Thursday, June 13, 2013

Juan from The Beets talks NYC streets.

Northside Festival 2013 begins today! We're so excited, we can't contain ourselves. Seriously, I can't wait to get out of work, pick up my wristband, and hit the shows! We have THE BEETS going on at about 10 o'clock on Friday night, and I was super lucky to get a chance to talk to front-person, Juan Wauters. We chatted about neighborhoods, music, New York, and abandoned schools. Here's the transcript:

Hearts Bleed Radio: I've seen it written a couple of places that you don't make music from Queens, you make Queens music. You seem like a big Queens guy, so tell me, what is it about Queens that you love so much?

Juan: I was actually born in a different country, but coming here, it's a really good place to move to. Y'know its very welcoming and I've made a big nucleus of friends. It's just something to identify with, and creates a sense of unity among ourselves, and my family, and all that. It's not so hard to take pride in that for me, y'know?

HBR: It's gotta be the most diverse place in the city.

Juan: Probably, yeah. So all that, and you know, it's the kinda forgotten borough, but where more "real" people live. We all share the same kind of society among ourselves. We all hustle for the same purpose. And a lot of us are building up a future there.

The band in nature.  awwww

HBR: What part of Queens did you grow up in?

Juan: Jackson Heights.

HBR: Jackson Heights, that's known for it's food.

Juan: Yeah, yeah. You've been there?

HBR: Yeah, I feel like there's better restaurants in Jackson Heights than in most of New York, especially the touristy parts of Manhattan.

Juan: It's great there, I go there as much as I can, my parents live there.

HBR: I would recommend... Y'know, people come to New York, they go to Manhattan, they go to Brooklyn... It's kinda off the beaten path up there, but I always have a good time when I go up there.

Juan: Yeah, haha. I wouldn't know either, I don't blame them! But the fact that it's not on the map is what makes it what it is.

HBR: Haha, OK, maybe we'll keep that under wraps.

Juan: Oh, I don't care, people can go there. It won't change it for me!

HBR: So you have The Beets, and you have your solo stuff. What's the difference in your mind between the two projects?

Juan: There's not really much of a difference. I write the music for The Beets, but The Beets is more of a group of friends with a shared outlook in life, and that allows us to perform music in a very particular way. So the reason why I recorded this album, and the video came out, and put out the single, was because we weren't doing The Beets at the time, last year. But now we're back doing shows and planning our future. We're about to record a new album.

HBR: That's great.

Juan: Yeah, we never stopped playing, but we stopped doing it so heavily. We were doing it NON-STOP. I mean, that's how I like to do it, but we had to stop. And the band is reconstructed in a much better way right now... So the future looks bright.

HBR: When are you guys planning on going into the studio?

Juan: I don't know! We're actually right now working on the new songs. A lot of them I wrote while the band wasn't playing, and some I wrote just recently since we started playing. But yeah, maybe within a month, like, maybe within the next couple weeks.

HBR: Are you gonna play any new stuff on Friday?

Juan: Yeah definitely.

HBR: So we'll get some new songs that no one's heard before?

Juan: I think so, no one in New York. We went on a West coast tour a couple of weeks ago, but we've never played them in New York. A couple of the songs I was playing last year when I was doing Juan Wauters shows, so maybe some people have heard them in a different form, but yeah, The Beets haven't performed them yet.

HBR: When you write a song, do you get an idea, and bring it to the band, and they kinda fill in their parts?

Beets in B&W

Juan: Yeah, luckily we all share a taste in what we do, and we play very contrived rock and roll music, so not much of like, show off... I don't know...

HBR: Yeah, I know what you mean. It's a very compact, minimalist format... and you have to have other musicians who are on that same wavelength.

Juan: Yeah, so the idea (of what we're trying to do) is very well established amongst ourselves. That's how we like it, and that's what we develop our talents around. We definitely get better at what we do, but we're not looking to escalate in any musicianship sort of way.

HBR: Right, like, you're not gonna come out with the nine minute long, about like, space or something.

Juan: Naw, I mean, it's more about the song, and less about the instrumentation.

HBR: I think that's why people like The Beets. The songs have a good melody, a good rhythm, and then two minutes later, you're into the next song. Obviously that reminds me a lot of The Ramones, and a lot of the garage bands from the '60's were like that too. Who are your biggest influences?

Juan: Biggest? Yeah, I'd say The Ramones. Very compact songwriting, and not much messing around, y'know? And there some sort of laid back sense of humor in them. (second clip ends)

HBR: I hear a lot of Daniel Johnston...

