We caught up with The Beat Escape on gear, transformation and singing to a major label

By Alex Brown - 5.9.18

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, The Beat Escape is a duo formed by multi-talented artists Addy Weitzman (Footprintz) and Patrick A. Boivin; two musicians united by their common love for new-wavey electronics, catchy hooks and hypnotic pop melodies.

After a fine self-titled debut EP, released via Bella Union, Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins’ legendary imprint two years ago, and The Beat Escape almost immediately returned to the studio and started recording the tracks that would soon form the backbone to their first LP, Life Is Short The Answer’s Long, released on 27th April.

We caught up with The Beat Escape on gear, transformation and singing to a major label:

For anyone foreign to The Beat Escape’s frigid shimmering - how would you personally describe the music you create?

Addy: I kind of dread people asking me this question for some reason, specifically my parents and friends, usually I just say synth-pop or dance music. In my tiny fragile mind, I think of it as experimental synth pop with rave leanings.

Patrick: My answer for this changes depending on the day. It’s not so easy labeling your own songs. Although I could get more specific, right now, let’s just call it.. “highway music”.

Your latest album Life Is Short The Answer's Long was just released this April via Bella Union. Could you detail the recording process, and how creating this extraordinary body of work may have differed to recording 2016’s self-titled LP?

P: Many thanks for thinking it’s an extraordinary body of work. That’s very kind of you! When we made “Seeing Is Forgetting” and “Half Empty Happiness”, they were apart of a larger collection of songs, but those two had an energy that seemed to really work together. They’re the only ones we sent to Bella Union and what got us signed, so they naturally created a loose framework which expanded and transformed while we were working on our album. We used them as a starting point and then wrote with a slightly different sense of purpose.

A: Also we worked on it for a year, throughout the complete seasonal spectrum, and moved the studio three times during that year - probably should’ve been four. We had a real deadline with this album whereas in the past there were only self-imposed deadlines. If it weren’t for the real deadline, it’s possible we could’ve been recording throughout several seasonal spectrums.

It must have been such a pleasure to sign with Bella Union - who are now nearly world renowned for their continuous timeless releases. How did this connection form, or begin?

A: It’s a weird story of how we made this connection actually, I don’t think I ever even told this to Patrick. But there was a point where nothing was working out for me at all until one day I spoke with a mystical woman. I told her that everything I was working on seemed to be going nowhere and so she suggested that I repeat this mantra in my head. I had nothing to lose, so I did what she said. Then the next morning I woke up with a hangover, it was a Saturday, I checked my phone haphazardly and there was an email from Simon Raymonde saying that he thought our music was brilliant and that he wanted to talk about sending us a record deal. I didn’t even really know what Bella Union was or that Simon had been in the Cocteau Twins. It was bizarre. Then I noticed in the thread that Patrick had sent him our music the night before. It’s been an honour working with such an amazing label.

P: I was designing the video projections for a play at the time, working with an extremely difficult director and couldn’t wait to wrap the project. We had recently finished both songs on our first single, and on a whim, I decided to send Simon a message with the new tracks during a frustrated work session. He really liked them and wrote back the next day. We were on a skype call the following Friday, got on super well, and he offered us a record deal. It’s definitely been an honour working with Bella Union and we’re so grateful that they believe in our music.

Could you give us any insight into the mesmerizing track “Seeing Is Forgetting”? What inspired this song? Musically, or lyrically speaking.

A: I heard that it’s written somewhere, in a very ancient text, that music is the pen of the soul and that words are the pen of the mind. Often music is intuitive but lyrics take some thinking. With “Seeing Is Forgetting”, lyrically, there are psychedelic references, but also a coming to terms with a certain sense of just being. I was reading this Robert Irwin biography when we made the song, there was a part in the 60s where he went into isolation sitting on a rock all day in Ibiza for like eight months, learning by unlearning about space and time.

P: We had spent a very uninspiring day working in the studio. It must have been more than a 10 hour session, walking in circles, going nowhere. At the end of the night, I was falling asleep on the couch, and Addy started playing the chord progression on a Juno. My eyes opened and said, ‘that might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard’. We recorded it and the rest of the music was written in one night. It’s funny when that happens - when hours of nothing can finally turn into something.
A: Actually, apparently that’s how Japanese calligraphers used to work - spending the whole day preparing their inks, brushes, and paper, and then, as the sun begins to set, one single burst of fast and inspired action. (Laughing)

If The Beat Escape could choose that one “dream-collaboration”, with any artist on the planet - who would it be with, and why?

A: Hmmm... It would be cool to produce for someone, not sure who though. It would be interesting to collaborate with a lyricist while writing, that always interested me. Or to write music for a movie. Tough to say, not sure I’m at the same level to collaborate with any of my heroes just yet.

P: Definitely tough to say. But not for the same reasons as Addy. Although I feel like I wouldn’t be at the same level as a dream collaborator, it’d be very cool to be in the same room, maybe more as a fly on the wall, learning from someone else’s practice. Working with another producer would be cool, but I guess if Addy isn’t ready, the dream will have to wait.

A: Oh don’t you worry - we’ll get there soon enough!

Are there any pieces of equipment, instruments, hardware or software that you feel is absolutely essential in creating The Beat Escape’s original sound?

A: We had this palette for most of the album based on using an 808 for drums, recorded live percussion layered on top of the drum machine, an sh-101 for bass, an old cheap yamaha for pads, and then melodies that follow the vocals with a bass guitar played high up. But otherwise our voices are probably the only unique things.

P: Our setup is quite straightforward - a drum machine sequences a few synths, and the song is built through much experimentation and time. Although the palette we used for the album was somewhat specific, we’ve collected lots of analog equipment over the years and it’s nice to sometimes switch it up and rediscover old instruments. It’s interesting though, no matter what gear we use, the sounds always feel like they come from the same place. Recently, our friend Tibo’s been playing sax with us and that’s been lots of fun to record.

Could you describe Montréal’s live music scene? And if there was anything you could improve or even just change about it - what would that be?

P: Within specific genres, it feels fairly small, where lots of musicians know and hang with one another. And there’s often collaborations going on, especially from what I see within our group of friends... But there does seem to be a divide between the Anglophone and Francophone communities - it’d be nice if that gap wasn’t so wide.

A: True with the anglo / franco thing - I agree. I’d still like to see more female artists and I also think that E should make a comeback, that’d make for better parties.

Care to name some of your personal favourite releases of 2018 so far?

P: Tess Roby’s new album called Beacon is really nice. Great to listen to while traveling. Job Sifre - Het Bestaan is also dope… same with Eddie Ruscha’s new record, Who Are You. Listened through to the new Asa Motto on Deewee the other day and, once again, was completely blown away.

A: I love the new Science Friction single that just came out. Also Library L’Amour has some beautiful music. And Ex-Terrestrial - Urth Born is a really great club record.

What does the future hold for The Beat Escape?

P: We’ll be doing a bunch of more local gigs throughout the summer. Really, just want to keep working on music and art that connects with people.

A: We’ve also been talking about working on music at our friends’ house in Andros, GR for a little while, maybe that will happen soon too!

Order Life Is Short The Answer's Long LP by The Beat Escape
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