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Twin Town High (vol. 8)
Beight: Hardcore Softie
Wednesday 03 August @ 16:56:49
by Rob van Alstyne
A lot can happen to one's musical career in just a few short years - ask Michael Jackson - and although the transformation Minneapolis musician Brad Senne's undergone is of a somewhat different nature, it's been no less extreme. Back when the '90s were drawing to a close, Senne was growling atop crunchy guitars in hardcore outfit Picturesque and acting out his Angry Young Man phase. Now, just five years later, it’s a far different Senne who's resurfaced under the name Beight with a polished pop platter in tow, the just released File in Rhythm.
Download an mp3 of Beight's song, "Parallels.
when I was doing heavier music the things I liked to listen to were a lot lighter,”
admits Senne, 32. “I’ve always really liked R.E.M. and U2. [Hardcore]
was just the kind of music I fell into by accident—I never really had
any aspirations to play music or release any CDs, it’s all happened really
naturally which is pretty cool.”
Going the solo troubadour route beginning in 2000, Senne was starting from scratch
(“I basically finally had to learn how to play the guitar and actually
sing at the same time,” admits Senne laughingly), slowly relearning how
to be a musician of a far different stripe than his previous screaming rock
“The challenge of playing acoustically is really scary,” claims
Senne. “You can’t hide behind the volume—it’s much scarier
for me to play an acoustic show in front of three people than it would be to
play in front of 200 people with a full band. That has been the hardest thing:
just getting over my nerves about playing this type of music in front of people.”
After gigging around town gradually in the new millennium, Senne released a
promising homespun collection of demos in 2003 consisting solely of hushed vocals,
ambient keyboard squiggles and deftly overdubbed acoustic guitars, but quickly
realized the limits of home recording his new folk-pop direction. Senne became
convinced he needed to seek out a bona fide producer and legitimate studio for
his next work—there was only one man on his wish list, noted local rock
icon Ed Ackerson (head of Susstones records, front man for Polara and the man
behind the boards at Flowers Studios in Uptown).
“A couple of years ago I got heavily into [Wilco’s 2002 album] Yankee
Hotel Foxtrot and became really interested in the idea of trying to add
synthesizers and electronic elements to really basic song structures. Then I
realized Ed’s own music with Polara is also so much like that. He’s
got these great pop songs but there’s also these British elements and
’80s elements and electronic elements incorporated into them. I really
wanted to try giving my songs that kind of treatment.”
down in Flowers Studios with Ackerson—a complete stranger with an intimidating
resume—at first proved daunting for Senne. “I was really nervous
when I started working with Ed and just intimidated by how big a figure he is
in the Minneapolis music scene and how much of a part of the history he is here,”
admits Senne. “But he was so great to work with I got over that pretty
quickly. I trusted him completely with the production and he just sort of knew
exactly what the songs needed.”
More than just a producer, Ackerson’s fingerprints are all over this fine
piece of pop, contributing piano and bass in addition to twiddling the recording
knobs. Local all-star drummer Pete Anderson (Mark Mallman, the Ocean Blue and
too many other groups to mention) mans the skins, and the overall result is
a slice of slick pop that at times continues in the elegiac downbeat tones of
its home-recorded predecessor (acoustic ballad “Without Warning”)
and at others bops along with new found rock ’n’ roll swagger (the
bluesy stomp of “Don’t Do Me Harm”). All of the arrangements
are impeccable, and Senne’s high-pitched gentle voice fits the material
like a glove.
“I always had two different kinds of attitudes with the types of songs
that I wrote, but I never really felt that they could mesh together,”
explains Senne when discussing File in Rhythm’s precarious balance
between wounded introspection and bristling attitude. “I was kind of afraid
before to try and do that because I was worried it wouldn’t sound cohesive.
I’ve slowly realized that even when I feel like I’m going really
far out there and into a different space it sounds a lot less drastic to the
listener than it does to me. When I began making this record I decided I wasn’t
going to worry about it and just put all the songs on there that I liked, regardless
of if they weren’t the same style.”
It’s a good call on Senne’s part, resulting in a record that has
moments capable of pleasing both fans of Jeff Hanson (the piquant acoustic guitar
and piano jaunt “Junior High Smiles”) and Ackerson’s Polara—the
anglo-jangle of “Superhero Song” would have fit quite nicely on
the band’s recently released Green Shoes EP.
the album unleashed on the public in June and already turning heads at a quick
rate—high-profile national indie labels have expressed some interest and
the song “Parallels” was recently selected for National Public Radio’s
“Open Mic” program—Senne is eager to strike while the iron
is hot. For now that means local gigs as an acoustic duo with lead guitarist/backing
vocalist Brian Just, but don’t be surprised if some full band gigs crop
up shortly afterwards. Senne’s screaming days may be behind him, but it
looks as though he’s quickly found the knack for grabbing listener’s
lobes with fewer decibels.
“I would just show up and do my thing when I was in the hardcore and punk
scene,” admits Senne, “but now I’m realizing how interesting
it is to think about how songs are put together and really tackle the recording
aspect of making music. It’s a whole different ballgame that I’m
into now. I’m putting a lot more energy into music now than I ever have
before, because I’m just so excited about the album and the direction
everything is headed. It’s worked out with the timing of everything else
in my life great as well, I just want to get out there and play. I feel like
it’s finally all coming together.” ||
Beight performs on Sun. Aug. 7 at the 331 Club with three other acoustic
acts TBA. 9:30 p.m. Free. 21+. 331 13th Ave. NE, Mpls. 612-623-3803.
For further information on Beight check out his my space
account at MySpace.com/Beight.
on over to our mp3 page to download hundreds of tunes, including Beight's song, "Parallels.
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