You’re sitting on a park bench, surrounded by a plethora of foliage and minding your own business, when two gorgeous women and two bearded men come trotting up to you on the backs of giant horses. Horses that compare in size to the Budweiser Clydesdales. And there is music in the background. It starts out soft, as the horses approach you from a distance, and then comes loud and strong as they get closer and you realize there is music absolutely blaring from the air around these people. That is how Beginners‘ frontwoman Samantha Barbera would like to introduce the band to the world. And – although she admits that they might not agree – we’re feeling like the rest of the band would be in full support of her antics.
Beginners released their sophomore work – an EP titled Pleaser – September 16th to critical acclaim. An impressive follow up to their 2014 self-titled debut – which garnered lots of web attention and several TV spots -, Pleaser is an indie-pop dream. In honor of its release, we had the pleasure of speaking with Barbera about the band, the music, and Pokemon Go.
How did you all get in cahoots?
Beginners originally formed as a fun writing experiment between myself and Nick Ruth (writer/producer Jr Jr, Active Child, Elliphant, etc). We used to play in the indie electronic band, Malbec, together.
After a couple of years apart, Nick and I decided to try working together again. Within the first hour of writing together again, we knew we had tapped into something special. We were super excited to be collaborating again and in this different capacity and blazed through writing the first EP.
We struggled to find a name that felt right. We originally wanted to call it Virgin Killer, but eventually decided that wasn’t it. Ha. Then one night, while sitting in gridlock traffic on the 101, I had an epiphany with the name Beginners. Even though we had played music for years, this felt like the beginning of something important for us.
Around the time of the first record release, I formed a full band with some friends of mine from the punk scene to bring the songs to life live. We wanted to bring that raw energy from our scene into the pop electronic world. Neeraj Kane of The Hope Conspiracy is the guitarist. Jason Walker who’s played drums for bands like The Queers and Gamits is on drums. And Honor Nezzo, who used to play in What’s Eating Gilbert plays all electronic elements. And everyone sings their asses off which I love.
How do you imagine people listening to the tracks off your upcoming work, Pleaser?
I hope they listen to the full record and love it all the way through! I also hope people come across the videos we’re making for the record. We’re very DIY so our videos are super hands on creative projects for us. It’s really gratifying watching the songs come to life visually.
“Gangsters or Lovers” is a pretty fun song, which begs a very interesting question. Where did the inspiration come from for this track?
The original demo of ‘Gangsters or Lovers’ was just me and Neeraj writing on my verbed out ’73 Fender Mustang guitar, channeling the vibe of old Billy Bragg records. At the time we had no idea it would end up becoming the electronic dance jam that it did! Ha.
I wrote the song about a weird purgatory I was in with my ex-boyfriend at the time. We had split up but were still talking all of the time and behaving very much like the flirty supportive couple we once were. Except we wouldn’t see each other in person. It was confusing and heart-wrenching.
“Gangsters or Lovers” is about breaking up and the jarring transition from complete vulnerability to complete callousness.
“I Fucking Hate You” is SO good. And so fierce. Any fun anecdotes from that recording process?
“I Fucking Hate You” was interesting because I ALWAYS start songs with melody first and lyric later. But for this it was the other way around. A week previously, I had recorded this super weird, a capella, almost show-tune version of the song into my iPhone when I was sitting in a parking garage, brooding over my ex.
Your video for “Who Knows” is fucking amazing. What did you love most about that video?
Thank you! My favorite part of that video was getting to meet and work with Jeffrey Young, the roller skater in the video. He was the coolest. He’s 60 years old and we were literally chasing him through mobs of people in downtown LA trying to keep up with him! Also, he used to be a roller skating stripper in Germany! How fucking awesome is that!
What do you think is under appreciated in the world? Rant about it!
The TV show Shark Tank! It’s Neeraj and I’s favorite show of all time! We both desperately want to be inventors and we have brainstorming sessions almost every week trying to figure out what problem we can solve with a simple invention and make us billionaires!
Mark Cuban is our favorite so if you guys have any contacts hook us up!
What are your thoughts on Pokemon Go?
Blowing my mind right now! I haven’t used it myself, but our drummer Jason pokemon’d me at our rehearsal space the other night and showed me some huge monster that was chilling on my bass amp. I was like this dude’s been here this whole time?!?! Haha. Props to the creators. They must be filthy rich now. Ha.
What’s up next for BEGINNERS?
This year is gonna be playing lots of shows and hopefully finally gettingBeginners over to Europe, which we’re working on now! We’re also about to shoot a couple more crazy videos that we’ll be releasing. That and writing. Always writing.
Keep up with Beginners on their Facebook page.