Juan: There was a time, like five years ago, maybe more, I was into Daniel Johnston a little bit, but not too much. Then later on I got back into him again, some of his albums, they're OK, but it's not something I can listen to all the time. I can appreciate it, but it's not as great as other groups.

HBR: It's good in short spurts. I can't take listening to him every day.

Juan: It's good for what it is, really good songwriter, and I'm all about songwriting. He's a very Beatles-stlye kinda guy.

HBR: How do you write songs? Do you sit down with an acoustic guitar and something comes to you? Do you get it in your head beforehand?

Juan: Both. Mainly I just think about music all the time. I get ideas in my head all the time, but a lot of them come from me just hanging out in my house playing the guitar. I get a little idea, and it develops from that.

HBR: And if it's a good idea, the song will just come from it...

Juan: Yeah, I think so.  And also, like, I have to work the lyrics out... A lot of the songs have to do with problems I have with the world. And a lot of that also comes from developing the song with the band, a lot of that comes from the relationship we have together.

HBR: Tell me a little bit about the video you just came out with.

Juan: So the song that I did, the single I put out, the one song, and there's a B-side... The song is from the LP I recorded last year, when The Beets were not playing so much. So I wanted to release a single to promote the record, and Matt had thought up an idea for the video. And it was me hanging out in an abandoned elementary school... And we went in in the middle of the night, 'cause the day after, they were gonna evict everyone, and I had keys for it.

HBR: Nice!

Juan: Yeah, so we hung out there and we did a bunch of scenes, like, in the classrooms and stuff like that. Just me and Matt, alone at night in this abandoned school. The video is great, but I think it's lacking something... And then he said, "We should have you wrestling some girls." And I said, "uh, alright." And we got really into the idea and that changed the whole video. But Matt Voltz, the guy who did the video, and the all the artwork for the band... We have banners, we also have a light show, he does the light show too.

HBR: It's so good to have someone who can do that stuff, tie everything together.

Juan: He's very essential to the development of the band.

HBR: It makes you who you are, that personality. I know a lot of musicians who... Their music is really good, but they don't ever get it together to have an identity.

Juan: We've hung out together for a long time. We met when we were kids. There wasn't a music scene like there is now, back then. Or maybe there was and we didn't know 'cause we were from Queens. We didn't go to shows or anything like that until we started playing.

HBR: Now that Brooklyn is getting more expensive, and Manhattan is so expensive, do you think there will be rock clubs starting up in Queens?

Juan: I was thinking about that actually. Maybe! Maybe more in Ridgewood, the border neighborhoods, they really live closer to Brooklyn... Everything is developing like a wave out from Bedford Avenue. A lot of people who are into music and stuff like that are moving to that area.

HBR: Yeah, from doing it myself, I know what you mean. I live in Williamsburg right now, but I'm the last person I know who has cheap rent in that neighborhood.

Juan: Yeah, I know! It's weird, a lot of people want to live around here (in Queens) now.

HBR: I know people who've moved out to Ridgewood recently, people moved to Sunnyside, Long Island City. LIC is getting expensive...

Juan: Long Island City... Astoria. Astoria has always been a little expensive. Jackson Heights though, I don't know, it's full of regular people. I don't think anybody really wants to move there. To me, it's the greatest place if you wanted to raise a family. Half way between working class people and some wealthier people, but they've been in the neighborhood a long time. Maybe more working class people. Its a good vibe.

HBR: But you don't want to see all those working class people get pushed out. That's something that's happened in Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, and Bushwick right now.

Juan: That's something that happens, and will always happen. People move around. It's not a bad thing I guess. What can you do? Its sucks that some neighborhoods change personalities, cause you have such an association with them... But y'know, you have those neighborhoods that used to be Jewish or Italian, and then Puerto Rican and Dominican or Mexican now, so whatever, things change.

HBR: The only thing that doesn't change in New York is change...

Juan: Of course. It's a great city. Everybody comes here, and when they get here, it's like starting from zero, "Nobody knows me here. And now I'm gonna take over." haha, everybody is like that. People who come from other countries, it's a new life. Other American people are the same way. "Let's get the best job I can get..." But it's the same with the arts, the audience is so broad here. You can hit your niche if you are right!

HBR: You guys have definitely hit a really good niche. A lot of people were excited when I said I got you guys on the bill. We can't wait to hear you play!

And there you have it. It's FESTIVAL time!

Check out our bill ---> here.

Like The Beets on Facebook ---> here.

Like Hearts Bleed Radio on Facebook ---> here.

See you at the show!

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