Beecake and 'Soul Swimming' / Blue Gillespie and 'Synesthesia'
Beecake and Soul Swimming
Beecake is Boyd (vocals, guitar), John Crawford (drums, vocals), Billy Johnston (guitar, piano, vocals), and Rick Martin (bass, vocals). The band was formed in 2006 and released an EP in 2007, but these musicians have played in other bands individually and together for years. Their name reportedly comes from Boyd’s Lord of the Rings friend Dominic Monaghan, who sent Boyd a photo of a cake covered in bees—a bee cake. The band liked the name (and needed a change from the original “Angel’s Share”), so Beecake was born.
One of Soul Swimming’s selling points is its variety and timeliness, even for a band that often sounds retro with its uplifting beat and layered harmonies. Earlier versions of the CD’s tracks, made available as downloads via Beecake’s MySpace site and website, have evolved into a dynamic, professional sound. Among the 10 songs are “relationship” tunes about love lost (such as “Friends and Lovers”) and long looks back (“Boy”, “Lost Direction”). More important, though, are songs that, if not revolutionary anthems, at least reflect the modern frustration of living in a world edging toward self-destruction. “Rip It Up”, for example, looks at newspaper headlines about gun control and unrest in Africa. The mark of a real band is its voice—not just its musicality or quality of vocals but the importance of its lyrics. Beecake’s lyrics and range of styles increase the CD’s sophistication and relevance to the world-worried audiences of 2010.
Blue Gillespie and Synesthesia
On Cardiff radio in June, Gareth David-Lloyd explained that “synesthesia” refers to “senses that make up for other senses”, what the band conceives as “a wall of sounds that attacks all the senses”. The CD’s themes “are about delusions”. Although the album is dark, as befitting the band’s alter-ego, Gilllespie, there are also a few smiles and tongue-in-cheek moments. According to the band’s website, Gillespie is the “angry voice inside, spitting and cursing at a world which never seems to offer a foothold as leverage to enlightenment.” Believing everyone is angry or frustrated about something, the band uses music to exorcise their own demons, and they hope their audience will find a similar release. The ideal result? With music as an emotional outlet, everyone will be able to deal in socially appropriate ways with life’s frustrations.
Band members David-Lloyd (vocals), Rhys Bryant (bass), Anthony Clark (lead guitar), and Nick Harrison (drummer) have been together since 2007, with two EPs (Cave Country, Parts 1 and 2) to their credit. Synesthesia peels layers of emotion, song by song, to create a multisensory musical experience, and each track offers something different. The CD’s 12 songs include “Sugarglass”’ driving, harder-edged desire to relive the past; the self-discovery of “Making Sound”; a haunting lost love in “Black Waltz”; and the emotionally raw “Skinned”. “Paradox” and “Time Knot” will be featured in the independent film, Casimir Effect, out next year, and Clark is writing incidental music and helping mix the film’s soundtrack. Clearly these musicians are serious about their sound, and their musical self-expression provides a unique voice to the rock scene.
In Blue Gillespie’s online description at the Green Man Festival site, they express gratitude to their existing fanbase as well as eagerness for new audiences to discover their music. They admit they were “blown away by the response to the first EP” and believe fan support “has focused and disciplined us.” On the other hand, they also emphasize that they are not the dreaded “actor’s band”: “We are a band and have our own identity. We are not TV stars here. We are musicians.”
The “Actor’s Band” Reconsidered
So, what should be the demarcation points between an “actor’s band” and an intriguing new band worth an evening at the pub or the price of a CD? Variety is one—a CD’s tracks should present a common theme or seem like they musically belong together—but they also should be easily distinguished from each other. The overused “relevance” is another point. A band should say something important or interesting—its lyrics shouldn’t be banal or repetitive platitudes. Blue Gillespie and Beecake both score well on these points. Their music presents their respective perspectives as global citizens and musicians. On their CDs they don’t cover other artists’ music or mimic other bands, even though they reflect the musicians and styles that most influenced their work.
Both bands’ cover art reflects their artistic sensibilities through abstract graphics, not glossy “actor” photos. Blue Gillespie’s blue background requires a second look to reveal “Gillespie” hidden within the swirling lines. His eye looks out unblinkingly, just as the band is unapologetic and unwavering in their musical perspective. Beecake’s cover is a bit busier, a crayon drawing of abstractions against a starry sky. Beecake tells stories about life and loss and the fear that our world may be closer to the edge than we want to believe. Like the cover art, their happier rock sound belies a deeper complexity of theme.
A band should be comprised of equals, not an actor and supporting players. Blue Gillespie’s home page and Beecake’s MySpace and Facebook sites each provide a black-and-white photograph of the foursome facing the camera as a united, equal front.
Bands that happen to include an actor/musician need to follow Beecake’s and Blue Gillespie’s example in self-promotion and marketing. While they may build on fan followings originating from one member’s film or TV fame, they can’t survive musically on borrowed glory—nor do they want to. They have made the most of press and fan interest to get a foothold in UK music, but they still have a long climb. Their original compositions and cover art, willingness to play smaller gigs around the UK to gain a wider audience, and dedication to their music prove that these bands just don’t act like musicians—they’re the real deal.