The year was 2020 and Beverly Kills had built momentum after being booked to The New Colossus Festival in New York just a few weeks ahead of the release of their debut EP. The band finally got the international attention they deserved but while in New York the pandemic broke out and the band barely made it back home to Gothenburg. And the music industry went into (almost) complete lockdown for two years.
Despite being in a global pandemic, Beverly Kills haven’t had a boring moment and labored on as usual doing session gigs, live streams, and live shows although at limited capacity. A few weeks ago their hard work paid off and they released their debut album Kaleido and could finally enjoy a release party.
Messed!Up met up with the band in Gothenburg two weeks after their album release party and ended up in a chat on maturing as a band during the pandemic, why there are lots of synthesizers on the album, and putting all their energy on gigs in Mexico and SXSW the next few months.
A band matured: Beverly Kills 2.0
When we met two years ago, just after the pandemic arrived, you were about to release your debut EP but for obvious reasons had to cancel the release party. How does it feel to finally have been able to have a release party, but for your debut album?
It was amazing! To be honest, we’ve never been as nervous as we were the hours ahead of the gig, I [Alma] thought I was going to throw up. It was like doing our debut gig once again
We also had some sort of ambition to play a sold-out Oceanen [venue in Gothenburg] at our release party and it turned out just like that. A perfect night in every way.
You had some sort of momentum after getting international exposure at The New Colossus Festival in New York when the pandemic arrived. Today, after releasing your debut album and playing at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, do you feel that you’re back where you left off before the pandemic
It’s hard to say but from a philosophical point of view, the answer is no because we can’t come back to where we were. The band has changed much in the last two years. It may be a boring answer but the project Beverly Kills has matured and become something else, and we’re not the same band or the same individuals that played in New York two years ago because we’re older and, hopefully, a bit wiser (laugh).
Most bands and projects go through phases and become something else over time. What’s different with Beverly Kills today? Among many things, you told me last time that you would use the pandemic to write lots of new music and release two albums after the pandemic. Are you still that ambitious
(laugh) We obviously had ambitions before the pandemic and thought a lot about ourselves and what we would do. At least it ended up in one album, but lots of other things happened as well. If we wouldn’t for the live streams and session gigs and if we would have stayed in our rehearsal space, maybe we would’ve had more music to release, but we did the right thing. The album was put together kind of quickly during the pandemic and we rehearsed the new songs quite much while doing lots of live streams and session gigs.
Another reason everything happened as it did was that we wanted it to be as normal as possible and we tried not to put too much attention on the pandemic, like some sort of coping mechanism to keep us from the “Fuck, life is so boring right now” thoughts. It was about keeping up the spirit.
When the pandemic arrived we had played together for almost three years and since then two more years have passed, and that second leg of the Beverly Kills project has obviously been very different, like for most bands. We’re not a new band anymore and maybe we’re not as naïve as we were two years ago when much was taken for granted. Today, we need to work a lot more to get things done the way we want it to but we’re also prepared to do it. The pandemic years definitely made us mature as a band and have been good for us.
Do you mean that it was long since you were called ‘the hot new band’ and you need to work a lot harder to reach out?
If we would have been a London band, sure. But we’re in Gothenburg and it’s not big enough to have hundreds of new bands coming up every year, and we’re kind of grateful for that (laugh). Gothenburg is a vibrant music city, no doubt about that, but maybe we don’t have enough indie bands anymore, and that’s kind of sad. There’s a lot of guitar-based music in the scene but not as much indie pop or indie rock vibes as a few years ago when we started.
It’s hard to grasp our journey up until today because it has been quite different the last two years although we’ve recorded and released our debut album. We have been quite busy lately and have done, maybe, too many things taking too much time, like music videos; it has never been a boring moment during the pandemic. But we have probably become more professional about the band and how we plan and do things, that’s different from the last time we met.
Debut album and new sonic avenues
At the time we met up with the band just ahead of their debut EP Elegance In a State Of Crisis two years ago, Beverly Kills were on an excursion in post punk land and had a clear vision of what they were heading. However, with the arrival of the pandemic, the band changed their path and are on a new sonic journey with their debut album Kaleido filled with synth sounds, giving their songs a lot of character. And vocalist Alma has a major role in it.
Your debut album Kaleido was released a month ago but I remember you being a bit afraid of releasing a full album because you claimed that it would be hard to keep high quality throughout a whole album. You were even thinking about releasing EP’s and singles instead. What changed?
In many ways, it is a weird record because we worked on the songs for a very long time and in the end, it felt like we stitched together pieces of our history. Some songs are really old. We know what songs are filler songs but they’re needed to push other songs. But we don’t agree on what songs are fillers, we have different ideas about that and different favorites (laugh), and our fans don’t seem to know either. That’s cool for us because it means there’s no really weak track on the album.
Two years ago you were still trying to find your own sound but at the time you nailed it down to post punk. But the debut album sounds poppier than before. Is it because you found out how the band should sound today?
Both maybe, but we probably had a better idea of what we were when we released the debut EP two years ago because it had a theme and the album hasn’t, that type of mindset we left behind during the pandemic. When we write music today we don’t really have that sort of concept thinking anymore. If we write a good song why not use it even if it doesn’t fit any concept?
The album would probably have sounded a lot more like the EP if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
What gives me a poppier feeling on Kaleido is the dominant synth sounds on many songs.
And that happened for a reason. When we wrote our first songs and released the EP, I [Alma] had never really played the keys before. That was a long learning process for me, but during the pandemic, I suddenly had lots of time to explore synthesizers and work on the sound a lot more, and that had a massive impact on the music we wrote for the album. Something changed when we added synth sounds and maybe, just maybe, I gained a bit too much control over the sound of the album (laugh).
It’s a bit tricky live though because I tend to get stuck behind the keys and that’s quite a static performance, but sometimes we have a friend with us, Joakim, on keys. In some ways it’s two very different experiences of Beverly Kills live depending on our live setup. I love to play the keys live but I don’t like to be that busy while I’m singing. It’s a tough choice and I can’t decide what I like most.
I guess that the post-pandemic period we’re in is all about compensating for lost gigs, and with a new album out your goal is to play as much as possible?
We don’t have that many gigs booked yet but a few bigger events coming up. Next week we’ll be in Mexico and play five gigs [happened last week] and today it was announced that we’re playing at SXSW in Austin next year. Maybe we won’t have that many shows coming up in Sweden but it’s ok for us, we’ve played quite much in the bigger cities at home. It’s better for us to reach outside Sweden right now and put all our energy into the Mexico gigs and SXSW and try to write new music in between.
You’ve also played in Germany a few times by now, recently at Reeperbahn Festival, and I know you have this dream of playing at Molotow in Hamburg. Is there any German tour in the works?
The point is that we probably could get a few gigs in Germany easily. It happens quite often that we get requests, “Hey, can’t you come and play here”, and if we really wanted to do it we could probably book enough dates to do a mini-tour. But it’s a lot easier for a band our size to do if it’s connected to something bigger, like a festival, and book a few shows around it.
There’s a big chance it will happen during 2023 but not before SXSW, it’s not possible to make it work out. Maybe in the summer of 2023 if there’s any German festival that wants us to play (laugh).
Beverly Kills pages