the four of us agree that we need to push ourselves and keep evolving our sound with everything we do. It’s still too early to talk about the direction our next album will take but I can see it being a bit more in your face and energetic than a lot of what you find on Night.

How would you say you’ve all grown as musicians since the band’s inception?

I think that most importantly we all understand each other as songwriters and musicians to a much greater extent. Collaborating with other people can be a very difficult process, but we have developed a ton of trust between the four of us that makes songwriting very fluid and natural.

What are some things that you still enjoy today that you loved when you were a kid?

I still love going to shows. I love birthday parties. I’ll never get rid of my NES. If anybody wants to challenge me in game of Ice Hockey just bring it on.

Any films coming out this year that you’re excited to see?

Anchorman 2, Anchorman 2 and Anchorman 2. Easily Will Ferrell’s best character.

Have you had the chance to play in Beijing yet? Do you think they’d find it weird or flattering that you named your band after their city?

We haven’t played there yet, but it would certainly be fun to do some day. I think it would probably be somewhere in between weird and flattering. Like weirdly flattering. Maybe flatteringly weird?

 

Written and conducted by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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