After listening to We Will Walk into the Sea we were eager to pick the brain of the man behind the music. We recently got a chance to sit down with Chase from Senseless Beatings. Although there’s a mere three thousand miles between us, our conversation spans Freud, The Flaming Lips, Kickstarter and how a Philosophic approach to music affects their style (not to mention Greg’s use of a Dictionary). He also shares with us the new artwork by Charleston, South Carolina’s own Justin Brewer.
Greg of Nanobot: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. After listening to We Will Walk into the Sea, which I’m still listening to, I have to know a little more about the name. Senseless Beatings feels almost too simplistic to convey the intellect of your style and sound. How did that come about?
Chase of Senseless Beatings: Actually, the name is somewhat silly. I was involved in the making of some wrestling tapes entitled Senseless Beatings back in High School. Then my long-time friend Blake suggested we name our band after those tapes. It was fairly ironic in the early going, since we started as an acoustic act. It sounds like we are a metal band or something, so I kind of regret it, but at the same time think it’s somewhat fitting nowadays with all the odd-meter and poly-rhythmic stuff we play. “Senseless utilizes atypical time signatures or ‘beatings’ and Comico-philosophical, or ‘senseless’ lyrics to achieve their particular style. Lots of fun.” –David Beckwith
Nanobot: I’ll refrain from asking to see the tapes and I’d have to agree that Senseless Beatings, although abstract for your style, is fitting. Like your music it begins to get you thinking from the very beginning.
How about you personally, you have a BA in Philosophy. How does this affect you musical approach?
Chase: Basically all of my songwriting, and the general direction of Senseless Beatings as a project, comes from my perspective which is colored by my obsession with Philosophy. Our first LP After History, which We Will Walk is a reaction to, is based around incites from Mark Taylor, Baudrillard, Fukuyama, Hegel, Marx, and Heidegger. Then We Will Walk is very much inspired by the continental psychoanalytical tradition and also the beautiful weak theology of John Caputo.
Nanobot: How do you approach writing music so closely tied to an “obsession with Philosophy?” Does that affect your personal constructive criticism or do you find yourself with more freedom?
Chase: Essentially I just try to make sure my lyrics have a certain level of depth and self-awareness to them. I’m pretty picky about word choice. I like to be precise in my meaning.
Nanobot: It’s hard to argue with such a finite thought process. As you’ve proven in the past your concise word choice has essentially delivered a lot, with a little.
Your forthcoming album is titled Remembering the Shore; it is obvious there is meaning behind titling each record about the sea. What role does the sea play in your musical approach to your albums?
Chase: Freud called the religious experience the oceanic feeling, or a feeling of oneness with the universe. As such, I am using the sea as a metaphor for the religious experience in all of its various forms in our lives. Three particular religious experiences are present: “in the womb”, orgasm (la petite mort), and death. In all of these moments, there is lack of desire and striving. In the womb, all of our needs were met. Immediately after orgasm, there is a certain lull in libido that makes one feel a sort of peace, and in death, well that’s the end of all desire.
Nanobot: Would you consider your music a pseudo-religious experience?
Chase: I believe some of our music can be experienced religiously. I certainly experience it that way.
Nanobot: Do you anticipate that all of your albums named around the same Freudian idea?
Chase: Well, the first three Senseless Beatings albums are collectively After history, We Will Walk into the Sea and Remembering the Shore. So the first album frames the situation we find ourselves in and the next album is a possible solution. But that solution is only valid in so far as it takes into account everyday existence and pains, the shore. So for me, the sea is somehow otherwise than existence, and the shore is existence itself.
Nanobot: Your sound is not necessarily what most would consider “mainstream,” it challenges thought and evokes a sense of reverie. With We Will Walk into the Sea, your sound does just that, it demands the full attention of the listener. How will your sound progress on Remembering the Shore?
Chase: The new album will feature more instruments and extensive experimentation with key changes and odd meter. One song that we have partially tracked is in 5/4 the whole way and features a key change with mallet percussion. We’re also experimenting with having folk/rock and Jazz/rock sounds fused together. Essentially using separate bands playing the same changes in different styles. It’s ambitious, but we have enough talented players involved to make it work.
Nanobot: You sound like you’re not playing Remembering safe at all, which is a good thing. 5/4 timing, mallet percussion and folk/jazz/rock experimentation sounds absolutely fascinating. You mentioned “other talented players,” who else is bringing their talents to the table on Remembering?
Chase: We’ve added Mike Dove as a full time second guitarist, we’ve added Rebekah Yaffe to do piano and vocals and we added Wayne Anderson to play bass and keys. I’m hoping this allows for Thomas (bassist) to play more banjo, trumpet, guitar, clarinet (whatever he wants). We’ll be featuring both Martin and Ian on Percussion on this record. You can hear Martin drum on “Either Way” by Jesse Powers. So in our little home studios, we are writing a ton of parts for each composition, and deciding the fate of the parts at mix-down. It’s great because we can be really ambitious with this many multi-instrumentalists and singers.
Nanobot: Now I’m hooked. How soon can we hear it?
Chase: I believe we will finish the album by January. I’d look for a single this summer though.
Nanobot: Since we’re so far from the release and we reluctantly have to wait, can we expect you guys to perform some of the new stuff in any live shows, maybe as soon as this summer?
Chase: I think we’ll start playing some new material in August. Maybe before then.
Nanobot: By adding such a new dynamic, how do you feel this will translate into your live shows? It does seem rather ambitious to lay them down on album, but can it be recreated live?
Chase: We should have no problem covering the album arrangements live, now that there are nine of us (many multi-instrumentalists). Also, I’m thinking of releasing multiple arrangements/mixes of some of the songs.
Nanobot: I can’t wait. With this sort of experimentation I have to know, if we were to hit shuffle on your musical library, who would we hear?
Chase: You’d hear a lot of The Flaming Lips, Okkervil River, Thrice, Wheat, The National, Cake, Counting Crows, Brand New and such. Then the rest of the band has their own favorites. We’re always fusing styles because we have diverse interests and tastes. Everyone gets to basically play to their own taste.
Nanobot: You told me a while ago that Remembering the Shore is “more of an existential exploration of everyday struggles and sadness.”
Your music is vast, but not depressing. What prompts such deep seeded origins to an otherwise open and fascinating sound?
Chase: I think the album’s focus on existentialism comes from the frustration that confronts us as people trying to be authentic and do what we love. To self-produce a product which is so out of the mainstream in South Carolina has proven to very difficult. We do everything ourselves, and we are all have day jobs. Jo (flute) and I have spent three years together now trying to build this band. We’ve been out of college a while now, and we’re basically just holding out hope that we can do something with this music; because we really want to do this. And there’s nothing I’d rather do than develop a meaningful relationship with fans of our music. But there’s always one snag after another. But we’re here, and we’re laboring in love, and this band will keep making art in the face of financial hardship. Big influences for me on this record are The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin and existentialist thinkers like Heidegger and Sartre.
Nanobot: Understandably it’s hard for independent artists to devote a lot of their time to their art. Have you considered what a lot of bands are doing lately to release albums by using Kickstarter?
Chase: I’ve thought about Kickstarter. Not sure how far that would go. I would rather folks just donate money or buy our music online. It all streams for free, but the support would be great. We are not a big faceless corporate label, and I guarantee that all I want is to use the funds to continue making music.
Nanobot: I can appreciate your dedication to your music. It really comes out in what you’ve produced so far. Thank you again for your time, I can’t wait to hear the new album.