A Fiendish Conversation with Beat Connection's Reed Juenger
Since debuting in 2010, Beat Connection has radiated a sophisticated chic. The band's fashionable aesthetic may seem like a bit of an outlier in Seattle (where the scruffy beards and flannel stereotype is still pretty apt), but it perfectly mirrored its sleek groove-filled eclectropop tunes. For much of the past year, the group has been hard at work preparing for the release of its third record Product 3, which amusingly confronts the notion of creating art for mass consumption. While the album technically doesn't come out until October 23 on Anti-, Seattle fans have a chance to get their hands on it early when Beat Connection plays a Product 3 release show at the Neptune Theatre this Saturday (Sept 19). Expect a dance floor packed with swooning college kids and scenesters as the band delivers its latest dose of lush synth-rock.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we talked to Beat Connection founder and electronic wiz Reed Juenger about playing with the coldness of consumerism with Product 3, having the Internet as your hometown, and how Seattle's housing situation impacted the new record.
How do you feel like Beat Connection has evolved while making Product 3?
There have been a lot of changes. The last couple years, we’ve been really working in earnest on a project that we had a vision for and felt really strongly about. But there’s also been a lot more sort of self-conscious understanding about the intersection between consumer culture and art, which is a lot of what informs the trajectory of the record and its art direction, which also kind of cycles back into the music. We look at everything as sort of a holistic art, and try to think about things in a conscious manner. Okay, if we have the artwork looking like this does this match the music and vice versa.
One of the things that struck me was that contrast between that exterior consumer coldness and the warmth found in certain points of the actual music. So I assume the idea behind naming it Product 3 was an intentional reference to that consumerist idea?
Yeah, definitely. In this interterm that we’ve been gone for—where we’ve maybe appeared sort of silent publicly—we were taking a lot of meetings and coming to a lot of realizations about things.
This thing that we work on, that we take so seriously, that we consider art… to a lot of people it’s just a product. It’s another record that gets released in the cycle. People might work on it that literally could give a shit about it, and we had to really internalize that a little bit and spit that back out as art. If we have people telling us, “You guys need to engage with your users on Instagram!” and shit like that, it’s like, okay, well how do we do it artfully? How do we make it a part of the art? If we have to play this game to do this seriously with our lives, how do we play it on our own terms?
[For this record’s photos], we made a fake party scene with a bunch of mannequins. The record’s called Product 3, and it’s unclear what the product is. Is it us? Is it our social media? Is it the music? It all gets sort of convoluted, and it gets especially convoluted when there’re certain structures in place that focus so much attention based on the things that are not the music anymore. I remember there used to be a lot of mystery [around a new album]. I imagine it was even more profound earlier. You had to wait on the 30-day press cycle or something like that, and now it’s all instantaneous. There’s instant access to every artist all the time. And we were sort of rejecting that a little bit.
I do kind of miss the mystery of going to the record store on the day an album came out, buying it, and listening without there already being tons of pre-coverage, and reviews, and instant reaction tweets about it.
I feel like surprise release is the only way to keep any mystery now. Which is sort of cool in its own way, I kind of love that shit. But yeah, it used to be so wonderful that you would be excited about something and have no idea what it was going to sound like. You’d crack it open for the first time, and not really know oh, what does this musician do everyday? I see the huge major label acts and its like oh my God, they are just accessible at all moments to their audience. And it’s kind of crazy.
What are your personal favorite sonic aspects about Product 3?
It’s kind of two-fold. I’m most proud of the moments of really, really direct sonic qualities—very simple with very few instruments translating an idea—and also the moments of insane density that we achieved. We all spent a lot of time working on this, and I think that there is a replay value for anyone who listens to it. There are going to be things you missed the first time around, and that was really important to us. But there are also moments that are super direct and super obvious, and those are deceptively difficult to achieve. To have the confidence to think no, we just need to have drums, one instrument, and the vocals at this moment.
How do you feel like Seattle has influenced your music?
I feel like we’re from the Internet more than we’re from Seattle in a lot of ways. We listen to so much different music, all of us have different musical backgrounds, different interests, and it all sort of comes together in this narrow meeting ground that’s a super important aesthetic space for us.
Seattle definitely has impacted us, but maybe not necessarily the music. I mean, it’s pretty difficult to draw the line from Nirvana to us or something like that. But there’s a very specific atmosphere to Seattle, and its also changing really rapidly. The whole conversation about gentrification and condos going up, rents increasing, and everything changing really dramatically is influential on us in a strange way. It’s a really conflicted sort of notion. I think happened with this record is us trying to soundtrack that change of like holy shit the industrial condos. “I couldn’t afford that place beforehand, and I can’t afford it now” is pretty much the mentality that we have. It’s a sort of self-conscious acceptance that we might be like writing songs for commercials for products that we can’t even afford.
What are you looking forward to regarding Product 3’s release show at the Neptune?
This is going to be the craziest production we’ve ever had. We’re working with light production visuals. We have stage lighting that we’re working on that all syncs to the music. We got our front house and monitors guy coming up. We have some like really special video content we’re working on. We’ve got new merch to roll out, and special versions of the record and stuff like that to deliver to the audience. So it’s a lot of stuff even outside of the music. But we’re going to play the whole record as well as stuff from our last two. It’s a pretty big undertaking for us, this is like a big performative step… hopefully we’re not going to stumble up the stairs.
Beat Connection: Product 3 Release Show
Sept 19 at 9, Neptune Theatre, $19