Beep Beep

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These days almost everyone wants to be described as beyond classification. But while no one wants to be put in a box, most bands, upon actually hearing them, turn out to be fairly easy to describe. Beep Beep is not one of these bands. A rare breed that actually deserves the genre-defying tag, the Omaha natives take a little 80s art rock a la Jesus & Mary Chain, a spot of The Blood Brothers trademark screech and a touch of At The Drive-In's manic energy. And somehow you can dance to it too. Beep Beep manages to sound a little like a lot of things you've heard and absolutely nothing like any of them.

"I enjoy conventional song structure, but we did not think it was appropriate in the context of the songs written on this album," said singer/guitarist Chris Hughes. "Tantrums generally don't follow patterns, nor should songs about tantrums." Tantrums may not lend themselves to verse-chorus-verse writing, but Chris' fellow songwriter and guitarist Eric Bemberger feels this structure often doesn't make for the most interesting work anyway. "Authors don't repeat a chapter just because it contains the story's main idea. Although some of our songs return to the chorus, I feel that, in some cases, chorus repetition can jeopardize the longevity of a song. While it makes a song easier to digest initially, some songs suffer from decreased impact with repeated listens because the over-emphasized choruses are too easily anticipated."
"I like to think that our songs are dense and compact, like a healthy poop. While our music may be more difficult to enjoy on the first listen, we hope that listeners will find increased enjoyment and understanding with every spin."

Chris first decided to enlist Eric as his partner in crime after seeing him perform with former band Blandine Cosima. "Eric can play guitar better than I can walk or breathe. This was immediately apparent to me. He doesn't do anything flashy in Beep Beep, but the man is a shredder. He has made me a better guitarist because when we started out years ago, every band practice was like a free guitar lesson." While Eric and Chris first worked together in 1996 as part of Gabardine, both feel that their music has improved considerably since that project. "Back then, we made music more difficult than it needed to be. I am glad that I was able to learn that music doesn't have to be that way," said Chris. That project deteriorated rapidly, as Eric felt that "Chris and I were pressured to produce new material every week and scolded when we didn't deliver," thus reducing the band to "an endless writing assignment." Chris states that the project was further doomed, as "I went to the booby hatch, and when I returned I didn't want to do anything except lay around and take my meds."

The duo got back on track as Beep Beep in October of 2001, though their first disc, Business Casual, just made it to shelves this year. "It took some time to decide what we wanted our record to sound like. It also took a long time getting the record recorded," said Chris. Eric adds that "our twelve days at Presto! [recording studio] were ultimately scattered across seven months of 2004. We left Presto! in December of 2003 with a final mix from AJ [Mogis], but we discovered that its performance through headphones was unacceptable. We then begged Andy LeMaster to squeeze us into his already insane workload, and so sporadic mixing sessions -- usually from midnight to 8a.m. -- occurred from February to April of 2004 using the internet for mp3s and the telephone to discuss approaches. Nine of these sessions completed the mix, and the album was put to bed at mastering on April 20 of 2004. What a relief!"

"I created a recording that I am proud of and it is pressed on 180-gram vinyl! I've been on cloud nine since the moment I held a vinyl copy of Business Casual," said Chris. He was further pleased with the cover artwork, designed by John Bankston, who Chris first discovered at the San Francisco MOMA. "John creates fantasy stories of shipwrecked cross-dressing pirates finding fashion treasures, African American cowboys working the ranch in a committed homosexual relationship, bizarre tropical other-worlds populated by he-shes and mystical obese street-clothed chiefs in feathered masks protecting the sanctity of their secret garden. Several of his works share the theme of being lost or displaced in a foreign vegetated land, stumbling onto a secret culture and encountering some consequence for the intrusion. It's beautiful, brilliant, disturbing and hilarious."

The same could be said of Beep Beep's own lyrics. Upon listening to Business Casual, the band makes automatic impact with lyrics depicting a world of overt sexuality in which college girls sell their bodies to pay tuition bills and voyeurs stare at the neighborhood cheerleader through her bedroom window. "In some of the songs I tapped into the sexual frustrations I had growing up. Times when a young man has to masturbate repeatedly to keep the heat down," said Chris. "Music is a beautiful means to express anything. Some of our songs are indeed sexual, but others are based on observations about e-commerce, ecology, organized religion, fidelity, bureaucracy and such."

When it comes to office politics, Chris knows whereof he speaks, having worked in bureaucracy for the past five years. "Considering that I spend every Monday through Friday from 8 to 5 sitting in a cubical, fondling forms and using my indoor voice to speak with 'clients,' I have gained much insight on organizational culture within a state bureaucracy." Much of the work on Business Casual came out of this situation as well, as Chris states that he would "write prose constantly at work as a means of passing time and looking busy. I literally have a database of this crap. When Eric and I get together for band practice, we introduce riffs, passages, or complete works to each other for approval or ridicule." The band's name came out of his experiences at the office as well. "I chirped 'beep beep' exclusively at the office as a game to see how long I could go without making physical contact with coworkers. It was sort of a personal joke about societies' expectations of a sterile work environment. We are expected to leave our race, gender, sexuality, class, personality, etc at home and perform as efficient, objective robots."

Clearly, Chris has no love lost for the office, and he plans to focus on music exclusively now that Beep Beep is heading out on tour with Saddle Creek label-mates The Faint. "I am anxious to see cities that I have never been to before. I am curious about CMJ in New York. I am anxious to quit my job!" As this will be the band's first major tour, Eric looks forward to "the opportunity to advance my skills in the art of performance, and I'm not referring to the sterile sense in which we translate the recording perfectly. I want to be able to utilize the stage as a platform to clearly communicate the essence of this music in a way that isn't possible in a non-visual/non-interactive listening experience." Eric further promises that the Beep Beep live experience will involve "manic interaction between baby birds and squirrels," while Chris states that the audience can look forward to "mayhem. No light show. Just mayhem."

And if you don't like it, well, that's okay too, cause at the end of the day they aren't doing it for you. It may have taken some time, but Chris has finally mastered the fine art of "not giving a shit. It is restrictive and oppressive when you worry about how others will perceive your music. It has taken me years to write for myself."