Beat Connection first turned our heads in 2011 with their brilliantly titled EP Surf Noir - eight tracks of ethereal electronic pop with a hedonistic twist. The delightfully young duo Jordan Koplowitz and Reed Juenger had great music with big heart that had us dancing round the office like sketchy ravers in Ibiza.
Now back with their first full length album The Palace Garden, Seattle's beat makers are a little older, a little wiser and now joined by vocalist Tom Eddy and drummer Jarred Katz. Currently on tour in the US, the four piece are ready to hit Europe late Summer. The 405 caught up with them to talk new album, touring and of course, parties...
Congrats on the new album guys. It's your first full-length release – how was writing and recording The Palace Garden different to your EP Surf Noir?
Reed: Well not to say we know what we are doing now, but we definitely did not when we made Surf Noir. Both of these records are the sounds of friends exploring music together, but with the album we had a very clear vision of how we wanted to express an implicit narrative and how that would guide the writing process to create a varied though aesthetically unified album.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio preferences – are you all out digital in the studio or do old favourite bits of analogue kit creep in?
Reed: We recorded this entire album on our own in our basement. Out of necessity this meant it was all digital, it's a steep learning curve but we learned how to mic a drum kit and we acoustically treated our basement with sound-proofing lifted from an abandoned college radio station. It was good fun though, we got to spend as much time as we needed on this album once we had everything set up and it was nice to be able to just go down stairs to this place we built for ourselves. We have always been really interested in analogue equipment and this recording process definitely heightened that but at the moment most of the stuff we are interested in a bit out of our hands.
You're a four piece now – with that in mind how are you translating the new album to a live show?
Jordan: Our live set up has changed significantly even since we became a three piece. Reed and I used to be stuck behind tables constantly with pretty rudimentary electronic instruments but now I've transitioned to a single keyboard, a guitar, and a drum machine which allows me to interact more on stage. Reed's set up has gotten more live-oriented with the use of Ableton and more keyboard.
Jarred: The new set up involves a lot more emphasis on percussive elements. With two guitars instead one, there is more rhythmic interplay to explore and with live drums and a multitude of various shakers, cowbells, and other Latin instruments, we are able to create a more danceable and interactive show. When Tom starts playing the agogo bells, the crowd gets really in to it.
And how are you enjoying being a four piece? I mean tennis and foosball must be better these days?
Jordan: Being a four piece kicks ass. Not to say I didn't also enjoy being a two piece, but more personalities and different energies help keep people peaceful and happy. It's also allowed us to have a more compelling live show and even entertain keep us continually entertained on stage. And pick up basketball games can now exist, although we are still very uncoordinated.
Do you have any favourite moments on the new album?
Tom: The moments that stick out on the album are some of transitions between songs and the little connecting tunes that tie everything together. 'Trap House', is a good example. It's got an industrial sounding groove and is almost a pallet cleanser for the next section of the record - like a funky piece of pickled ginger.
What's been your best and worst stories from your 2012 tour so far?
Jarred: Best - That is a tough one. So many rad stories to sift through. It is kind of a toss up between the 5 am drunk pool party we had in Baton Rouge, Shaq tweeting us back in Raleigh saying that he would come to our show (he did not), or selling out the Knitting Factory in New York. Those were some good nights.
Worst - Probably our show in Milwaukee. No disrespect to the great Wisconsin city, but there was about 10 people there and we played really late. I think at that moment we were all ready to go back home.
Are you looking forward to hitting Europe again?
Tom: I wasn't there for the last tour, but I can say that since I am significantly more cultured than the other guys, they are looking forward to my historical insights and knowledge regarding European art and cuisine. I just hope their feeble minds can grasp at least the key concepts. Some people just don't get it, you know?
Are there any UK bands and acts that interest you and influenced you at all?
Reed: Definitely, it might not shine through in our music very much but I am very influenced by artists like Zomby, Disclosure and Mount Kimbie. We had Mmoths out for a couple of dates on the US tour that we are just wrapping up and not only was he a super cool guy but his music is just so beautiful.
Jordan: On the production side of things I find my self very inspired by how Radiohead, Burial and Hot Chip mix their albums. Obviously these bands mostly favour a more minimal aesthetic than us - - I expect our future mixes to be more along those lines.
How did you like your tour here last year? Did you get introduced to the late night clubbing / kebab or fried chicken / nightmare night bus culture?
Reed: All of the above haha, it was great though, everyone was really nice and responsive to our music. The ketchup at those kebab spots though…Damn. I definitely remember drinking cheap rosé in the front seat of a cab at 5 in the morning and thinking to myself; "this does not happen in America."
Jordan: It was pretty amazing to me how many kebab/fried chicken shops there are in England. In certain parts of London it was like every 4th shop was one of those and they were all exactly the same. Diversity would have been nice.
The Palace Garden 4am sounds like the best party ever. If you could throw the ultimate party where would it be and who would you ask to play? Would you have a theme or dress code?
Jordan: It would likely be in some palace courtyard in an elegant tropical city like Monaco. We would have fire breathers, burlesque dancers, exotic animals (ie: tigers and elephants) and of course plenty of drinks for all. We would get Michael Jackson to resurrect himself and LCD Soundsystem and Air France to get back together just for this performance. There would also be hot air balloons and caricature artists (ironically). Dress code would be whatever attendees wanted to wear, but I imagine many people would be wearing the coolest blazers you've ever seen.
Jarred: I'm thinking somewhere off the coast of Puerto Rico and you have to take an exclusive V.I.P. boat to get there. Everyone at first thinks the show is on the boat, but it's not, and it takes an hour hike to get to a beautiful waterfall in the forest. That's where the show is….. and Yanni is playing.
Guys I hate asking about band names but I am a huge LCD Soundsystem fan – am I right in guessing you are too?
Reed: Yes you are, the name sounds a bit generic, but oh well, there is some reasoning behind it. We all love LCD and when Jordan and I started DJing we were major into DFA, we took the name because it's the B-side to a lead single that is basically about being washed up and about kids like us. LCD wore their influences on their sleeves so we thought this was a bit of a meta homage.
Do you still DJ at shows when you're not on tour? What are your go-to tracks to fill a dance floor?
Reed: Unfortunately we haven't had much time to DJ lately, between school and recording/touring this album it's been tough. It's also a bit more difficult with all four of us. We do have a few mixtapes in the pipe right now that showcase that end of Beat Connection. I guess for floor fillers I would try something like 'I'm Trying' by Octo Octa or 'Your Love' from TEED, but it's been a while so I may be horribly dated, haha.
If you could choose anyone to make a remix album of The Palace Garden who would it be?
Reed: If I had my way we would coax Air France out of retirement to put their spin on the whole album. Consider this the most humble invitation.
If you could add a fifth member to the band for absolutely any reason – any musician dead or alive – who would it be?
Jordan: Stevie Nicks to help with vocal harmonies.
Jarred: Or Herbie Hancock on keys.
We really look forward to your UK gigs. Thanks for talking to us!
The Palace Garden album is released on 6th August on Tender Age.