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Beige Banquet: "I Think We're All Just Amazed That We Could Play a Tiny Sweaty Bar in a City We've Never Been to and People Would Just Turn Up and Enjoy the Music"

While on the tail end of their European tour, we caught up with Beige Banquet's founding member and guitarist-vocalist Tom Brierley, who shares with us the highlights encountered on the tour so far, the origins of the project and how it morphed into a full-fledged band, and the organic dynamism that packs a punch across their new album Ornamental Hermit.

Paperface Zine: First tell me what's the European tour been like so far? What's been the highlights so far?


Tom Brierley: It's been absolutely amazing. It's such a pleasure to be back touring these parts. There seems to be a bit of excitement around the new album as well which is really nice to see. It's hard to pick out some highlights but we've played some great venues in the Netherlands so far. Stroomhuis in Eindhoven is a great example of a well run DIY venue, ACU in Utrecht was a great leftist and queer space for creativity in all its forms and Vera in Groningen is just something else entirely. There's so much history dripping from the walls and to return to a venue where we played in the basement last year and this time we're on the big stage which was really something special. 


PZ: I see you had a few shows in Germany. What spot was the most exciting to play?


TB: Berlin, definitely Berlin. It's one of the few places that we play where I'm definitely going to be the least cool person in the room. There's something about playing after midnight in a smokey and sweaty basement under a squat that seems to suit our live sound quite well. We've got a lot of friends there as well with the Mangel Records crowd and bands like Liiek and Pigeon. It's one of the nicest parts of touring to return to a city and see some old friends. 


PZ: For our readers who aren't familiar, take us through the origins of Beige Banquet. How exactly did you begin as a solo project into a five-piece in 2021? 


TB: Well I actually wrote the majority of Beta back at the start of 2020 before the pandemic and had intentions of putting a live band together, but we had one practice and then live music got put on hold for a while. I was so scared of forgetting the songs so I decided to record it in my bedroom and self-release it in early '21. As soon as things reopened, we started developing the live band and started playing some shows. 


PZ: What has the progression been like within the band since touring the debut LP Beta in '21?

 

TB: I'd like to think we've grown a lot as people and musicians since then. It was my first experience touring with a band back then in '21, we were a little naïve and made a lot of mistakes. However I think we're all just amazed that we could play a tiny sweaty bar in a city we've never been to and people would just turn up and enjoy this music. This still amazes today to be honest but the crowds, the venues, and the performances have all developed and grown with time. We seem to play a really healthy mix of DIY punk spaces and festivals which I really enjoy, the vast contrast really keeps things interesting. 


PZ: Besides making music, what's something you love to do when you all get together or something that you'd like fans to know about Beige Banquet? 


TB: We're all massive foodies so we're always on the lookout for any opportunity to taste the local delicacies while we're on the road. We’re always researching local dishes, beers and wines, and love to find little authentic spots. It's really nice to get away from the venue when we have a minute and experience the city we're in as well. 


PZ: Let's dive into the making of your new sophomore LP Ornamental Hermit. Exactly, how did this all come together at Head Cold Studios last summer?


TB: It was actually a really long and at times quite painful process. I think I'd left it too long after writing the first batch of Beige Banquet songs and focused on the live show and touring a lot. So when it came to writing the new album, I had to write some pretty poor quality songs for a year or so before something coherent started to emerge. I've never had to write like this before and although I'd heard second albums are famously hard, I didn't think it would be this difficult. There were definitely times where I questioned if there would be a second album at all. Anyway, after amassing about 30 demos, we developed a bunch of them live as a full band and tested them as well over tours. When we went into the studio to record them, they were pretty fully formed so it was pretty quick. It was a lovely experience and the first time we'd recorded as a full band. So maybe three years after I started writing for the record it's finally out which feels great. We managed to do the whole thing with money we've made from tours and record sales so I'm really happy with all the hard work we've put in over the years that has made this possible.  


PZ: Do you have any favorite memories from when you were all recording the tracks and putting the album together?


