Austin, TX’s HeadShy is comprised of Reese Beeman and James Adkisson, former members of the seminal Southwest psych outfit 7% Solutionn, drummer Wayne Duncan and Lisa Lipkin, a bewitching singer-songwriter born to a jazz musician father and opera singer mother and who has worked alongside such prominent industry heavyweights as former Robert Plant guitarist Robbie Blunt, onetime Talk Talk bassist Simon Edwards and Manny Elias, who played drums on Tears for Fears’ introductory 1983 masterpiece The Hurting.
And what this uncanny combination have created with their La Belle Epoque is nothing short of breathtaking in its luminous fusion of ENO-esque atmosphere, the 4AD label at its loveliest, Wild Bunch-style groove theory and the hefty depth of Boatman’s Call-era Nick Cave.
But to consider La Belle Epoque a proper long player is to miss the point of its creation entirely. Similar to what The Beta Band did in the late 90s, this recording is actually constructed from three separate EPs titled in concert with Giuseppe Baldini’s perfume/sound theory, each of which brandishing its own specific style and substance. Head Chord has an acoustic quality, heart chord has a trip hop feel, and the base chord is a bigger and more complex offering.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Beeman to discuss the triple EP, which sees release January 14 via the Medicina label. This is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for La Belle Epoque?
Some of the songs date back to as early as 2005. There were many life interruptions. Lisa and I moved to Nevada for a few years to take care of her ailing father after her mother died and then her brother Gregg passed away from leukemia. So when we got back to Austin we had a lot of hard life experiences to express through our music. We had a second round of writing in 2012.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
All of the songs were difficult really. Both Lisa and I spend a lot of time on lyrics. The music comes much easier. We went through many iterations of the songs – each time getting closer to the final product. We were perfecting our recording techniques along with the songs as we went (including adding a UAD2 quad effects card to our computer and renting a pair of Neumann U87s). “Faith” probably had the most versions with key and tempo changes. I played drums on the initial recordings because we couldn’t find anyone that could execute, stylistically, what we needed . Our friend Stephen Ceresia at Sunday House studio suggested having Wayne Duncan play drums and that made all the difference in the world. He really sent the songs over the top. Note to bands: If your music isn’t pulling together and you just can’t figure out why – look to the drums.
Which of the songs on each of the EPs is most different from your original concept for the song?
“The Nothing Game” was an older 7% Solution song that went through several versions before ending up in its present state on the album. Only the vocal and piano line are the same as the original. It just never satisfied us until Lisa wrote a bridge for it and I added the acoustic guitar line.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Ikey Owens of Mars Volta and Free Moral Agents played organ at the end of “Coma”. Ikey is working on a remix of “Coma” with Free Moral Agents that will be out shortly. Our good friend Connie Hill also helped us fill out the backing vocals on “Requiem for the Living”.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Lisa and I produced the recordings. The entire album was recorded in our living room on a PC running Nuendo. I was responsible for most of the engineering and mixing. Lisa would listen to the recordings and try to figure out what was missing and what could make it a little better. Then we would run it all by James and get his ideas. We also got a lot of input from other friends and musicians that we respect. It was really a combined effort.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
We decided on a triple EP set because some of the music had more of acoustic feel, some had more of trip hop feel and others were bigger and more complex. We were big fans of the book and movie version of “Perfume – The Story of a Murderer”. I came up with the concept of basing the EPs on the construction of an actual perfume as described in the movie. Perfume is made of head, heart, and base chords. Each chord contains 4 notes. In the movie there is an extra note “one final essence that will ring out and dominate the others” which is the reason for the fifth song on the last EP. Thus came the titles for the EPs The Head Chord, The Heart Chord, and the Base Chord.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We have done very few performances thus far, preferring to wait until the album release, so the verdict is still out on that one. From past experience, I can guarantee it won’t be the one that we think! We will be performing at the Scottish Rite Theater in Austin on January 18.