Looking to learn more about Beat Connection? Check out our interview with Reed Juenger, the group's producer and founder. The Seattle-based quartet released their most recent album Product 3 this past October via Anti- Records. Since then, they've embarked on a national tour, hitting up a majority of the United States. One could say their best fit genre is electronic rock which includes fun, upbeat synths and summer-pop vocals. They've toured in the past with bands like Django Django and Jungle. They're homies with Odesza. Their live performances are one big party. There's no way the venue wouldn't turn into a dancehall. What The Sound presented the band's Ann Arbor show on December 2nd, 2015 at the Blind Pig. Phantoms (Los Angeles) and Jonah Baseball (Ann Arbor) were stellar live and Jonah Baseball brought out the largest 1st opener crowd of their tour. Below, read our conversation with Reed and enjoy their music!
What The Sound: Where’d you all meet?
Reed: We all met at the University of Washington.
WTS: Okay. And how did you get connected? It, it was originally your project, correct?
Yeah, it's gone through a lot of changes, but it started out as sort of an electronic duo, with me and one other friend. We just met, literally, at the dorms, and we met everyone else through mutual friends, partying, going to shows, being in classes and stuff like that. We all ended up sharing a lot of common interest and back in like, maybe 2011-2012 era maybe through '13, we all lived together in the U-District where we all were going to school. And we would just hangout and work on tunes, you know, just kick it.
WTS: Yeah, cool. Was that first original member, when you were a duo, is he still in the group, or no?
No, he is no longer in the group. It started out as sort of like an exercise and learning how to produce music. You explore different genres, things like that and trying to figure it all out. He left the group so I kind of filled his roll. That said, it's a largely collaborative effort, we are always working on stuff together. Sometimes I'll come up with a lyric, but then someone else will do some of the production on the track and it's hard to really chart where everyone fits in, because we are just working on stuff all the time.
WTS: At the time that you formed, were there any favorite acts that you wanted to live up to or be like?
At the time we were really into like Cut Copy, M83, LCD Soundsystem, that whole DFA record label was really important to us. But at the same time we were just listening to all sorts of stuff, a lot of hip-hop, older music, you know whatever was going on in the indie scene. At the time whatever was going on locally, whatever was going on in Sweden, Germany, like literally anything we could get our hands on. I was just listening to music all the time, and still am, but that was a period of time where I was working for the University of Washington's radio station.
And I was just like trying to learn everything I could about music. I was listening to a new record front to back, every day.
Even if I didn't like it, it was sometimes kind of a struggle. I was just trying to learn all the time, and still am, but that was a period of super heavy studying for me, of just pop music.
WTS: Has your interest in listening to all those bands changed?
No, not at all. We've been having a lot of super long drives on this tour. We just went from DC to Boston today, which is like 8.5 hours, so we've been listening to just like all sorts of stuff. It's great. It's kind of rediscovering some of those classics from like 2009. Stuff that was really important to the foundation of the band, like "Oh I remember why I like this." And I get this like nostalgic feeling for it, but it's just like the immediate past, it's not long at all.
WTS: Mhmm. Nice. How has your tour been so far? You have been hitting up a ton of cities and you still have a lot to go. Has there been any great experience so far anywhere and why?
Yeah man, we've had some really good nights. We've been out here for, let's see, last night was the exact halfway point. That's not actually true. Basically we wrap this whole thing up December 12th and then we have four or five days off and then we have a weekend of shows in Portland and Vancouver, BC., so I'm not really counting those, but if you don't count those, we are halfway through here. And it's been a journey already, but it's been super fun. San Francisco was a real early highlight. That was a sell-out, super fun, and a great venue.
WTS: What venue was it?
It's called The Independent.
WTS: Okay, sure, yeah. When I think of the Neumos of San Francisco, The Independent comes to mind. At least capacity wise.
Yeah, it's pretty much the Neumos of San Francisco, I'd say, and that's also the biggest room we're playing on this tour. So it's just kind of crazy. We have a lot of friends who have also been there quite a few times in the last two years, so we've been working in that market. It was really fun just to see it all kind of like come together, and we had a great night.
I had a really good night in Austin, Texas. Kind of the same situation where we've been there quite a bit in the last couple years. Some of these other cities, you know, we've never played in, New Orleans, for instance. It's cool to see, like damn, this music reached people down here. And that's like the craziest feeling. We are so lucky that people are listening to our music and it means something to them. So every time we can meet someone who’s into it, incredibly exciting, confirming, you know?
WTS: Yeah. That is really exciting, about all of that. Any sell out show and gaining a solid group of fans in any market is great. Congrats on the release of Product 3 and like I said, the tour of yours. When did you begin to work on the album? Was it right after your last album or was there a stalling period before you began?
Yeah, you know, we are always working and often times there's no real goal, it's just the exercise, exploration of music, of songwriting, and all that stuff, trying to find something that strikes. A lot of times, shit is just garbage. Like straight up, we make some bad tunes. More often than not, but, it's really about showing up and trying to wait for that moment of inspiration to happen and once it does happen we run with it. We started, maybe about two years ago, but the record has been done for about a year now.
