Crushed Beaks: Slapping the curse of the horror fan in the face… 30 or 40 times.


We’re discussing the plot of little known ’70s schlock horror film Voodoo Burgers, a conversation most peculiar. “It’s an ingredient used in Eastern medicine,” someone whispers. “People have said for years it’s influenced McDonalds. You just have to look on the Internet,” says another.

OK. Voodoo Burgers doesn’t exist. Matthew Poile and Alex Morris are throwing around theories about how they got the name Crushed Beaks, and typically it involves plenty of gory chat – “Sometimes people are like, ‘What? Crushed Beats?’, and I have to say, ‘No. You know, when you step on a Pigeon’s head’.” See.

A band with a taste for the macabre, it’s not out of step to find talk turning toward movies. Real movies. Real horror movies.

“It has permeated our image very strongly, this horror thing,” says Alex. “It might be our unique selling point, but I think we need to readdress the balance a little bit. We’ve only ever been to the cinema together twice. Granted, once was to see a horror movie, but the other was to see stop frame animation, so a nice 50-50 split there. Let’s not get bogged down in this genre thing.”

Arguably Crushed Beaks did the bogging down themselves. Matthew’s washed-out rush of garage-infused guitar and Alex’s brutally precise drumming style have been fronted by a slew of gloomy images since they formed a year ago. Dario Argento inspired videos and press photos in graveyards have never been too far away either. “When we re-met at Goldsmiths (the two also went to school together in Guilford) horror was one of the things we bonded about,” says Alex. “We went to the student union together on the first night of Fresher’s week and it was horrendous, not because we were together, I must add.”

Matt studied Literature and Alex History. “And Matt does write songs, using words in English,” reasons Alex.

These songs – and particularly new single ‘Breakdown’ (a modern noise pop take on motown that starts as a waltz and snaps into a sudden rush of garage) – are why we’re here today. And the band’s live show is quickly garnering a fierce reputation too – the drums’n’guitar duo that make more noise than most bands.

Like a reanimated corpse, this horror thing has been hard to shake off, though. Crushed Beaks is clearly a project led aesthetically by black thoughts, but surely not sinister lyrics too, a view held in much of the music press until now.

“Yeah, I don’t really get why people say it’s horror inspired lyricism,” says Matthew. “I sort of see it as weird cryptic advice. It’s not gobbledegook. Strangely, I write songs and they’ll turn out to be about something that happened after they were written.” Matthew stumbles as he tries to rationalise this. “Err, I’m not a psychic or anything,” he says. “I just attach the lyrics to something that happened after they were initially conceived. It’s not the price of milk, it’s an emotional observation.”

Matt halts deep in thought, and eventually it’s Alex who picks things up, determined to slaughter this critical zombie once and for all. “With the lyrics, the way people intend things is not always how they are perceived,” he says. “Say, when John Carpenter made Halloween, looking at it now you see a pretty reactionary film to the political climate in the late ’70s. Now Carpenter’s not a reactionary type, he was just trying to make a film that looked good and was scary and he’s said as much in interviews. So if you take away the intention from the source it leaves things open to interpretation. It’s potentially dangerous, but that’s how people use culture now; the death of the author thing.”

Some welcome clarity from Alex there.

“Yeah, but I did reference horror again, didn’t I?”

Naturally, then, Crushed Beaks lyrics have been interpreted as horror inspired because they live and breathe in that environment (with a bit of stop frame animation thrown in). Until recently, Matthew and Alex’s singles, full of tuneful cadence and raw power, have been accompanied by stark but beautiful videos; both ‘Close Ups’ and ‘Grim’ have a twisted edge that has become synonymous with their output, insects included.

“Letting locusts jump around the living room was great fun,” grins Alex. “I just ended up putting them on the balcony and setting them free so they could ravish Peckham. “But the video for ‘Breakdown’ was a bit different. It’s kind of cyclical and makes reference to itself, plus he gets whacked in the face.” Alex gleefully points at Matthew.

“Yeah, I probably got slapped in the face about 30 or 40 times. At first everyone seemed scared but by the end they were queuing up.”

Released at the start of November on new label ASL Records (just after, ahem, Halloween), ‘Breakdown’ feels like a departure from Crushed Beak’s previous efforts. Free from distortion and stripped of layers, there’s less thrashing and more clarity. You can hear Matthew’s pained vocal, and Alex’s drums are brittle with a more subtle power than before.

“There is some progression, but I think the sound of each song is more to do with the production of each record,” says Matthews. “Plus, ‘Breakdown’ lends itself to a different style. Someone the other day said we’ve gone pop. We’ve always been pop as far as I’m concerned, except I produced the first single and I’m not the greatest. Also, I find it really funny weird when people say, ‘oh I prefer your old stuff’. We haven’t really started. We’ve only been around for a year! It’s like, ‘Whoaah there, give us a chance!’.” Matthew smiles to himself, glad to get that off his chest.

So no rapid changes and no sudden movements, that seems to be the bands outlook for 2013. Of course, they have recording plans, too. The band are making their next record on a boat. Their own Mary Celeste.

Order Crushed Beaks’ music from ASL Records.

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