The gentlemen of Bethpage Black know the drama that comes with being in a heavy rock band. Just glancing at the emo aesthetics of My Chemical Romance or The Used, you will soon pick up on the themes of exorbitance, emotiveness, and melodrama (and often the use of the colors white, black and red) in both image and music. And while Bethpage Black continues this tradition through their photos and overall image, they need no such flourishes on stage. These guys hold their own musically; they have an electric presence and put on a wicked show, whether they’re in a t-shirt and jeans or a pinstripe Edwardian suit, complete with tophat. I got to sit down with them after their stellar set at the Troubadour and find out just what has helped shape the appeal and sound of this window-shattering group.
Claire Gallagher: Who’s who? What are your names, what instruments do you play, etc?
Matt Carmichael: Vocals
Davin Givhan: Guitar
Derrick Tucker: Bass
Steve Coy: Drums
SC: Our “5th Beatle” on keys, gtr, horns is Nic Chaffee, but he’s not an “official” member of Bethpage Black
CG: Where are you from? How did the band come together?
MC: Derrick, Steve and Davin all went to middle and high school together in Long Beach. Derrick and Steve started the band with a demo of “Your Wish Granted” back in 2007. As more songs came together, Derrick suggested that Steve get in touch with Davin. They hadn’t really seen each other in years but thanks to Facebook, the rest is history.
SC: I met Matt (from Huntington Beach) through a mutual friend, who plays keys in Matt’s hugely popular 80s cover band in Long Beach called Knyght Ryder. After going to see them a few times and seeing Matt seamlessly transition from Pat Benatar to Iron Maiden, I asked Matt if he was down to record and play shows, and thus Bethpage Black was complete.
CG: Who are some of your biggest musical and non-musical influences?
SC: Modern bands: Definitely the Used. Really into Crash Kings right now. My Chemical Romance (3 Cheers, Black Parade only). Weezer. Jimmy Eat World. The Dear Hunter. Eminem is our biggest lyrical influence–the way he rhymes within lines, and his rhythmic tendencies.
SC: As far as classic rock there’s Zeppelin, Beatles, ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), Queen. Davin got his start as a shredder by learning Metallica songs when he was 13. U2‘s texture and grandeur. Also, as for non-musical: Lord of the Rings–several songs have LOTR references in the lyrics. The dramatic themes of the opera Carmen was a major influence on the first EP, Opéra-Comique.
CG: Did growing up where you did influence your music at all? Do you feel a kinship with your hometown?
SC: Not at all. The most visible Long Beach bands–Sublime, Avi Buffalo, Delta Nove–sound nothing like us. Long Beach is a reggae/funk or indie folk pop town, not a rock town. LA and OC are more our scenes, and here we are, caught in the middle.
CG: What bands do you think you sound like, if any? What bands have others told you you sound like? Any strange or incongruent comparisons? What bands would you like to sound like?
SC: We always tell people we sound like “The 30 Seconds to Mars Volta” or “The (M)Used,” because that’s what we want to be. It’s a cute way to brand ourselves too. We also get Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, Circa Survive, Plain White T‘s other stuff (not Hey There Delilah). We try to make each song different from the one before, so we get a lot of comparisons, none of which really bother us.
CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician?
SC: The cliché answer is “Lying in a grave,” but it’s sort of true–music is all we want to do. Davin plays guitar like 8 hours a day. The goal, like with all bands, is to quit our day jobs.
CG: What did you want to be when you were a kid?
SC: I wanted to be a chef (and was one, at the #1 Zagat restaurant in LA, Melisse)
CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?
SC: Highs: Our shows at the House of Blues and Troubadour, and hearing our song “Demyelination” on KROQ for the first time. Our record release show last year–we somehow got 200 people to show, and we hardly knew any of them! Always a good sign. Lows: Pretty much most of 2010, because I had shoulder surgery and we couldn’t really do anything!
CG: So what’s the story behind your band name? How did it come about?
SC: We used to be called Less Than Three, (<3) which was too emo. Plus there were a few bands already called that. So in 2009, the US Open of golf was being held at Bethpage Black golf course in New York. Steve heard it on TV and though it sounded pretty hardcore. Plus all bands with “black” in their name are good. Black Sabbath, Black Crowes, Black Keys, Black Lips, Black Flag…Black Eyed Peas are the only ones that ruins it.
CG: What is next for the band? Are you planning any tours? Any collaborations or side projects? As for your next project/sound, will you stick to your sound now or will you experiment/take a new route at all? If you do, do you think your fans will dig it?
SC: We have shows planned through spring, and then in the summer we’d like to get out to the Bay Area, San Diego, Vegas. In the spring we’re going to start recording new tracks/final versions of some of the singles we put out this year. Our new music is more upbeat and poppy. We’ve defined this term “Sickle Pop,” which is aggressive pop rock with a sharpened metal edge. The first record was pretty dark and twisty, which reflected a different era for us. We always want to be hard-hitting, but that doesn’t mean all your lyrics have to be angry.
Regardless of what taste in rock music you have, be sure to try and check Bethpage Black out live. For me, it channeled my inner angsty teenage and I was not in the least ashamed. They were expressive, not whiny, and had a real sense of edge and danger to them.
Watch out for their new releases and general news here, and help support the airtime of their new single on KROQ!
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