Five Ways Beachwood Sparks Have Changed Over the Last Ten Years

Beachwood Sparks photo by Jim Goodwin

Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings

After a 10 year absence, California country-rock band Beachwood Sparks return this week with The Tarnished Gold but they don’t sound like a band that’s been dozing for a decade. The album retains the same Laurel Canyon, laid-back country-esque vibes as the band’s previous work, but colored in with shades of things that have happened musically in the ten years the band took off — a hint of Bon Iver here, a touch of Fleet Foxes there, which compliments their Gram Parsons vibe quite nice. But that’s just our own opinion. Hive rang up singer/songwriter Christopher Gunst, who told us five things that make this incarnation of Beachwood Sparks different from the one that disbanded in 2002.

1. They’re not all living on top of each other anymore

When we were first together, we all lived really close to each other. Some of us lived right next door to each other. It was almost like a little gang — it was really easy to have a collective mind going. Now, it’s a little bit different. We’re in different places in our lives. That collective mind comes together when we see each other, but other than that, we live more separately.

2. The summer camp mentality

After doing the Sub Pop 20th anniversary show, and having a lot of fun, we decided it would be a lot of fun to see what happened if we got together and jammed, and if we tried to make new music together, wouldn’t that be fun? It took a couple of years to get it together after that, and I think the impetus was just talking to Sub Pop, and learning that there was some money for it. The time just came together really nicely – no one was traveling with other groups, or had job stuff, so it just coalesced last summer.

When we got together, it was kind of like summer camp. It was fun! There wasn’t the pressure of, ‘make a record, then tour all year, then make a record, then tour all year, then make a record’ – we did that probably like three times. I think by the end of that we were just kind of like, do you get on that carousel again, or try something different? I think that’s what happened.

3. We now impress our co-workers

My perspective on life and what happiness is, and how you obtain happiness, is totally different. Back then, the band was our lives, so we made our meager living from it. All decisions were based on that, and sacrifices for your regular life were based on that. Now it seems like it’s the other way around – we all have other things going on, and getting together for Beachwood is a fun icing for our cake. When you’re out in the regular, non-music world, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I play in a band, I’ve gotten to travel,” people are like, “No way!” When I was in the band before, I used to take it for granted, because all your friends are in music, and everyone’s putting out records, and doing all this stuff. But really, I appreciate the gift of being able to do that a lot more now. I think it might just have been taken for granted before, for me, at least.

4. Limp Bizkit is no longer the competition

We kind of were a lonely island before. We’d have a show, and we’d be all dressed up with our gear, but it was a weird time for us. Popular music when we were around was, like, rap-metal. Limp Bizkit and stuff. It was really strange for us! Toward the end, one of our very last tours was with the Shins, and we were kind of like-minded. But it was really hard. We kind of always felt like we were on the outside. Not on the outside looking in, like “poor us,” but it felt pretty original. There wasn’t a lot like it when we would play. A couple years back, Magnet Magazine said that one of our albums was a lost classic of the early 2000’s, and I thought, “Aw, that’s nice.” I’m surprised that the name kind of stuck around, because we really only put out two and a half albums. It’s not like they were platinum sellers or anything like that, so it’s surprising, and it feels good.

5. Two weeks is all we need

With making the record, the only goal was, let’s make it as great-sounding as we could, and try our hardest with that. I don’t think that we have too many defined goals right now. There could be another album. We recorded this new one really quickly — in two weeks, we had tracked everything, and the post, adding little overdubs and doing the mixing, took longer after that. If we had some time like that to spend, I’m sure we could do it again. We played one show so far, up in Sonoma, we played a really awesome festival that Eric Johnson from the Fruit Bats puts on. It was outdoors, and really fun, so there’s definitely potential for sure.

The Tarnished Gold is out now on Sub Pop.

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