Simply the Beths: Why this new Auckland band is a Silver Scroll contender

by James Belfield / 30 August, 2018
The Beths: Ivan Luketina-Johnston, Benjamin Sinclair, Elizabeth Stokes, Jonathan Pearce.

The Beths: Ivan Luketina-Johnston, Benjamin Sinclair, Elizabeth Stokes, Jonathan Pearce.

RelatedArticlesModule - The Beths Future Me Hates Me

The title track of The Beths' debut album Future Me Hates Me is an APRA Silver Scroll Award finalist. It’s but one great track on a cracking power-pop album.

Just occasionally, the crafted informality of Kiwi artistic humour manages to strike a nerve overseas.

It earned Flight of the Conchords a cult following and put Taika Waititi on a 10-year trajectory from directing Eagle vs Shark (budget: $1.8 million) to Thor: Ragnarok (budget: $270 million).

And for the Beths, an indie four-piece out of Auckland, the same adept lightness of touch has seen them make waves on their first European and US tours, and justified Rolling Stone naming their track Happy Unhappy the Northern Hemisphere’s “song of the summer”.

Six weeks on from their Los Angeles show, after which praise for their super-catchy brand of guitar pop-rock was plastered all over US music websites, they’ve released their debut album Future Me Hates Me. It proves beyond doubt that they are far more than a one-summery-hit wonder.

The band members met while studying jazz at the University of Auckland, and although guitarist Jonathan Pearce says jazz provided a “very clear idea of what we didn’t want to do”, lead singer Elizabeth Stokes admits that it gave them a clear way to communicate the type of music they wanted to create.

“Part of it is that we’re all on second instruments,” she says. “I studied trumpet but play guitar, Jonathan studied piano, and our bassist Ben [Sinclair] studied saxophone. I think that when you’re writing with something you’re not fluent in, it feels more physical and intuitive. I wasn’t writing with my brain but with my hands and that gave it more of a punk ethos, which I like – and that’s coming from exactly the other end of the spectrum to the musical education that we have.”

The chemistry of two high-tempo distorted guitars; honey-sweet melodies; frenetic, punkish drumming and Stokes’ honest, upfront vocals makes for 10 hook-and-harmony-filled tracks, almost all of which could demand radio play.

Uptown Girl opens unashamedly with a bouncing rhythm and a couple of lines of “oh-oh-oh-oh-ooohs” before breaking into a pogo-worthy singalong chorus of “I will go out tonight, I’m going to drink the whole town dry.” The title track, which has been shortlisted for the 2018 APRA Silver Scroll Award, has a groovy Britpop Garbage-esque swagger; Whatever (the sole survivor from 2016’s Warm Blood EP) is vintage heartbreak pop set against a grungy millennial refrain of indifference, and the glorious Happy Unhappy revels in the kind of sun-drenched teenage lovesickness no one should truly grow out of.

But it’s the crafted consistency – that constant search to put into music exactly the sort of honest, Kiwi humour that is so difficult to explain  yet so easy to spot – that makes Future Me Hates Me an instant classic and the videos to Happy Unhappy and Whatever so recognisably Kiwi.

“Definitely what’s important to our group is that sense of humour, and we have a really good idea of what it means to us because we are such good and old friends,” Pearce says.

The other Silver Scroll nominees are Marlon Williams (Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore); Chelsea Jade (Laugh If Off); Troy Kingi (Aztecknowledgey), Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Hunnybee). The awards will be presented at Spark Arena on October 4.

The Beths play The Others Way festival on Auckland’s Karangahape Rd on August 31.

FUTURE ME HATES ME, The Beths (Carpark Records)

★★★★1/2

This article was first published in the September 1, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

The new robotic surgery aiding vaginal mesh removal
108377 2019-07-19 00:00:00Z Health

The new robotic surgery aiding vaginal mesh remova…

by Ruth Nichol

Women with complications caused by deeply embedded vaginal mesh are being helped by a pioneering surgical technique.

Read more
A beautiful mind: What people with Alzheimer's can teach us
108544 2019-07-19 00:00:00Z Health

A beautiful mind: What people with Alzheimer's can…

by Fergus Riley

North Auckland farmer Fergus Riley has uncovered many important lessons in caring for his father Peter, who has Alzheimer’s.

Read more
Instagram's trial to hide the number of 'likes' could save users' self-esteem
108617 2019-07-19 00:00:00Z Psychology

Instagram's trial to hide the number of 'likes' co…

by Joanne Orlando

Instagram is running a social media experiment to see what happens when it hides the number of likes on photos and other posts.

Read more
The Hawke's Bay farm producing meat of uncommon quality
108594 2019-07-19 00:00:00Z Food

The Hawke's Bay farm producing meat of uncommon qu…

by Simon Farrell-Green

Duncan Smith and Annabel Tapley-Smith weren’t satisfied with producing meat of uncommon quality. So they bought a butchery.

Read more
When biodegradable plastic is not actually biodegradable
108562 2019-07-19 00:00:00Z Planet

When biodegradable plastic is not actually biodegr…

by Isabel Thomlinson

A study on biodegradable plastic bags found they were still intact after three years spent either at sea or buried underground.

Read more
Brexit-torn England needs the Cricket World Cup more than we do
108521 2019-07-18 10:26:20Z World

Brexit-torn England needs the Cricket World Cup mo…

by The Listener

Amid the agony of defeat, we must remember that the UK is in such terrible shape politically that it deserves to cherish this flickering flame of...

Read more
Trades Hall bombing case re-opened, evidence released
108515 2019-07-18 00:00:00Z Crime

Trades Hall bombing case re-opened, evidence relea…

by RNZ

Caretaker and unionist Ernie Abbott was killed almost instantly when he picked up the suitcase containing the bomb.

Read more
Where to celebrate the Apollo 11 moon landing
108504 2019-07-18 00:00:00Z What's on

Where to celebrate the Apollo 11 moon landing

by The Listener

On the big screen, the small screen, the page or the ceiling, here's where you can toast the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Read more