For Part 2 of our special feature on NYC duo Beacon, we bring you an interview we conducted with the guys over email. In addition to making just stunning music, both Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett seem to be genuinely thoughtful and articulate guys. Read down below to find out what they have to say about sexual fantasy, their love of hip-hop, and what it’s like being signed to Ghostly International! And don’t forget to pick up their fantastic new For Now EP!
Upside Sounds: You guys met while at art school, correct? Are there a lot of similarities between the visual art you make and your music? Similar themes/ideas?
JG: There is definitely cross over. Painting has long been related to music in one way or another so I think there is some correlation there for me. I’ve also made video/performance works where sound was integral to how the work functioned. At the end of the day, whether art or music, it’s a lot of the same creative energy being disbursed.
TM: My work in school was about the fetishization of the digital, exploring the idea of material and texture as it relates in digital space. I worked in installation and performance art. I was making electronic music during that time and scoring my own installations. The studio practice of being an artist translates pretty seamlessly into that of a studio musician.
US: Your music in many ways revolves around themes of sexual fantasy – what draws you to this topic?
JG: The line between longing and lusting is particularly appealing to me. It implies a wide range of emotion that continually slides between innocence and a darker undercurrent of unchecked obsession.
TM: Our sound, and my voice borrows certain tropes from RnB that definitely catalogue as sexual, but we borrow from a lot of other genre’s as well. I always think of it as Gothic in tone and atmosphere. The lust is certainly real, but I’m most interested in the tension, the dialectic of sexual fantasy.
US: I know in the past you guys have used video a lot in your shows – including a video called “Hiel Bieber”. What kind of videos do you guys look for?
JG: We were sourcing a lot of video early on, from older cult horror films, contemporary music videos, found footage, etc. Currently we have been working with more animation, creating these lush digital landscapes that figures can then occupy.
TM: We reappropriate a lot of internet footage, sometimes we’re inspired by perverse things that we know we can distort or politicize. That’s certainly the impetus behind the video for “See Through You.”
US: Obviously the 90s R&B influence is only one part of your sound, but it seems right now that a lot of acts are going in interesting directions using the same source material. What do you make of the resurgence of R&B in today’s music culture? Any theories on why its happening?
JG: I’m not exactly sure what has drawn people to it. A lot of it has been used as sample based material. R&B has such a strong emphasis on melody along with a wide range of vocal qualities so I imagine it’s very attractive when sourcing material. Similar to the way funk was being mined for its rhythm in early hip hop production.
US: I think one of the aspects of your music that stands out for a lot of people (or at least us) is that bass. It almost feels like hip hop bass at times, but you use it in a way that really adds an almost ominous atmosphere. Do you guys listen to a lot of hip hop, and if so what have you taken from it?
JG: I listen to a lot of producer albums, Ayatollah, Pete Rock, J Dilla, etc. There is a lot of feeling and soulfulness in their production that I really respond to. Bass is definitely a very important part of our sound and in particular the sub. It’s such a visceral sound especially in a live setting where you can really feel it hit. In our writing it really grounds all the layers of wash and atmosphere that can sometimes lean more towards the ambient side of things.
TM: I love a lot of contemporary hip-hop and RnB production from Boi-1da to the Dream. Nowadays, I’ll listen to whatever is on the New York rap radio charts because I am really interested in the sounds they use and the ways they use them. I love the edges around those tones, the drama of a Lex Luger beat. I mean, you won’t find any 808 samples in our recordings, instead we’ve modified our own kicks’ to do a similar thing, in a way that’s unique to us. That’s really where our bass is inspired from, we’re thinking about bass with the depth of a hip-hop thud inside a warm ambient track. We want it to be massive, thunderous, put grounded like a giant’s footstep.
US: Congratulations on signing to Ghostly, that’s definitely one of our favorite labels right now. What has that experience been like?
JG: Signing with Ghostly was a really incredible moment for us. It was a label we loved and respected for a long time. They have a very unique vision in terms of how a label should function and I think that aligns well with what we are interested in pursuing with Beacon. At this point we have played a lot of shows with other Ghostly artists and most recently collaborated on the cover art of “For Now” with one of their talented designers Michael Cina.
TM: Thanks, it’s been very positive. They were the first to sit down with us in the beginning of the year, and had some great ideas about what we could be doing going forward. It was clear that they had a vision for the project that matched our own. We got to work with Michael Cina on the cover of For Now, who does a lot of the design work over at Ghostly. The first talks were him saying “I’m thinking teenage romance, first love, a photograph” and we were already very much on the same page.
US: How do you think your sound has evolved from No Body to For Now?
JG: The sound is expanding and you will see more of that to come. There have been more dance elements, more triumphant moments slowly creeping into our writing.
TM: There’s more variety in tempo, things begin to pick up in places that foreshadow parts of the LP. I was really trying to write vocal melodies that I could sing in a way that felt whispered, and intimate, like they were right next to your ear. We spent a lot of time working on the vocals with the guys who we mixed with, compressing them to keep the warmth of my tone, but keeping them strong and upfront enough in the mix.
US: What’s in store for the future? Tours/remixes/new material?
JG: We are heading out in Mid October for about 10 dates in the U.S. and are currently working on a full length for early next year.
TM: A short tour to promote For Now. Then mixing the LP over the month of November.
A HUGE thanks to Beacon for talking to us – go check out their facebook and soundcloud to stay up to date! And don’t forget to go out and grab For Now on iTunes and Beatport (yes, you should buy it on both of them)!