POP? The Beatings have likened their songs to Mark E. Smith of the Fall writing with the Jonas Brothers.
The Beatings got back from their eighth US tour the day before, but they’re already reconvening over at frontman Eldridge Rodriguez’s misplaced little two-story beach house in Lower Allston. I do a double take on the way through the cute picket fence.
Bassist Erin Dalbec and new guitarist Greg Lyon are over to relax post-tour before getting back to their day jobs. (Drummer Dennis Grabowsky and guitarist/vocalist Tony Skalicky complete the line-up.) Rodriguez, whose real name is Cameron Keiber (he started using the stage name when he lived in LA doing solo acoustic shows over beds of four-track noise), has whittled away the day lounging with his eight-month-old daughter, Theodora, in this quiet little house with boxes of CDs stacked in living-room corners. Yeah, it’s Beatings HQ all right.
“When I get home, my wife tells me to put everything I have in the hot wash immediately,” he says, balancing the eagle-eyed tot on his knee. “But this tour was great. The only bad night was in Delaware, which was absolutely abysmal. No one was there. The sound guy said, ‘You guys are great. I loved your set. Never come back to this place. It’s a horrible club.’ ”
Meanwhile, they’ve finished their third album, Late Season Kids (on their own Midriff Records), which they’re celebrating this Saturday at Great Scott. It’s been a three-year break since the previous record, making room for marriages, master’s degrees, mortgages, and babies. Things have definitely changed.
Well, not everything. The Beatings, who first got together in 1999, have always been an anomaly in Boston — not quite pop, not really punk, and a little too thorny for many indie-rock drones. The press shorthand typically defaults to unhelpful Pixies comparisons — there are moody, howling vocals and a female bass player, after all. The Beatings have pop bones under the squelched noise, but it’s more cooperative than Black Francis’s mood-swing MO.
On top of that, they’re not exactly steeped in the scene, never playing out too much, never going through the Rumble, etc. Rodriguez even remembers the day he walked into Newbury Comics and the place card behind their CDs wasn’t the solid-red “local” shade anymore. “I thought, ‘What the fuck is this? We busted our asses in this town!’ ”
He goes on, “The scene has changed a lot these last 10 years, and no matter how much attention we get, I always find people who are like, ‘The Beatings? I’ve never heard of you guys.’ It’s sort of our design.”
“We do have friends, though!” offers Dalbec. “We like the Bon Savants, we like Black Helicopter.”
“We’re friends with a lot of bands who I’m not sure would go out for a drink together,” says Rodriguez.
The same goes for Beatings songs. “When I’d write,” Rodriguez continues, “I would realize at some point that I had written a really good pop song, and it would scare me. I’d think that too many people are going to like it, and I should put five layers of noise on it and a bridge that makes no sense. This time around, I just decided to let them be pop songs.”