“We were going to call it afri-cola after a German drink that sounds nice”

Photography by Holly Lucas

With three drummers out of four, it’s BEATY Heart for a reason

Bands sound like they look. A bit like dogs having similar chops to their owners, it’s an unexplained phenomenon but it actually works – none more so than Beaty Heart as watching the four friends bounding through the streets of Soho is tantamount to a collage of sound, all calypso beats and crazy tribal trousers. “It’s a bit lazy to say tribal in relation to our sound but it’s a word that keeps cropping up,” says Tom, one of the three drummers in the band, although with that many people banging away it’s easy to see why the word ‘tribal’ yields easy association. The tight-knit group all seem to belong in the same gang too, “the three of us kind of bonded over drumming, we were all drummers in a few bands before so it’s us and a semi guitarist,” says James pointing at Josh.

“Yeah, more like a third of a guitarist,” laughs Josh.

So their clothes and sound conjure up an African sensibility but have any of them actually been to the continent? “I lived in South Africa for almost 5 years,” says Josh. “I went travelling around mostly the southern part, well only the southern part. So, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana; these trousers are from Mozambique.” He points out his gaudy slacks with considerable pride. “I went back over Christmas and loved it, there’s a definite buzz about the place; lots of people are worrying about the World Cup though.”

A competition that brings the world together in an entertaining mess, it’s got to be a pleasurable thing for Beaty Heart. “We could watch it in 3D and stock up on those glasses,” says Charlie, his towering frame coupling up nicely with plenty of charisma. “I like that Soccer City place in Johannesburg too, it looks like a giant spaceship”.

It’s an unhinged point of view that’s part and parcel of the band, and it slides in well with a sound somewhat detached from reality. Its not just tribal beats that thud through each track – ghostly samples and uplifting melodies pepper the music as well. “We are into Caribbean rhythms too and they add to the samples we use, there is much more than one part and the live drums just add something, it’d be boring with just samples.”

Boring they aint. Blessed with an innate, contagious sense of fun, they all have artistic tendencies that spill into more than just music. Camberwell Crypt inspired the band to curate a night called Cola. “The Crypt’s been used for jazz for years so its kind of new for the people of Camberwell to do this,” explains Charlie. “They go passed the church but don’t realise there’s this underground world, it’s lovely.” But why Cola? “I’m quite into my fonts and type,” he continues “and Cola just really stood out. Doing the flyer was fun and we all thought it was great for the night.”

“A bit vaginal” adds Tom, and if you’ve seen the artwork then maybe you’ll know why.

So are the band obsessed with an all singing and dancing American institution like Cola? Their first track up on Myspace was named the same thing. “Nah,” they say. “We were going to call it afri-cola after a German drink that sounds nice. We think as a word its aesthetically pleasing but also got a good ring to it. It’s a fruity track”.

Awash with visual influences involving mostly fruit; the guys are also inspired by unlikely musical sources. All four have similar taste and admire such bands as Gang Gang Dance and Brooklyn based New Yoga, but it’s the older records in their collection where the interest lies. “I listen to a lot of gospel,” says Tom. “I kind of like the idea behind it and I’d like to bring that across into our music.”

“The togetherness,” adds Charlie by way of explanation.

This isn’t perhaps as surprising as it sounds, a Beaty Heart gig can be a spiritual moment. “Yeah, perhaps, that kind of music was born out of recession and that’s what we’ve just been going through,” reasons Josh.

Tom: “It’s more how a lot of the early gospel from the first half of the century sounds really twisted and alien.”

Their ability to bond a crowd through balls to the wall fun is a poorly kept secret. Having played some much talked about gigs around Goldsmiths (where they all reside during daylight), and some wild house parties South East London way, a bigger stage awaits. “We played at a house party in New Cross where we gave our drums out to the crowd, handed them all to everyone and they played them for about half an hour,” laughs Josh. “Until the police turned up.”

By Ian Roebuck


Originally published in issue 16 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2010

« Previous Interview
Next Interview »