The Beta Band
The Beta Band
|Genres||Folktronica, psychedelia, experimental rock, trip hop, indie rock|
|Associated acts||King Biscuit Time, The Aliens, Black Affair, Lone Pigeon|
|Past members||John Maclean|
The Beta Band were a Scottish musical group formed in 1996. Their style was described as being "folktronica", a blend of folk, psychedelia, electronica, experimental rock and trip hop, often involving stylistic experimentation. Despite inner conflict and the eventual decline of the group, they became critically acclaimed after releasing their first few recordings and achieved a cult following, before disbanding in 2004. They were praised by members of both Radiohead and Oasis, the former of which chose them to open for their concerts in 2001.
The Beta Band was formed in 1996 by St Andrews musicians Steve Mason (vocals, guitar) and Gordon Anderson. The two had plans to call their group The Pigeons but later changed their minds. As they pulled together songs for their debut EP, Champion Versions, they added Robin Jones (drums), John Maclean (DJ, sampler, keyboards), and Steve Duffield (bass). While living in a flat in Shepherd's Bush they met Phil Brown, who after hearing their demo took it to Miles Leonard, who promptly signed the band. Duffield quit the band soon after recording Champion Versions. Not long after they were signed to Regal/Parlophone, Anderson became ill and quit the band. He later produced recordings under the name Lone Pigeon. The remaining members added Englishman Richard Greentree to play bass and solidified their lineup.
The Three E.P.'s
Champion Versions was released in July 1997 to critical acclaim not only for the music but also for the record's innovative cut-and-paste sleeve design (the work of John Maclean). The trumpet solos recorded for "Dry the Rain" on Champion Versions were played by Jonathan Levien, credited as Jon Levien on the record. Jonathan was attending the Royal College of Art in 1997 where he met John Maclean in the Art Bar and mentioned that he could make some interesting whale sounds on his trumpet. Jonathan Levien was invited to the Chalk farm recording studio shortly afterwards where he was asked to play three riffs on his trumpet for Dry the Rain.
Two further EPs followed in 1998 produced by Chris Allison and the band: The Patty Patty Sound in March and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos in July. All three EPs received widespread critical praise, and all three appeared on the appropriately titled The Three E.P.'s collection in September 1998. The compilation was rated by Pitchfork in the Top 10 Albums of the year. The song "Dr Baker" featured on the acclaimed soundtrack of the first series of Trigger Happy TV.
The Beta Band
Despite inner conflict, the band soon commenced work on their first full-length recording after being signed to Regal. The record, titled The Beta Band, was released in June 1999. The album was more stylistically diverse than the initial EPs, and was loose and unrefined in comparison to their prior style of production. The mixed press turned decidedly negative when the band announced their own disdain for the record, including Mason who declared that it was "fucking awful": Regal's deadline and tight budgets kept them, they stated, from refining their improvisations into coherent songs, and lead to an album that was conceptually incomplete. Also in June that year the band made a four-stop tour in the United States.
The band returned to the studio to record the double A-side single "To You Alone"/"Sequinsizer", recorded by future The Go! Team producer, Gareth Parton. It was released on 24 January 2000. The single was received favourably and was regarded as a return to form for the band. The NME made it their "Single of the Week", and would later select it as one of the 50 greatest singles of 2000 in their end-of-year awards. "To You Alone" was also included on the soundtrack of the 2000 remake of the television series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), released in March. The band's music was featured in a scene in the film High Fidelity (based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name), released in late March 2000 in the United States and July in the UK. In the film, a record store owner played by John Cusack mentions the band by name ("I will now sell five copies of The Three E.P.'s by The Beta Band") and plays a minute or so of the song "Dry the Rain". This exposed the band to a wide range of new listeners, particularly in the U.S.
Hot Shots II
A hiatus followed, during which Mason released his second King Biscuit Time EP. The band gradually gravitated back into the studio, this time recruiting UK producer Colin Emmanuel, aka C-Swing, to oversee the process. The album, Hot Shots II, appeared in mid-2001, and was warmly received by critics and fans. It sacrificed much of the first album's experimentation for more boiled-down pop structure and hooks. The band had originally intended to release "Squares" (b/w "Won"), which featured a sample from the Günter Kallmann Choir's 1970 version of Wallace Collection's "Daydream", as the lead single. A video had been filmed and promo discs issued, but because another single ("Daydream in Blue" by I Monster) featuring a sample from the same Günter Kallmann Choir recording was to be released at around the same time, the band opted to release "Broke" instead.
