Interview: Simon Berry (Beaulieu Porch, Spider 72)
Published on February 25th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Simon Berry is not just a brilliant writer of noisy psych-pop gems – he’s also a bloody prolific one, with two albums currently out on his own Tillsammans label, one under the moniker Beaulieu Porch and the other as Spider 72. Rocksucker loved both offerings, doling out four quails apiece, so we fired Simon over some questions in the hope of finding out more about him and his lo-fi ways…
Congratulations on two splendid albums. How much of the songwriting and/or instrumentation do you handle on each one? Who else is involved?
Thank you! Beaulieu Porch and Spider 72 are just me. I wrote all the songs and played all the instruments (with the exception of “The Colour 55” by Beaulieu Porch, “Thursday Sound Revival” and “Giant Supermen” by Spider 72, which are older songs and feature a real drummer, bass guitarist and keyboard player!).
Where do the names Beaulieu Porch and Spider 72 come from? And Tillsammans, come to think of it?
Beaulieu Porch came from somewhere inside the pages of John Betjeman’s Collected Poems, while searching for something that sounded essentially ‘English’. Even though ‘beaulieu’ is actually a French word, and is rarely pronounced correctly. Spider 72 came from nowhere, and Tillsammans (which is the Swedish word for ‘together’) refers directly to the sun and the moon and my insides and outsides, otherwise known as Hannah…
Do you intend to tour either album at all? If so, what will be your live set up? Might you play any festivals this summer?
I don’t have any plans to tour at the moment. I stopped playing live a couple of years ago, I’ve never been able to find the right people to play in my bands, and I’m not particularly good at compromising, which is probably why I’ve ended up solo! I wouldn’t particularly relish going out on my own with just my acoustic guitar either because it wouldn’t do justice to the songs. It would probably be a bit like paying to see the new James Bond movie at the cinema, and discovering it’s just a grainy five-minuted home video of a kid in pajamas playing with a plastic pop gun and kicking his teddy bears.
Have you given any thought yet to your next project?
I’m halfway through recording a brand new Beaulieu Porch album, which should be ready in a month or so. I’ll also be working on a collaboration with my wife, Hannah, in a ‘band’ called Astrabella. Think Broadcast and The Focus Group, Wickerman etc for simple reference points. I’m very excited about it, reckon it’ll be a good ‘un!
How long have you been writing and performing music for? What do you use to record with?
I’ve been doing exactly this kind of thing for many years. I’m extremely happy about this new ‘psych’ scene that seems to be developing, because I’m fortunate enough to have been tacked onto the back of it. All my recording is done laboriously at home on my little digital Boss BR-1200 porta-studio. I’ve never been able to get to grips with all the newfangled computer technology, so it’s all done by hand!
How did you go about getting the word out there about the albums?
I’m still relentlessly working on that! I’ve never had any money, so I’ve had to do all the promotion myself (as well as all the songs, playing, recording, production, mastering, artwork, websites etc!). I’d love to get some professional help with exposure at some point, preferably before the boat sails off, and if I had the money it would be the first next thing I’d do. Meanwhile, I shall have to bang on and on and on and on in my little Facebook world, and thank my lucky stars for the fine bloggers out there, like your jolly good self!
Are you a fan of Kevin Ayers? Just hearing of his passing, and if you’re yet to investigate then I’d implore you too.
Yeah, sad news. I love Joy of a Toy. I haven’t got over Marc Bolan’s death yet, and all of a sudden this happens. And a load of others in between. It’s not fair.
Which were your favourite albums of 2012, and/or which are you most looking forward to in 2013?
When I became a member of the virtual world, a year or so back, I was amazed at the amount of new bands playing proper, ambitious pop music. Before that, I was just into the old stuff and I had no idea that so much good new stuff existed. It was discovering the likes of The Smiles and Frowns, Jacco Gardner, The Smoking Trees, Paul Sumner, Baulduin, When We Were Very Young, Tame Impala, Kontiki Suite – to name a few of many – that directly gave me the impetus to take my head out of my arse, stop being self-indulgent and stand up and wave my own multicoloured flag. Although I haven’t actually stopped being self-indulgent yet.
Oh, and one more question: If you had to spend the rest of your days with the back catalogues of just five different artists, musical or otherwise, whose would you choose?
I think I’d probably choose all the DVDs of Everybody Loves Raymond, all the writings of John Betjeman, and musically I’d choose Procol Harum for their scope and grandeur, Jake Thackray for his humour, pathos and language, and finally The Beatles, because I can’t think of anyone else at anyone else’s expense – and let’s face it, they’re pretty good, eh?
Simon Berry, thank you.