|Origin||Washington, DC, United States|
|Past members||Ryan Nelson
Beauty Pill is an indie band from Washington, DC, based around the songs and ideas of singer/guitarist/producer Chad Clark.
Beauty Pill's music is characterized by cinematic arrangements, sinuous melodies, and electronic textures and treatments. This detailed, atmospheric aesthetic contrasts starkly from its label-mates on Dischord Records. Stylistically, the band now has as much in common with Damon Albarn and Ryuichi Sakamoto as it does with DC punk.
This sensibility reflects Clark’s parallel profession as a producer and engineer. His discography includes work with The Dismemberment Plan, Sparklehorse, Fugazi, Blakroc, Bernie Worrell, Marc Ribot, Mary Timony, The Evens, Lungfish, Bob Mould, The Wilderness, The Caribbean, Craig Wedren, among others.
Trio period (2001–2002)
Following the dissolution of their previous band Smart Went Crazy (whose 1997 double album swan song Con Art was listed as one of the 100 greatest records of the '90s by Pitchfork), Chad Clark and Abram Goodrich decided to extend their songwriting chemistry.
Inviting their friend Joanne Gholl, the trio made and released an EP called The Cigarette Girl from the Future. This 5-song EP struck a balance between forward-leaning, avant-garde sonic experimentalism and simple, charismatic tunes. It garnered critical praise from the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Pitchfork (which touted the band’s promise and rated the record a 9.0). The attempt to transform into a touring band, however, proved difficult and this incarnation of Beauty Pill dissolved before ever playing a show.
Quintet period (2003–2004)
A chance meeting with Rachel Burke, a recent Seattle emigre and fan of the Cigarette Girl EP, lead Clark to invite her to his studio the next day. The chemistry was immediate. Burke became a muse for Clark, who penned the mournful, paradoxical “Prison Song” specifically for the light tonality of her voice.
They went on to recruit bassist Basla Andolsun and guitarist Drew Doucette, along with Ryan Nelson, all of whom had been in bands Clark had recorded. The quintet released a decidedly lo-fi EP called You Are Right To Be Afraid followed shorty by a decidedly hi-fi full-length album called The Unsustainable Lifestyle.
Rachel Burke announced that she was moving back to Seattle in order to be closer to her family, drawing the quintet period to a close.
“Ann The Word” and the Sextet period (2005–2007)
Jean Cook replaced Rachel Burke as singer in 2005. Ryan Nelson left to form the band Soccer Team and was replaced by Devin Ocampo (also a veteran of Smart Went Crazy).
With Cook singing, Beauty Pill published the demo for a new song called “Ann The Word” via the band’s Myspace page. At more than six minutes, the elegiac song differed strikingly from the sound of the quintet period. Suffused with aquatic, electronic noises and dark, quasi-Japanese sonorities, “Ann The Word” was by far the most cinematic and technological piece of music the band had ever released.
Clark said he posted the song by way of warning that the band’s sound was headed in a challenging new direction. He expected many fans to dislike it (particularly those who had been drawn to the band because of its association with Dischord) but was pleasantly surprised otherwise. The song’s Myspace popularity proved emboldening. It also led to commissions for scoring work. In interviews, Clark said “‘Ann The Word’ has changed my life.”
To embrace this new sensibility, Cook began to use a Macbook as an instrument onstage, allowing her to access the band’s digital library of found sounds. The band expanded to a sextet, with the band joined alternately by multi-instrumentalists Chad Molter and Holly Montoya, often playing an electronic drum kit.
On July 7th, 2007, Beauty Pill played a show as part of the Fort Reno summer concert series in DC. The show is notable for two reasons: (1) The band played its entire set despite a rainstorm that overtook the stage halfway through and (2) it is the band's final show before Chad Clark took ill.
Chad Clark illness
In Fall of 2007, Clark became gravely ill, stricken with viral cardiomyopathy, a rare condition resulting from a virus invading and inflaming the heart; the origin of the virus is unknown. Clark did not reveal his illness until February, 2008, when he underwent emergency open heart surgery to save his life. The surgery was successful and Clark spent the next two years recovering and making music privately.
Return to public work (2009–present)
In Fall of 2009, Clark founded a Washington, DC, performance series called Story/Stereo. Taking place at the Writer’s Center, the series blends literature and music with Clark as curator and host. The series was rewarded with an endowment from the NEA.
In January, 2010, the band wrote and recorded the score for a harrowing, controversial play called suicide.chat.room. The band had been commissioned by writer/director Marcus Kyd, a fervent fan of “Ann The Word,” and the work was a collaboration with choreographer Paulina Guerrero and Taffety Punk Theater. The music for suicide.chat.room found favor with critics, with the The Onion AV calling it “brilliant and vividly balletic,” the Washington Post calling it “smartly evocative” and the City Paper calling it “lyrical and convulsive, channeling [the spirit of the play] perfectly.”
In April, 2010, Beauty Pill made some collaborative music with the band Bluebrain on their project called The Cherry Blossom Boombox Walk. Other collaborators included Animal Collective and DJ Outputmessage.
Aside from this work and occasional one-off remixes, the band has remained silent, with no shows or new releases. However, Clark frequently refers to work in progress via the band’s Twitter, often giving glimpses of the band at work. Though new music from Beauty Pill is anticipated, it is unclear at this point when or how it will be released.
- The Cigarette Girl From the Future (2001 EP)
- You Are Right To Be Afraid (2003 EP)
- The Unsustainable Lifestyle (2004 LP)
- Richards, Chris (7:16 AM ET, 01/21/2011). "Be specific: Chad Clark, co-producer of the Dismemberment Plan's "Emergency & I," on how the album might have been very different". Washington Post.
- Burton, Brent (July 20, 2007). "Beauty Pill in the Rain". Washington City Paper.
- Solarski, Matthew (February 25, 2008). "Beauty Pill's Clark Undergoes Successful Heart Surgery". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
- "Beauty Pill Myspace Blog". March 9, 2008.
- Leitko, Aaron (Sep. 18, 2009). "Chad Clark on Story/Stereo @ The Writers Center". Washington City Paper.
- Little, Ryan (July 13, 2010). "Story/Stereo Nabs NEA Grant in Time for Its Second Season". Washington City Paper.
- Fischer, Jonathan (Jan. 27, 2010). "Two Years after Nearly Dying, Beauty Pill Leader Writes Songs for a Play about Suicide". Washington City Paper.
- Fischer, Jonathan (Apr. 1, 2010). "Bluebrain, Animal Collective, Beauty Pill, and Others on Their Cherry Blossom Boombox Walk". Washington City Paper.
- Fisher, Jonathan (Dec. 14, 2010). "Beauty Pill Reimagines Franz Nicolay? Believe It". Washington City Paper.