A Beautiful Nightmare
This month is sure to be huge for Brooklyn-based indie rockers Bee and Flower. Headed up by musical maestro Dana Schechter, the gloomy quintet is already receiving rave reviews for their live performances in the likes of The New Yorker and Village Voice. This coming May will see the release of a film entirely scored by the band, the independent feature A Good Night to Die.
Set to open at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival, the film (starring Michael Rapaport, Ralph Macchio, Debbie Harry, and Ally Sheedy) tells the story of Ronnie, a hitman attempting (in 24 hours) to save the life of August, his hitman pal and protege. Directed by relative newcomer Craig Singer, the film is already receiving sufficient buzz about town. If it does the business it’s expected to, Bee and Flower might find themselves thrust into the worldwide spotlight faster than any preparation will allow.
The film features several haunting pieces led by Schechter, who added seven tracks from her band’s new release, What’s Mine Is Yours to Singer’s previous project, the award-winning Dead Dog Lie. Her participation in film is quite fascinating, and her music does what any good score should—enhancing darker moods, giving scenes the intensity and structured obscurity necessary to build and control tension seemingly effortlessly.
Film seems the perfect outlet for Schechter’s art. Her songs are deep and curling tales of strength and satisfaction, loss and regret, spun humbly around the rough-edged tunings of her extraordinary backing band. With Bee and Flower, Schechter has created a band worthy of telling tales, not only in film, but anywhere else as well, a band equally sturdy both live and on record. In fact, the band’s live performances sway only subtly from their recordings, the stand-out difference being Schechter’s charismatic stage presence putting a most precious face to the sounds, but, as with anything this one-woman dynamo attempts, only adding further spice.
Listening to What’s Mine Is Yours is like waking slowly from a nightmare—not the kind to scare you under your bed, but the really cool kind that intrigues, so that when you reach for the glass of water beside you, you wish soon to fall back into the mystery of your mind-created madness. “Twin Stars” and “Riding on Empty” are perfect examples of Bee and Flower’s delicate rippling. The songs showcase the band’s ability to create chilling music while holding back the hard, obvious punches. A softened drum flanks the intoxicating strings on these songs, and they move wearily along in agonizingly drawn out stretches.
And, it’s just this kind of agony that makes the music so chilling. Song after song after song on this album creepily taunts and twists, inviting comparison to the freakiest of musical freaksters, Goblin.
The band’s stage fave, “Wounded Walking” with a belting, medieval-sounding string arrangement pushing it along as it builds and falls in a madcap rain of stilted crescendos, is slightly different to the other tracks on the album, being that it’s one of the few songs (along with the magical “Dupe”) to rally lash out. It stomps, rather than creeps, yet still never crosses the line into any kind of industrial coughing or metal wailing.
Schechter and Co. have a definite handle on exactly what it is that can make music so unsettling—the pianos tinkle, the drums alternate between slight touches and all-out thrashes, Schechter’s vocals are so pure they’re almost liquid, and the violins, the glockenspiel and the harmonicas bash and fizzle as the lyrics dictate.
Bee and Flower’s month of May will hopefully take them from the backrooms of Brooklyn thrusting them headlong into the musical world as a rare and exciting new talent. The band, and especially Schechter, deserve as much.