I was able to talk with Beta Radio on Wednesday when they where in their van driving to their next show in California. Ben Mabry and Brent Holloman are from Wilmington, North Carolina and form the indie-folk band, Beta Radio. They have four albums: Seven Sisters (2010), Colony of Bees (2014), and The Songs the Season Brings Vols. 1-4 (2015). I had a great time talking with them and learned a lot about folk music, the writing and producing process of making an album, and enjoyed hearing their story.
How did you and Brent meet?
Ben – We both went to the same summer camp and realized we both like folk music. I thought he was pretty cool because he could play “Stairway to Heaven” with his guitar. We just became best friends and we started hanging out after school, in high school, and started writing songs.
When you both write music who are some of the musical influences you have/use?
Ben – We love old folk music like Simon and Garfunkel and Nick Drake and we like the newer stuff like The Fleet Foxes.
How is your tour going?
Ben – It’s going great! We have three more shows and were going to another town in California tonight and then we go to Portland and then Seattle and then we’re done.
Did you come to Boston during the tour?
Ben – Not this time around but we probably will in the future some time and we’ve never played in Boston before. I’ve been to Boston before and I’d love to go and play there at some point!
Where is your favorite place/venue to perform? Would it be in North Carolina where you are both from?
Ben – I don’t know where our favorite place to perform is but I guess our favorite place to perform is in living room venues. It varies on the living room, who’s there, the crowd at night, it’s kind of hard because living rooms are one of the harder venues. It’s kind of difficult to say where we like playing.
Brent – Yeah it really just depends on the crowd that we having in the living room and it varies on the crowd we have each night.
How did you chose the name, Beta Radio?
Ben – It doesn’t have really much of a meaning, we initially thought we could name it gamma radio and then we looked and there already was a band who had it in the 80s. We pulled up the Greek alphabet online and started going down the list and stuck with Beta Reading. As far as meaning, it doesn’t have a meaning at all, we just thought it was really cool.
Are you working on anything new (album, music, etc…)?
Ben – No, not on tour because on tour we kind of wake up, we drive, we play, and we go to sleep. It’s because we’re going, going, going, but whenever we go back home will start going to start working on new music. We spent the first part/half of the year, January and February, pretty seriously and started finally working on new music. We’re going to get back to that and in the next few months we’re probably going to start that.
My favorite song by you is, “Either Way,” what is it about?
Ben – That song was actually written when I was in Hawaii and Brent was in North Carolina, we were half a world away from each other. I wrote it while I was a festival and I adapted the melody someone was singing into something else all together. It was kind of this moment of inspiration and I went into the public bathroom their and I started writing the song. I emailed it to Brent and he finished the rest of it on his guitar and the song was written when we were half a world away from each other.
What is your process as a musician when you are in the studio writing music or even creating an album?
Ben – It is always different. I’ll write a guitar part and he’ll write a guitar part or I’ll come up with a melody or lyrics and we’ll kind of go from there. Every song is written pretty differently and that makes the song for us different and we think it makes the song sound different.
What is one of your favorite songs you have written?
Ben – “Kilimanjaro.”
Brent – I have a few that I love, “Kilimanjaro,” “Sitting Room,” and “Monument.”
If you had the chance to work with any artist in the world, who would it be?
Ben – Probably for me, Eddie Vedder (lead singer of Pearl Jam).
Brent – Good question, I don’t know but I’d have to say Elbow (a band), they’d be fun to work with.
Do you both have families?
Brent – I have a wife and two kids.
Ben – I have a brother, sister, and a mom and dad.
Brent, how is it being away from family? Do they travel with you or go to shows?
Brent – They do not. My wife sings with us sometimes when were playing closer to home. When I go on the road like this, she stays home and watches the kids. We travel in a little van so its hard. It’s just the two of us traveling around.
Thank you guys! Keep on rockin’ and I hope to see you soon!