Two other singles were released from the album: "Human Being" in October 2001 and "Squares" in February 2002 (with the I Monster track long out of the charts). A performance on Top Of The Pops for "Squares" had been recorded, but was dropped when the single only reached No.42, and has never been shown. The band embarked on a long tour to support the album, at one point supporting Radiohead. In August 2002, they made No. 3 on Q magazine's list of "50 Bands to See Before You Die".
Heroes to Zeros and split
The band began demo sessions for their third album in September 2002. They entered the studio with producer Tom Rothrock in 2003 and completed a number of tracks; however, neither the band nor Regal's executives were pleased with the results. Producer Nigel Godrich was called in to mix the album, which was finally completed in early 2004. Lead single, "Assessment", was released on 12 April 2004, followed by the album Heroes to Zeros on 26 April. One of the tracks, "Liquid Bird" is based on a sample of "Painted Bird" by Siouxsie and the Banshees. A second single, "Out-Side", followed in July. The band announced their breakup on their website on 2 August 2004, citing financial discourse with their label, who they owed a £1.2 million debt to. In November, they performed at the Summer Sundae festival and set out on a farewell tour. Their final show was at Edinburgh's Liquid Rooms venue on 5 December 2004.
On 3 October 2005, the band released a 2-disc DVD set, The Best of The Beta Band - Film, featuring most of the band's videos and a selection of short films, television footage, documentaries as well as four songs recorded live at the Shepherds Bush Empire on 29 November 2004, one of the band's final performances. Also released on the same day was a two CD set, The Best of The Beta Band - Music, comprising a compilation disc of studio recordings and a disc containing the Shepherds Bush gig.
Since the split, Steve Mason has released music with his solo project King Biscuit Time, as well as new projects Black Affair and Good Face. In May 2010, he released the first record in his own name entitled "Boys Outside". Robin Jones and John Maclean have become The Aliens along with former Beta Band member Gordon Anderson (a.k.a. Lone Pigeon) and Richard Greentree is working with his new band The General and Duchess Collins.
|The Beta Band discography|
The discography of The Beta Band consists of three studio albums, three extended plays, three compilation albums, six singles and a video collection.
- The Beta Band (1999) (UK No. 18)
- Hot Shots II (2001) (UK No. 13), (US No. 200)
- Heroes to Zeros (2004) (UK No. 18)
- The Three E.P.'s (1998) (UK No. 35)
- The Best of The Beta Band (CD, 2005)
- The Regal Years (1997–2004) (2013)
- "Broke"/"Won" (July 2001) (UK No. 30)
- "Human Being" (October 2001) (UK No. 57)
- "Squares" (February 2002) (UK No. 42)
- "Assessment" (April 2004) (UK No. 31)
- "Out-Side" (July 2004) (UK No. 54)
- The Best of The Beta Band (DVD, 2005)
- Dave Simpson (24 November 2004). "I always thought we'd be as big as Radiohead". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
They have put on live extravaganzas, won fans from Oasis to Radiohead, and created pop songs out of everything from psychedelia to barking dogs
- Brent DiCrescenzo (1 January 2001). "Top 10 Albums of 1999". pitchfork. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- Jason Ankeny, Jason. "The Beta Band by the Beta band". allmusic.com. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "Live Reviews: The Beta Band June 18, 1999 Aro Space, Seattle, Washington". Chart Attack, June 1999.
- "CD Reviews: The Beta Band, Default, Toploader and many more". Chart Attack, July 17, 2001
- Scott Lapatine (April 2004). "Beta Band interview". Earlash. Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
EL: On previous albums you’ve used some left-field samples as a jumping off point to do something new and original. JM: Yeah, we’ve got Siouxsie and the Banshees on this record. It was Robin’s idea.
- "Because buys beta band catalogue". musicweek.com
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 55. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.