We did the final mixes about one year ago. It was a slow process. We were all dealing with the idea of not being sure if we were going to continue the band after my homie left. You know, kind of like, redetermining what the structure of what the band was going to be like, how we were going to approach it. I was sick for a while, that was two years ago. I was in and out of the hospital quite a bit. That's all in the past now, that all played into it, but if you took forever. Straight up, it took us a really long time. We wrote a ton of material and it feels so good to finally have it out now to see all the hard work and all the low points that we've made it past to come together on this record, it’s awesome.
WTS: Nice. Yeah. Another thing is, I am curious why you guys stayed independent for so long, because up until Product 3, you released everything yourself. It seemed like you had a pretty solid following back then and you could have linked up with a label or maybe a licensing company sooner. So I'm wondering, what made you decide to stay independent for so long?
Man, that was not really a conscious decision. We were actually signed to a label in the UK. Right off the bat. So we released that Surf Noir EP before we really even played our first show, we signed with this label for basically everywhere except for North America. That made it really difficult for us to find a label that was suitable here in the States. So, that was a great learning experience and I'm glad we did it. I have no qualms with it, but it was a learning experience.
At the same time, you know, like I was going to school, we were all going to school. Trying to pay rent, you kind of have jobs, trying to pay the fallout, and we just didn't know what we were doing. I like to pretend I know now, but every day I learn something new and realize how little control I have over the situation and how important it is to just focus on my part, which is the music, the design, and to let the other things come together. It's not to say I'm not trying, I'm not being mindful of them, I'm paying attention to all that stuff, I'm trying to learn it. I'm trying to make big opportunities for myself, but sometimes, man, it's just serendipity, its just luck that falls all together.
So, part of the reason why the record took so long though, is because we were trying to make sure we were putting our best foot forward and work with people who understood what we were trying to do and were ready to work on the schedule that we wanted to work on to get everything firing all at once. Here we are now, and for whatever reason it took us this long, but now that we got it, it's all worth it, yes, every day, you know?
WTS: Yeah. That's awesome that you're in that rhythm. What is your songwriting process like? To elaborate on that, do you write the music and then you choose who plays what, or do you have it in mind from the beginning?
It's usually not that thought out. When we are composing music, we don't set any limitations for ourselves. There's no like, "This needs to be able to be pulled off live, right off the bat," or "We can't use this because we can't tour with that." We don't think like that, which is maybe not the wisest, but that's just how it is at this point.
WTS: I like that willingness to experiment.
So sometimes all the music gets written without any lyrics. Sometimes there's a chorus or a verse that exists. Sometimes there's just like the influence of visual art or cinema or some mundane, everyday experience that gets turned into content for a song. They're always different. Every song has its own life, has its own lifespan too. Some take months to complete, others take two or three days.
Then we have kind of reverse engineer them for a live setting and our goal is to make it as live as possible at all times, but also to stay true to the original, so I use Ableton when we perform live. What the computer does, is that it adds those elements that help to make the song unique, that we spend a lot of time on in the studio, but can't be recreated live.
WTS: Yeah so, have you struggled with that? The tradeoffs between what you could make in the studio and what you can play in the live setting?
Just by virtue of hard work, the songs that we compose, that we really like, that resonate with us all collectively, that make us feel like, "that's the one, this is it, this should be on the record" are ones that are basically able to be pulled off live.
And I think that's just a matter of taste. There's a lot of things that were going to be more electronic or more ambient, or things like that; didn't make the record. They just didn't strike us right when they were done or something, I'm not sure.
WTS: I understand that.
The one song that I would say poses a problem is the last track on the record, "I Hope You Know," that one we just went crazy with the drums. I think it's like six different drum kits all layered in weird ways, like a weird sample of one piano riff I played on some old broken synths and that's been re-sampled and sliced up into oblivion and all layered around and we don't know how we're going to play that one. So at the moment we haven't tackled that yet. So we have got 10 of 11 songs from the record we can do live with very minimal computer and I'm proud of that.
WTS: Nice. Congratulations on being able to do that. What are three words to convince someone who has never heard your music to come to your show?
"Come Fucking Party", I don't know. It's not meant to be that basic, but it kind of is. If I have to convince someone in three words, it would be like that. We put a lot into the live show, we spend so much time on it. We're always thinking about are set, we're always working on it and trying to get better. At the end of the day, it's a party, we're trying to make sure the audience has a great time.
WTS: You're touring with Phantoms right now, how'd you get connected with them? Was it your booking agency?
Yeah, that definitely played a large part in it. But I was familiar with their music as well. The timing worked out perfectly with one of their releases and with ours. They're travelling in the van with us. They're super fun to hang out with, really hilarious, a great duo.
WTS: Is there anyone in the future that you would want to share a show with?
Yeah, I'm trying to do stuff with Todd Terje, or Jai Paul. I want to be opening for people who we admire. There's also a lot of other acts who are in a similar position to us who we'd love to work with. The list is immense, there are so many rappers we'd love to work with. Kendrick Lamar, acts like that. But, there's a lot of work before we get there.
WTS: Who are some Seattle acts that you think WTS followers should know about who probably don't know already?
There's this group called The Dip, it's got a lot of members who are also in Beat Connection. It's a seven person soul and funk act, they're incredible. There's also BFA, the rap group. There's so much, Zoolab is great, Manatee Commune, ODESZA, the list goes on. I roll with this group called Cousins, it's this DJ group. I can go on and on.