Hungover at Coney Island with the Beachniks (Plus MP3!)
Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Lo-fi sunshine stealers Beachniks make music so radiant, enthusiastic, and joyful that it's almost confrontational. An extended, sunburned arm of New York's thriving post-kiwi jangle-punk scene, the five member Beachniks feature gifted goofballs from some decidedly less cheerful bands--drummer JB Townsend is from murkgaze art-moaners Crystal Stilts, and organist Nik Curtin and bassist Serge Pinsky do double duty in smashy-smashy punk-punks German Measles. As Beachniks, they make adorable, cuddly, heart-warming bubblegum clamor--titles like "Coney Island" and "Brighton Beach" speak for themselves--in 90 seconds or less. It's all like the Urinals trying to be the Vaselines, complete with ba ba ba ba ba whoa whoas. Their debut 7" is out as of last week, via Captured Tracks (who lovingly describe their sound as "tweetarded"), complete with four squirts of suntan lotion. If the brief, silly "Coney Island" captures any emotion, it's "dizzy," complete with disorienting organ phase, garage-y abandon, a reference to the once omnipresent "Chicken Noodle Soup" and a spinningspinningwhirlingwhirlingroundandroundwereturningturning chorus.
What is "Coney Island" about?
Carmelle, vocals/xylophone: This song is about a time that we went to Coney Island.
Emily, guitar/vocals: We took our friend Abe there blindfolded for his birthday.
Serge Aleksandrovich, bass/vocals: I think there was no blindfold and he thought we were just driving to get some pizza. Who knew that he'd end up inspiring us to write a song.
Carmelle: I think the destination was supposed to be a surprise, but once we got to Difara's he figured it out. Anyway, after the pizza we got to Coney Island and I ate some funnel cake and then went on a ride called The Break Dance with my future bandmate, Nik. This was a big mistake because the ride combines fast, jerky motions with loud, aggressive hip-hop and following the recent ingestion of sweet, greasy funnel cake--a recipe for digestion reversal. I thought I was going to lose my lunch all over Nik but in the end I was just dizzy and queasy for a few hours.
Emily: This ride provides the effect of a terrible hangover without the drinking beforehand part. After I went on it I was looking for someplace to throw up for like an hour but people kept walking by.
How did this song come about?
Carmelle: At that point our musical skills were very limited so the very simple structure of the song was really all we were capable of writing at the time. Later, when we added the organ. Emily had the idea of using a descending scale to open the song and I think that that organ part in combination with the relentless repetition of that one simple riff really recreates the feeling of being on such a violent yet thrilling ride.
Emily: I forgot about that! I got that idea from the beginning of the Joya Landis version of "Angel of the Morning." You also reminded me that we never ended up writing that song about Sheepshead Bay.
Tell me about the intention behind Beachniks. We live in a cold, unbeachy city--how did you come to play such upbeat, sunny music?
Carmelle: I have to disagree with your take on New York. First of all there are actually tons of beaches in the city accessible by public transportation--I have not even had a chance to visit them all. Second, I don't see New York as a particularly cold or harsh place. The energy and diversity of the city excites me and the character it gives its beaches makes them an interesting destinations. I don't particularly like summer and I find that traditional leisurely beach activities such as sunbathing and swimming get boring quickly. I prefer New York beaches because you can still take your shoes off and walk into the water but at the same time do something productive like shop for Russian groceries, go to a flea market or ride a roller coaster. I guess a "Beachnik" is an urban beachgoer like me.
Serge: I think our initial idea was to be more of a bubblegum style band called Club Soda but there was a club with that name in DC. After a lengthy but pretty interesting lawsuit we changed our band name to Beach Toys to get the TV judge off our back.
What does this type of music mean to you?
Emily: I think the upbeatness has to do with the fact that from the start we were interested in playing music together to hang out and have fun more than anything else. It probably reflects a certain silly dynamic we have, too.
Carmelle: Our music may sound upbeat but I don't think all the subjects of our songs are totally sunny. For instance we have a song called "I Can't Stand You." But just because we may write a song about something upsetting, like a break up, doesn't mean the music has to get you down.
What's your favorite memory of Coney Island?
Emily: On Serge's birthday, when we finally scored that mysterious little octopus gummy from an arcade machine after trying for an hour.
Emily: Karczma, a Polish restaurant near the Greenpoint stop. Because they have wooden booths, hot spiced beer and pickle soup!
Carmelle: I could eat that soup for breakfast! People assume that we live in Brooklyn but the majority of our band actually lives in Queens. Most of my favorite restaurants are up here: The Five Star Indian Diner in LIC, Natural Tofu in Sunnyside, the Halal Sandwich Shop in Astoria. However I did find a great little Uzbek restaurant in Brighton Beach. I think it's called "Cafe Euroasia" and it's on a side street that connects Brighton Beach Ave and the boardwalk.
Download: Beachniks, "Coney Island"
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