Unlocked: Buried Beds talk songwriting, community, and what they’ve gleaned from other local bands
Philly rockers Buried Beds might write tunes about lonely fortresses (see our song download, Monday)—but when it comes to their real relationships with the city and the scene, a lonely fortress is about the furthest thing from their experiences.
“The musical part of this city is so great, and so supportive,” says singer-guitarist Brendon Beaver over coffee. “I think that has so much to do with why, after all these years, we’re still a band.”
His co-founder and songwriting partner, Eliza Jones, nods in agreement. “We’ve built our homes here, and that community around us is pretty amazing,” she adds.
Community is an important tenet for Buried Beds, influencing almost every aspect of their process—from songwriting, to live performances, to videos and touring. And while the band at its core is just Beaver and Jones—their vision is spurred a host of friends and other musicians. I caught up with the pair to parse out some of these influences—and to talk songwriting, evolution, and what’s coming up next for Buried Beds.
The past ten years have been quite the journey for Beaver and Jones, who grew up together and started making music collaboratively after moving in together post-college. “I think we both feel like we have two stages as band,” says Jones, explaining their storied history. Their first stage began in 2003 with their formation, and continued through the release of their debut record Empty Rooms in 2005—a stirring and lugubrious collection of tunes that helped the group make a name for themselves, but ultimately, felt misaligned with their musical goals.
“Eventually, the kind of music we were playing [back then] sort of lost its allure,” explains Jones. “It was very melancholic, and very beautiful—but that sort of melancholic aspect—we’re just not those kind of people.” She smiles, as if proving her own point. “And so it was hard to gear ourselves up for those performances, and to get excited about making a record.” She pauses. “And so I think…after a long period of that…we just decided to start making the kind of music we wanted to make.”
The kind of music theywanted to make was decidedly more rock-oriented, and since the switch, the band’s released three records of increasingly impressive compositions, including the brand new In Spirit.And while a whole host of different players have contributed throughout the years, Jones and Beaver view Buried Beds, ultimately, as themselves and violaist Hallie Sianni, who’s been playing with them through all iterations. “It’s always been the three of us,” says Beaver, “plus sort of a rotating cast.”
Honorary BB members throughout the years have included Nightlands’ Dave Hartley, mewithoutYou’s Greg Jehanian and Thomas Bendel, and Dr. Dog’s Eric Slick—plus Mary Lattimore, Daniel Hart, Tom Mallon, and countless others collaborators and inspirers. In addition, Beaver and Jones have both lent their expertise to a slew of different projects and records—which speaks to their embeddedness within the local scene.
“I think the thing with all these projects is that they all naturally developed out of collaborations,” says Jones, who’s played with Nightlands, The Mural and the Mint, and The Citywide Specials, in addition to contributing to records by Man Man, Dr. Dog and mewithoutYou.
Beaver—who’s toured with mewithoutYou, and sings in the Silver Ages Choir, in addition to founding West Philly art-pop group Make a Rising—is in agreement. “I think it’s all about where your mind is,” he says. “Eliza and I prioritize being musicians. And it’s been a long road of trying to figure out what that means. Being a viable musician, you need to figure out ways to make money, and pay rent. And holding down a 9–5 is not a viable option if you’re in a touring band.”
Ultimately, the duo found that collaborations were a great way to fill in the gaps in their tour schedule, and earn some cash while Buried Beds was on hiatus. “But,” says Jones—“it’s not like we were specifically looking for projects that were busy when Buried Beds isn’t busy. These are people that we love, and people whose creative vision we’re excited about, and want to be a part of. We just feel lucky that we can sustain ourselves.”
Their experiences with other bands would eventually influence their own process in deep and meaningful ways.
For Beaver, the first momentous experience came while touring with Philly experimental punks mewithoutYou, who invited Buried Beds out on the road while still fledglings. “It was a really pivotal moment for us,” he says. “Just seeing them perform every night was like, ‘Oh my god! This is crazy.’ It was our first real involvement in this world, and we got addicted to it. Plus there were so many little things we didn’t have to figure out. That was really important.”
Jones nods. “In many ways, they gave us the ability to be ableto tour,” she says. “Because all of a sudden, we had a tour history. And we had ticket sales, and record sales, and all these things we could bring to other people who weren’t necessarily our best friends we had grown up with.” She grins.
Other memorable tours include opening for Dr. Dog, whose collaborative spirit the band found inspirational. “They’re really open guys, and very much like ‘Oh, come out at the end of this song!’” says Beaver, describing a nightly tour routine. “And we’d be like, ‘Oh, but we don’t know it.’ And they’d be like ‘whatever!’” He smiles. “I feel like that vibe really resonated with us. And that’s became a big part of how we interact too.”
For Jones, working with Michael Kiley’s The Mural and the Mint was a particularly resonant experience, that expanded her skills as a musician and a songwriter.
“The Mural and the Mint was one of the first projects I was involved in, and it was very interesting to me,” she says, recollecting. “In Buried Beds, for example, it’s our vision, and when it’s your own project, you write to your own strengths.” She pauses. “And having someone else tell you, ‘No, I need you to do this’—you’re sort of forced to figure out new ways to think about your instrument, and your voice. That first year touring with The Mural and the Mint—it really forced me to think about songwriting in different ways.”
These myriad experiences all contributed to the making of new record In Spirit,one of their most stunning and cohesive releases yet (check out our full review of the record here.) A loose concept record inspired by fairy tales, gleaned from the Pantheon Regional Fairy Tale Collection,plus stories they’d read about in the news, or heard from friends and relatives, In Spirit marries the real with the fanciful in new and exciting ways.
The band will celebrate its release with a headlining show October 10 at Boot & Saddle, and is currently working on music videos for every song on the record. “It’s kind of like making another record,” says Jones with a laugh. They’re also planning a vinyl release and longer tour in early 2014.
So far, responses to the record have been positive—their first single, “Stars,” has nearly 7,000 plays on SoundCloud, and even earned the band a write-up on Pitchfork. Still, Buried Beds remain guardedly optimistic about whether this might lead to bigger things ahead.
“It’s very exciting,” says Beaver. “But honestly, we have no idea what to expect going forward. We’ve been a band long enough that we sort of take it in stride. We’re not putting too much stock in it.” He pauses. “We’re just focused on putting out a product that we really believe in, and really love, and that’s all that matters.”
You can’t argue with logic like that.
Buried Beds will celebrate In Spirit with a record release show on October 10 at Boot & Saddle. The 21+ show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10; more information can be found on the venue’s website.
In Spirit is the featured album in this week’s edition of Unlocked. Download the single “Oh Lonely Fortress” in Monday’s post, read Tuesday’s album review; watch the video for “Future Ghost” in Wednesday post, and tune in again tomorrow for a very special surprise.