TB: The whole thing seems like a really long time ago now and we're all struggling to think of any anecdotes. It could be related to our lowered brain function after a couple of weeks on the road. 


PZ: How did the songs progress from their initial demos? Were there any that turned out entirely different than you had expected while experimenting with ideas?


TB: To be honest a lot of songs ended up quite similar to the demos or at least the version we’d developed in a practice space as a full band. The only one that dramatically changed in the studio was "Condition Report." Initially it had vocals on it but we decided it worked better as an instrumental during the mixing. We also managed to experiment with more textural sounds while in the studio. I borrowed a Moog so all the synth parts changed a lot. We also needed up triggering drum samples on songs like "Substance (Sustenance)."

PZ: Let's dive into some of the songs here. What can you tell me about the opening cut "Smashed Glass"? 


TB: I see this one as a song of three parts. The first section is just a driving punk song and that was all the initial demo was, we developed the rest as a band. We wanted to create something where both mine and Joe's guitars would open up and split apart (something that's repeated throughout the record). Then the whole thing is punctuated by the dissonant outdo, again something that came from experimenting in the practice room. It sets the tone and pace of the record quite nicely I think. 


PZ: What were the inspirations behind "Animals"? 


TB: This was actually one of the few songs we wrote as a full band and the only one in a different time signature. Joe started playing the guitar part in a practice once and it became something we'd jam when we got together and over a few months eventually turned into a full song. 


PZ: How did "Collapse / Crisis" come about?


TB: This was another early demo that we've been playing live for a while. I think I was playing guitar while I was meant to be working and came up with the riff, I had to quickly grab my laptop and write the demo around this riff. I think the whole thing came out fully formed and took around an hour. It hasn't really changed too much from the demo. It's probably a little more rocky than the demo, maybe the demos will get released at some point if anyone's interested. 


PZ: The 2022 single "Acid Bath" wasn't featured on the new album, instead released as a stand-alone single. What are the origins of that song and did it bleed into the direction of the new album in any way? 


TB: So this was a song we'd been playing live for a while and one of the first we developed as a live band. It was initially meant to be part of a four-track EP, but we weren't fully happy with the final outcome so we decided to release the single and then we gave the other tracks to some compilation albums and things. It's always nice to have spare material to do that with.


PZ: Which song from the record means the most to you (and why)?


TB: This actually changes depending on my mood and what I'm feeling at the time. I tend to project my own meanings into the tracks based on what I'm going through personally, which I'm sure we all do with all songs. At the moment, while we're on the road, when I perform "Substance (Sustenance)" I feel quite emotionally connected to the lyrical content and create a whole new meaning behind it. To me, it's what makes music so beautiful and the transient nature of human emotions and experiences allow meaning to be unique for everyone and warp and change over time. 


PZ: What were the inspirations behind the cover art? 


TB: Joe says that the inspiration for the artwork comes from archives of pre-internet print culture and rural British and Celtic mythological stone carving and imagery.


PZ: We're huge fans of The Tubs, Grazia, Sniffany & The Nits, Tommy Cossack & The Degenerators, and Es, but who are some of your favorite bands in London right now that our readers should check out?


TB: You've named some of my favorites there already! The Gob Nation scene is really exciting with bands like Findom and Keno making some great music. Everyone should also check out Eel Men, Strongest Tool, Morreadoras, Body Horror, and Nov LT. 


PZ: Lastly, what else is on the horizon for Beige Banquet later this year that we should keep an eye on? Possible trip to the USA? 


TB: After this tour, we've got a bunch of one-off European festivals and that's probably it for us. Touring is sadly expensive and as it's becoming harder to live affordably in London, it's hard to take time away from work. We'd absolutely love to come to the USA, it's a bucket list kind of thing but the money needed and the visa situation makes it quite prohibitive to tour there. Maybe we'll try and make something happen next year. 


PZ: Any last thoughts or advice you wanna share with our readers?


TB: Less is more, unless it isn't, then more is more.


Ornamental Hermit is out now on Just Step Sideways (UK), Swish Swash Records (EU), and Future Shock (USA).





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