New Noise: Beach Baby

Wonderland nabs the sunny guitar-pop four piece for a chat mid-headline tour.

They describe their music as ‘60s pop with a bit of 80s new wave, and a bit of the 90s’; critics have noted myriad genre influences from shoegaze to grunge. Little surprise, then, that London based four-piece Beach Baby tell us, ‘being in a band is all about combining different approaches and background and making something better than the sum of the parts’.

Beach Baby was conceived (sorry) in 2013, as former Bristol University classmates Lawrence Pumfrey and Ollie Pash saw their advertisement for bandmates answered by bassist Iraklis Theocharopoulos and drummer Josh ‘Shep’ Hodgson. In the years since, they’ve released their debut single ‘Ladybird’ to critical acclaim – and a spot on the soundtrack to Netflix’s ‘Flaked’ – and signed to Island Records, premiering their first single with the label, ‘Lost Soul’, on Huw Stephens’ Radio 1 show.

The band have already kicked off a fifteen date headline tour across the UK, which will feature a show at London’s The Lexington on April 27th; what’s more, they’ll be making festival appearances at both Live At Leeds and The Great Escape. Thankfully, we managed to pin them down for a quick chat about blending genres, signing to Island Records and why it’s vital to keep buying vinyl.

Your debut single ‘Ladybird’ came out just over a year ago; do you think your sound has changed a lot since then?

In some respects. We recorded that song quite a long time before we released it, when we first started playing together, so our songwriting has definitely changed a little bit, and has become more influenced by being a live band too. But it’s very much still a relevant touchstone, and a big part of the ‘Beach Baby’ sound. We’ve re-recorded it for our debut album, and it still plays a big role in our set list.

‘Ladybird’ is also on the soundtrack for Netflix series Flaked – how did that come about?

The producer of the show came along to a gig we played in L.A in September – and approached us afterwards! Very Hollywood… That song got quite a lot of support from KCRW radio, and it was released on an american indie, B3sci. It’s got a widescreen kinda sound, and the US of A seemed to like it, which is nice.

‘Lost Soul’ is your first single since signing with Island Records, and it also premiered on Huw Stephens’ show. Would you say these are some of the biggest accomplishments of the band? What’s been your proudest moment?

Signing with a label is always going to be a landmark in your career as a musician – it’s something we’re really excited about, and we can’t wait to get more material out there. Huw has always shown Beach Baby a lotta love – he gave us our first ever radio play, and had us in for a Maida Vale session earlier in the year, so it was great that he premiered Lost Soul. Big up to Huw.

The cover art of ‘Lost Soul’ is an illustration. What made you decide not to use a picture of the band and to have this drawing instead?

It’s by a really talented Canadian designer called Karen Thurler. She’d previously done three unsolicited illustrations for us for our singles ‘No Mind No Money’ and ‘Limousine’, which totally blew us away, so we really wanted to get her involved for this release. She’s on instagram as @carookas.

You’ve described your sound before as “60’s pop with a bit of 80’s new wave, and a bit of the 90’s” – do you think music is at its best when different genres and sounds merge?

I think the music is best when everyone in the band is listening to the music they love, and you all write together without thinking too much about your influences! We certainly do listen to 60’s pop, 80’s new wave and 90’s bands – as well as a whole host of other things, so I’m sure our band is a melting pot of loads of different influences. But at the writing stage it’s probably best not to over-analyse.

You’re played live in America before, like for the CMJ music festival. Would you say it’s different from performing in the UK?

In terms of audiences, CMJ was actually not dissimilar from playing UK city-based festivals like The Great Escape, or Live at Leeds. It’s a similar vibe – a huge number of bands, going through loads of different venues. Hectic, but really fun. We played one show at Brooklyn Bowl, which was next to a huge bowling alley, so that was definitely a different experience. The experience of being in New York and LA as places was great though – none of us had been, so to have 10 days to hang out in the cities was pretty sweet. We can’t wait to do more touring in the US.

Ollie and Lawrence met at Bristol University, but you didn’t put out adverts for other band members until a while later. What convinced you to go from a folk-driven duo to forming a band?

I think it had always been on the cards. Ollie initially lead it – he bought a fender mustang and an amp, and the writing was on the wall! Lawrence followed suit not long after, and then we started looking for the right people to write and hang out with!

Lily Rose Thomas has directed a few of your videos now. How did this come about? Do you think it’s important to continue working with the same people, as they understand what you’re after better?

Yeah, it’s been a really great relationship, that one. Lily is actually Ollie’s girlfriend, but the whole band have been fans of her photography for a long time, so when she said she was up for trying her hand at directing the video for ‘Ladybird’ we were really up for it – and each video she’s done for us has gone from strength to strength. There’s a coherent aesthetic running throughout all her work, and we really dig it.

You can listen to your music on everything from Vinyl to Spotify. Is it important to you to release it both digitally and physically?

Absolutely. We all stream music, but we all own record players and collect records too. It’s a really important antidote to the increasingly ephemeral world of music consumption; nothing beats actually owning an LP, and reading the lyrics and connecting with it as an actual thing! The ritual of playing a record is a pleasure in itself too – in an age where people increasingly don’t listen to albums all the way through, it’s really important to reclaim that experience, and putting a record on is one way to do that.

Ollie and Iraklis both studied at Goldsmith College. Would you say it’s better pursuing music academically or in more practical ways? Or do both of these routes work?

Both routes work. Ollie is a classically trained musician, and used to be a chorister, whereas Lawrence was taught powerchords by an ageing ex-rockstar and pretty much self-taught from there. When it comes to making pop music, you can approach it in so many different ways, and being in a band is all about combining different approaches and backgrounds and making something better than the sum of the parts.

You’re just about to headline The Lexington before starting your tour, but you’ve supported bands like Hooton Tennis Club before. How is it different transitioning from a supporting act to being the headline?

It’s something we’re new to! The challenge of playing to crowds who don’t know you is great – winning people over by the end of the set is a good feeling, if you can pull it off! But playing for your own crowd is obviously an amazing feeling, and it still gets us when we see people singing the tunes in the audience. It’s impossible not to thrive off a great crowd response.

What are you most looking forward to about playing Live at Leeds later this year?

It’ll be great to be back! Live at Leeds last year must have been one of our first ten gigs ever, so we’re looking forward to being back a year later and playing a few more songs to a few more people! We’re on the DIY stage at the Brudenell Social Club, which is a venue we really like. Gonna be a good one.

Emily Dixon