Reviews

Business Casual

Author: Chris Acosta
12/10/2004 | Synthesis.net | www.synthesis.net/music/feature.php?fid=4276 | Feature
It's a rainy mid-winter afternoon. An eight-year-old boy sits by a window quietly piecing together a puzzle. The boy's mother approaches only to explain that if he keeps forcing pieces from other puzzles into this one he will ruin the picture. Annoyed, the boy slams down his fist, jamming in another piece and calmly says, "It looks better this way." Then without giving her a chance to respond he goes back to his art. With another slam of his fist his mother is gone. This is the type of disregard that critics who claim Beep Beep won't be able to blend with Saddle Creek's roster can expect.
"We hope that we can bring [Saddle Creek] new listeners and maybe lift the spell a little," says guitarist / co-songwriter Eric Bemberger, referring to the myth of a specific Saddle Creek sound.
It is true that when this label comes up in conversation a certain picture comes to mind, referred to by Bemberger as "suburban white kids who like to cry a lot" a stereotype that definitely rings true for label pioneers Bright Eyes, led by arguably the whiniest man in music, Connor Oberst. If you've had the pleasure of hearing Beep Beep's debut album Business Casual, then it's obvious that they sound nothing like Bright Eyes; you might go so far as to say that the two bands are polar opposites. But would it be fair to say that they don't fit on the label? After all, Oberst's side project, Desaparecidos, is a far cry from Bright Eyes as well. This raises an interesting counterpoint to the "Saddle Creek sound" argument.
Singer / songwriter Chris Hughes had a lot to say about this. "If you actually listen to any of these bands ,then it's easy to see that Cursive and say, Azure Ray sound nothing alike." Hughes' point seems especially convincing considering Beep Beep's bassist Joel Petersen also plays with The Faint and Broken Spindles both Saddle Creek bands who are very unique with respect to the rest of the Saddle Creek family.
"Mike Mogis [records] about 95 percent of what is released by Saddle Creek and he has a particular way of doing things which gives a similar feel to a lot of the recordings. That's the only thing [Saddle Creek] might be guilty of," Bemberger explains, making it clear he found that to be a good thing.
Business Casual was engineered by Mike Mogis' brother A.J. and mixed by Andy Lemaster (vocalist / multi-instrumentalist of fellow Saddle Creekers of Now It's Overhead) and although both Hughes and Bemberger seem pleased with the way the record turned out, neither of them feel that recording at Presto! Studios the heart of the supposed Saddle Creek sound influenced the way their music sounds. In fact, Chris says they are considering other recording options for future releases. Why then would they opt for a label void of any similar-sounding bands if they aren't planning on taking advantage of the in-house studio?
"You can't ignore the fact that we live 10 minutes away, so any decisions that need to be made are going to be in person," explains Eric. Convenience seems to be the underlying reason why the band has chosen to work with Saddle Creek and Presto! before, but now that they are comfortable in the working relationship, they've found renewed respect for Saddle Creek's approach to music, a point that both Chris and Eric make very clear. They do hope to leave a good impression on the pre-established Saddle Creek fanbase, or at least make them understand what Beep Beep is trying to do, "which we definitely aren't making easy," says Bemberger.
The first exposure anyone outside of Nebraska will get is opening for TV on the Radio and label mates The Faint throughout November and December, two bands that have a very different style than Beep Beep.
When asked how well he feels they will assimilate into that bill, Hughes responds, "Well, we aren't going to have any light shows." But all the band members seem to agree that this should be a good audience for them. If nothing else, the thematic content shared by Beep Beep and The Faint will mesh together well. The satirical take on office culture in Business Casual is reminiscent of The Faint's most successful single, "Agenda Suicide," and should attract a similar crowd of young adults, new to the work force, filled to the collar with anticipation of mid-life angst.
Hughes goes on to explain that some of the policies at the office where he works, intended to prevent lawsuits and eliminate tension, eventually led to developing his band's name. One such rule involved respecting each others' personal space, to which Chris took to the obvious conclusion: "I decided that I would never touch anyone at work," he says. "Whenever people were congregated around the water dispenser and I was coming through I would say beep beep."
The band members seem to share Hughes' feelings on the subject which comes out in the album Bemberger wrote the lyrics to the opening track "I Am the Secretary" which he says accidentally fell into the albums' theme. Until now, songwriting has been a job shared exclusively by Hughes and Bemberger, but they hope to see Petersen and drummer Mike Sweeney step up and add to songs on the next album. All things considered, Beep Beep seems to have gotten off to a very solid start. And even if we have to slam them into a space reserved for a different piece, Beep Beep makes the puzzle that much more interesting.
Business Casual

Business Casual

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