The buzzsaw bop of The Beths wouldn’t seem to have a lot in common with jazz, but oddly enough there is connection.
Like their pals Wax Chattels, the Auckland four-piece first – who debut album Future Me Hates Me has just been released– met while studying jazz at Auckland University.
However, singer/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes doesn’t see it as being that much of a contradiction.
“If you are at jazz school, it’s because you like playing your instrument and learning about music,” she explains. “In a way, you learn about music from the inside and I really like that. I know it’s not for everybody but I really liked the theory and the mechanics of how you put things together.
“But once you leave, it’s nice to stop thinking about it and just make what you like making. It feels like you are playing what your hands want to play rather than what your brain would, which is fun.”
Fun is certainly the operative word when it comes to The Beths. Packed with harmony-laden hooks and jangly power riffs, Future Me Hates Me is a summery delight that marries the sweet innocence of 60s pop with a blitzkrieg rush of 70s punk.
Of course, The Beths aren’t the first band to the locate that sweet spot, but in this age of synthetic pop, it still makes for a most welcome blast from the past.
Stokes sees this mix of pop and punk as being a cyclical thing. She grew up listening to the likes of Green Day and Blink 182, and while that style of music has gone out of fashion of late, she thinks its natural that people will often return to the sounds they loved when they were younger. “That’s a bit of a simplification but I feel that’s why I wanted to make this sort of music.”
But for all its exhilarating pop thrills, Stokes’ lyrics are not all sweetness and light, with her songs taking on weightier subject like anxiety, heartbreak and doubt.
“We’re not a dark band and I don’t tend to go for a moody kind of sound,” Stokes says. “But the lyrics are not all bubblegum ‘I love you’ type songs. If a song sounds happy, I like it to have something lyrically which brings it back down to earth.”
When NZ Music Business caught up with Stokes, she was in Spain following the band’s extensive European and the US tour. They enjoyed their experience even though it meant being away from home for an extended period of time.
“In the States, it was pretty cool playing in New York for the first time,” she says. “It was a bit nerve-wracking but the show went really well. The UK was really, really great, too – people were really sweet and we just found the right kind of scene to be in.”
The extensive international activity is partly down to the fact that The Beths are signed with US indie Carpark Records and Stokes couldn’t be happier with the relationship. “Being on a US label really helped open up doors to rest of the world in a way that might not have happened,” she adds.
The Beths will be back in New Zealand for The Others Way Festival, which will be followed by dates in Australia and a short New Zealand tour in September. However, then they will be heading back overseas for more dates in the US and Europe before returning to New Zealand for Summer.
“It’s been a very big year,” Stokes admits. “There’s been lot of nice things happening on a consistent basis – I don’t want to jinx it!”