Photography by Ebru Yildiz
Beverly makes indie rock lucid in all senses of the word—from their ebullient guitar work, to their limpid lyricism, to the hyperrealist art adorning The Blue Swell, their latest record for Kanine. Distilling the sounds of their forebears—including My Bloody Valentine and The Breeders—and the thrum of the New York scene, the Brooklyn-based rockers concoct a radiant mélange of melody and reverb. Ahead of the band's show September 12 at The Park Church Co-op, vocalist and guitarist Drew Citron spoke with AdHoc about the interconnected processes of sound engineering and live performance, as well as the role of the artist in this time of crisis.
AdHoc: You’ve been a band for about three years now. In that time, Beverly has gone through a lot of changes, including parting ways with Frankie Rose and gaining Scott Rosenthal. Do you feel like you have a firm grasp on what music and art you want to make through Beverly? How has that changed or stayed the same over time?
Drew Citron: Yeah, I mean I have always had a pretty firm grasp on the music because 90% of the songs are written by me. So in that sense, it's stayed the same. If anything, the direction of the band has become more focused over time, as I've gotten more confident with writing, singing, recording and performing.
To me Beverly’s music is clear, poppy, and nostalgic, but the lyrics add a certain witsfulness to that vibe. For example, on “The Smokey Pines” you sing, “So I think about you/ But definitely more than I'd like you to be aware of.” What draws you to these kinds of emotionally tangled stories?
That's actually a song that Scott wrote. He's a very storytell-y lyricist, and I call him The Wanderhook. But to your thoughts on Beverly, I think all those adjectives pretty much describe me as a person. I'm very outgoing and friendly, and a bit ethereal in my world view, drawn to travel and shiny experiences. Aut I'm also a dark person with a real weight and sadness that I rarely show. This is what I'm compelled to write [about]: the loneliness, dissatisfaction, anger, and sometimes morbid currents I feel inside. I also don't like literal lyrics; I need cleverness, a metaphor, imagery. If the package is too direct, it loses me. I like music that doesn't necessarily spell it all out for you and allows you to come to your own conclusions.
You gave an interview with Under the Radar right before Donald Trump’s inauguration in which you rightly expressed worries about the Trump presidency and the normalization of white supremacy. Since Trump took office, we’ve seen this normalization descend into violence—most visibly in Charlottesville, among other places. Can you give me your thoughts on the political climate in this country over past year? Do you feel like it has affected your thinking about music and art?
Well, like most people I know, I'm exhausted with it and how angry it makes me. To live in a constant state of anger is unhealthy. To turn it into art is productive. When I was younger—even though I would never do anything else—I had trouble justifying a life as an artist. How am I helping others or changing anything by getting on a stage? Why would people listen to me? What's the point? The answer is clear now: we thought the past was behind us, we thought these battles had been fought. We were dead wrong. Being an artist is crucial, because it is a clear voice that contradicts what Trump's presidency represents. To assert your individuality, even in a minor way, is to fight. To get in front of people—to stand up and say, "I am different, I don't think like you, I disagree, I am a person"— is all we can do and continue to do.
You’ve mentioned a passion for sound engineering and recording—both through your work at Alphaville and outside it . What draws you to them? If you could only either record or play shows, which would you choose?
That's a funny question, because before I learned about recording and mixing, I just felt helpless loading into a venue or working in a studio. Learning the basics was sort of a lifeline for me to know how to talk with engineers about sounds and monitor mixes. It can be intimidating, because usually sound guys are essentially disgruntled cobwebs who live to condescend. I am passionate about being the live engineer who is a nice person and listens to the band and helps everyone have a great night. It's not that complicated! So my answer is definitely playing live shows forever and ever—I prefer it to recording. And live mixing a close second.
What are some bands or musicians you’ve been into recently? Anything a Beverly fan would be surprised to hear?
I don't listen to much new music, but I'm currently obsessed with Rick & Morty and John Wick.
You’re playing at the Park Church Co-op, which is a beautiful space. What are some other favorite NYC venues of yours?
I remain loyal to my fam by saying Alphaville, because it's where I work. It's a great room—we've worked hard to make it sound great—and the space feels full even when not that many people show up. I would also say my backyard. We had a festival back there this summer where I met a lot of my neighbors who wandered in, and some of them even watched from their roofs. It was truly one of the best days of my life.