An Interview with Michael Beach

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Michael Beach Shares You Found Me Out – Austin Town Hall

Fans of of Kurt Vile, Bruce Springsteen, Reigning Sound and the like will be happy today, as we’ve got a musician that at least on the surface appears to be heavily influenced by some of those heavy hitting artists. However, dig deeper and you will find that Michael Beach has a certain depth to his music that is entirely his own.

Today, I’ve got singer/songwriter Michael Beach with us. Michael has a new album out, which is his 4th full length today. It’s called Dream Violence and you can grab it via his Bandcamp here. Once you’ve done that, dig into this chat with Michael. Enjoy.

Andrew:
Michael, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been some year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to keep your mind off the ever-raging dumpster fire?

Michael:
Thank you for having me. Yes, absolutely, what a strange year. I’ve kept pretty busy over the last year- I was fortunately able to continue working my day job, and poured the rest of my time into completion of my studio. The lockdowns were an interesting shift- I certainly missed having a social life, but I was able to do a lot more reading, which I was happy about.

Andrew:
Tell us a bit about your backstory. How did you get into music?

Michael:
Sure. I grew up in California’s Central Valley; my father was in agriculture and my mother was a PE teacher. I had a fairly normal/average small town suburban 80s/90s upbringing—lot’s of MTV. I started playing music when I went away to uni in Southern California, and dove in fully when I spent my first year in Melbourne, and subsequent years back in LA. Musically, I was fairly isolated because of the changing locations—most of my energy at the time went into learning. My first meaningful connections with other musicians came from my initial year in Australia, so the pull to return was very strong.

Andrew:
As an artist, who are some of your earliest influences? As you’ve evolved musically, how have those influences changed?

Michael:
If we’re talking EARLY, I can remember being very young with my grandparents playing Bill Haley and the Comets, and always liking that. My parents were casually into 70s/80s Pop Rock—Elton John, Bill Joel, The Eagles, Bryan Adams- so that sort of thing was around the house a bit. My first CD purchase was the Aladdin Soundtrack. Pop Country was big in my area, so I got pretty deep in to that. From there, probably what you’d expect from a young isolated suburban MTV viewer in the early 90s—Pearl Jam, Tupac, Biggie, Snoop, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica, etc. I listened to the local Hispanic radio stations a fair bit. Then later Bjork, Zeppelin, The Doors, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, The Lemonheads. When I first moved to Melbourne, the exposure deepened—friends there were much more tuned in—No Wave/Branca/Punk of all sorts, Wu Tang, Velvets and further into all the undergrounds. Bowie and Eno. Back in Oakland, I had a great exposure to Dub from a few friends, plus a deep love of folks like Bill Fay and Peter Laughner—the bedraggled singers and songwriters. I knew the folks who ran Superior Viaduct label in the bay area, so their reissue catalog was a massive creative boon. I’m sure I’m missing something. But you get the idea. By the time the Internet really got going in the late oughts, the only limitation was time and how far you wanted to dig.

Dream Violence | Michael Beach

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your new album, Dream Violence. I’ve heard the new single “De Facto Blues” and I really enjoyed it. Tell us about the recording of the new album. How have you evolved musically since your last album, Gravity/Repulsion? What’s changed for you?

Michael:
Thanks, glad to hear it. The recording of the record took place with multiple lineups of the band in multiple locations in Australia and the US. For “De Facto Blues,” we were in Oakland tracking at Tiny Telephone studios with Danielle Goldsmith recording and Kelley Stoltz producing. Matt and Innez (masterminds of Brisbane’s Thigh Master) played guitar and bass respectively. Utrillo (of Colossal Yes, Comets On Fire, Personal and the Pizza’s) played drums. It was a tense session—we were all very tired from touring, on a tight schedule, and not overly rehearsed—but Danielle was endlessly professional and positive and Kelley brought excellent oversight. Matt, Innez, and Utrillo’s performances are killer. We finished mixing the record at Tiny Telephone in San Francisco just as I hopped in a cab for the airport. The rush left me a bit unsure of the final mixes, so I remixed a few tracks (including this one) with excellent Melbourne engineer/producer John Lee in Melbourne. He dealt with my stress and self-criticism very kindly, and I was happy with this mix at the end.

