Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cue & Ehh? With Beerjacket

Beerjacket - Barricade (Download)

It's hard enough to get heard in never mind to rise from Glasgow, but Peter Kelly has done both successfully. In a world full of singer/songwriters, converted buskers and melloncollie folkists it is hard to stand out from the crowd when you're a solo male guitarist, Kelly has also conquered this hurdle too.

I was first touched by the cuff of the Beerjacket when he put on a magnificent support for Feist. His voice weaving in and out of notes, his fingers plucking each string with machine skill, while his foot stomped the floor or a tambourine with hypnotising rhythm. Excuse the sewing descriptions, but he did behave like a life-long gifted seamstress altering your comfort blanket to man-size for cuddling protectively to keep the blues away.

Enough of me, I'll zip it and let the man speak:

I’m sure you’ve been asked a million times and I’m sure your sick of it but it has to be asked; Have you ever had a venereal disease? Ha ha… no… I’m kidding… Where the hell did ‘Beerjacket’ come from?

A 'beerjacket' is the invisible garment you wear when drunk which protects you from the cold. I like it as a metaphor for any dependence, not necessarily alcohol, which helps people mask their vulnerabilities or insecurities or whatever. It's a bit awkward when people address *me* as 'Beerjacket' though but that's what I get for giving the music a name and attempting to leave me out of it when it's a solo act. People get a bit confused at that. Which is excellent.

I am remembering the awful puffy black bomber jackets from the 80s with Kylie Minogue, Bros and badly painted panther prints on the back. What would the print on the back of your Beer Jacket be?

The idea of a Beerjacket beer jacket has been suggested before actually, but hopefully said ideamongers were joking. A bottle of beer? That's pretty massively unimaginative.

You always seem to suffer the ‘Jeff Buckley Comparison’, (a suffering that Thom Yorke (Radiohead) had to bear), which is usually thrown at every male with a skilled vocal range. Is this ever an irritation?

I don't think it's irritating but I agree that it's largely attributable to the fact I do sing as opposed to just shouting or whatever. I certainly don't consider the comparisons as somethng which I suffer: such comments are usually meant in a complimentary way. I think Jeff Buckley was incredible and seemed to transcend a lot of the restrictions which, especially during the heads down shoutey/whiney 'grunge' years, male singers put on themselves. It's maybe a bit inaccurate though - I can think of lots of folks much more similar to him in singing style than me and they're often intentionally ripping him off! I do consider him an influence but I don't really think Beerjacket has too many parallels with him though.

Last year saw the continuing success of acts such as Bright Eyes, Smog, Gravenhurst and Adem. Ad makers are leaning towards the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Iron & Wine and Jose Gonzales. It seems that folk will only go from strength to strength this year and will find similar marketing success that pushed the likes of Grunge, Britpop, Metal, Emo and Goth to kids. What are your feelings on this? Have you seen a change in crowd reception? Would you ever allow your music to be featured in an Ad, and if so, which preferred product?

The indie snob in me would, if I'm honest, rather keep my favourite musicians out of the public domain so that I can seem cooler for knowing about them. However, in my heart of hearts, I know it can only be a really positive thing that these people who allow TV and other media to decide what they hear or see get the chance to encounter great music, even if it's at the expense of my elitist pleasure! It's amazing to hear Joanna Newsom's otherworldy voice and music soundtracking a mobile phone advert - it's like a satellite broadcast from a better musical planet interrupting the trash media we're familiar with! It makes people realise there is music which is undiscovered (for them at least) which they could love. What's wrong with that?
I think it has affected crowds who go to see live music for definite and there are now fewer distinctions between people who like one type of music and another. Surely for 'real' musicians (funny to think there are those who are not...) that can only be a good thing?
I would definitely allow my music to be used in advertising if it didn't damage the song and, being honest, if it was lucrative I'd be a fool to say no. There certainly seems to be less of an indie stigma now attached to becoming involved in advertising and that's due to the involvement of musicians who have come from DIY backgrounds realising these opportunities open doors to wider audiences. Indie snobbery should not come at the expense of one's ability to make music. Many musicians have to work to sustain their artistic creation and they'd be really silly to reject the possibilities such opportunities could create.

Staying with Jose Gonzales. Many are unaware that ‘Heartbeats’, his most commonly known track, is a ‘The Knife’ cover. Seeing his performance in Oran Mor, I found that most of his stand out tracks were covers: The Knife, Massive Attack and Kylie Minogue. Have you a favourite cover? Would the fine line between singer-songwriter and glorified busker make you hesitant in doing covers?

I love Patti Smith's 1975 cover of The Who's 'My Generation'. Interesting, as I don't like The Who or their version of that song much at all. For me, Smith's reading of the song is so much more vicious, raw and affecting. When she says at the end, "We created it, let's take it over..." it empowers me massively! I feel like going out and accomplishing something - it's totally inspirational. I've considered covers sometimes but I think it's perhaps not something I care enough about executing to justify it. I run the risk of slaughtering a favourite song for one and, anyway, I'd always rather write and play my own.

After having heard KT Tunstall live on Jules Holland, then hearing her studio album, I found that the whole essence of her was lost through the studio production. With the recent release of ‘Accident History’, your first studio album, do you feel it’s portrayed a true nature of your performance?

It's very difficult to accomplish that transition - something that works live might not transfer so well to a recording. I do think a lot about this. I do like the idea that there is a difference though. On a good night, it's quite disarming for an audience, especially a larger one, to be faced with one person playing in the most stripped down, basic interpretations of their songs. It's very direct that way and, without the noise and bluster of a band, they pay more attention to words and can connect more fully with the songs. 'Accident History' is something of a halfway house between the live show and the recorded version of Beerjacket; there're some songs which are completely live to tape, guitar and voice, and others which are more full arrangements, drum machine et al... A good example of someone who I think has a similar attitude is Feist, whose 'Let It Die' I'm listening to and loving for the ten thousandth time as I type. A record which survives and rewards with repeated listens is what I always hope to create. One thing that is consistent from stage to studio is the intention to create something honest and I think 'AH' does that.

A lot of your subject matter seems to involve overt sadness and frustrated depression. Is this all a big put on? I coined the phrase ‘Setup Upset’, a phrase that describes the manipulation of sadness for the purpose to create or gain an upper hand. Are you really at home sipping Pineapple Malibu and playing with your Coca Cola Super Spinner Yo-Yo or should we be worried?

I like your phrase! I'm far from depressed but I'd be a liar, not to mention an android, if I were to say I was never sad about anything. I often don't even notice the words I've written into songs 'til I'm singing them live. When I sing certain lines I feel emotionally engaged with the songs and it's when that connection takes place that I feel a kickstart in my performance. So, to put your mind at rest, I'm very well but the songs don't usually focus on how deliriously happy I am. Thank. God. I just write songs which seem real to me and they seem to resound with other people that way too.

I’m currently in Bed at 12:23 PM because I simply could not be assed getting up. I may get up in half an hour and watch ‘Mythbusters’. What pushes you to get up?

I want to create and accomplish things. And despite the morose tone of some of my music, I genuinely love being alive - what can I say? Sorry?

Weird & Freaky Question:

If you had to have a breast grafted to your body, where would you choose and why?

Somewhere internal, maybe my spleen.

What if it's a breast of chicken? Would it be the same area or would you change your mind?

No, I'll stick with the spleen.

Follow on:

Beerjacket's Site
Beerjacket's Myspace
Everybody Cares Blog - 2 tracks featured.
Live at King Tuts


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