Since the last record, I’ve moved overseas and have new bandmates, so a lot has changed. I miss Utrillo and Muslim in Oakland dearly, and was very proud to be playing with Matt, Innez, and Pete in Melbourne. How have I evolved musically? I’ll let you answer that one.

Andrew:
What was the inspiration for your new album? As a songwriter, do you draw off of personal experiences, or are you only telling stories, so to speak?

Michael:
I don’t think I had any one direct inspiration for this record. I recently had a book recommended by a close friend—Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance. It’s a manual for reading and writing metrical verse, but at the end she writes about artistic method, and it really resonated. Something to the effect of that one’s subconscious always being at work, so it’s simply a matter of having regular times to tune into it and pull those ideas up to the surface. Maybe it’s like that?

Andrew:
Let’s switch gears a bit now. Tell me your thoughts on the current state of the music scene these days. What’s it like out there for an indie artist?

Michael:
Hmm…the state of the music scene. I’m pretty reluctant to comment “the scene” as a whole, but I can tell you that things here in Melbourne are great. We have fantastic community radio (RRR, PBS, etc), dozens of record shops and venues across all sizes and styles, hundreds of wonderful musicians and bands, and a city of folks who make a point of going out and supporting the arts. We’re very lucky.

Worldwide, local scenes thrive when there are strong independent labels, record shops, and venues operating. There are countless businesses I can think of (I feel very lucky to be involved with Goner and Poison City) that help keep scenes alive.

My reality as an independent artist, if we’re speaking of money, is that I need a job to earn additional income to support my income as an artist. I try to do the money-earning job as little as possible, so I can put most of my energy into music and living. This gives vital freedoms, but poses challenges too.

Dream Violence | Michael Beach

Andrew:
One of the disturbing things I’ve come to learn over time is that streaming services like Spotify simply don’t pay well. What are your thoughts on that? How do we as fans help?

Michael:
I don’t use streaming services or care for them, personally. I realize that this probably makes me a dinosaur. I think the streaming services’ big coup was convincing folks that paying them a subscription fee supported the arts. I am not convinced that streaming services have artists’ well-being as a high priority. Everyone loves convenience though, and these services offer that. My music is on those services, so I’ll get off my high horse now.

If fans would like to support artists, and arts in general, do it directly. Give your money (or food or encouragement) to artists in exchange for what they do, or just give it to them because you like art. Go to shows, got to record shops, go to galleries, go to bookshops.

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Michael:
I’m into vinyl, tapes, CDs, all for different reasons. I like to shop at records stores for music. My local shop is Round & Round in Brunswick, but also in Melbs—Poison City, Strangeworld, Lulus, and heaps more. Goner in Memphis is essential. Stranded and 1234 Go! in the Bay Area, Mississippi Records in Portland, too many others to list….

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you, and why?

Michael:
Ha! Would take ages to do justice to that question. I’m listening to Nebraska by the boss at the moment. Loaned it to a friend and hadn’t listened in ages. What a killer. Yesterday I put on Meditation Dub by Winston Riley. I remember being at a party where a good friend realized why people like Reggae so much while listening to that record. An appropriate insight! That recent Numero comp of Charlie Megria stuff (Tomorrow’s Gone) is a lovely tribute to a dearly departed friend. There are 3 examples of a million.

Dream Violence | Michael Beach

Andrew:
All musical possibilities aside, what else are you passionate about? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Michael:
Oh dear. Let me preface this by saying that not all things I’m passionate about am I able to devote enough time, energy and money to, so I don’t want this to be a soap box. But since you asked, all Black Lives Matters movements—here in Australia, ending black deaths in custody, changing the date of so-called Australia Day, and establishing a national day of recognition/mourning/reconciliation in it’s place. Again, there are too many to list. I’m passionate about sustainable living, the drastic reduction of fossil fuels, and supporting strong local communities. I’m passionate about reading, travel, and walking in gardens. My partner is an amazing human, so I’m quite passionate about her.

Andrew:
Last question. How do artists find their footing these days? What advice would you have for younger artists?

Michael:
Get around the people you love. Follow ye olde heart. Get while the gettin’s good.

Music | Michael Beach

Interested in learning more about the work of Michael Beach? Check out the link below:

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About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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