by Michael Thomas
Never before have I had such difficulty figuring out where to begin an article based on a band interview. It probably has to do with the fact that Beekeeper, a Vancouver-based three-piece, are full of so many ideas and inter-band connections that they defy easy categorization. It probably also has to do with the fact that during my forty-or-so minutes talking with Devon Lougheed (guitar/vocals) and Luke Cyca (drums/vocals), I never laughed so many times or had my questions form in my head so easily.
But why don’t we start with introducing who the hell Beekeeper are. It started when Lougheed and Cyca met and began jamming on some songs, mostly songs that Lougheed had self-released earlier. Eventually they decided to find a third member.
“Three’s kind of a magical number,” Lougheed says. “Mostly we can fit into a car instead of a van.” They soon met Brandi Sidoryk in 2010, when her other band Sidney York came to Vancouver to play during the Olympics.
“She borrowed our jam space, we met Brandi and she was our dream girl,” begins Lougheed. “‘Who’s this babe who has this powerhouse voice who plays bass? She’d be perfect! Oh we can’t get her, we’re just little Beekeeper.’ And later on we were auditioning for bass players and we got this funny message from her: ‘Guys, do you not want me to audition? Why didn’t you ask?'”
On Beekeeper’s first record, Be Kept, Lougheed and Cyca had several guest vocalists, including Sidoryk as well as Jacquie Neville of the Balconies. “Then it was a year-and-a-half later when she asked to audition to be in the band,” Cyca says.
“So what we’re saying, ladies, is that we’re pretty fast movers and shakers,” Lougheed quickly adds.
Beekeeper in its current incarnation was born. Those who listen to their music will probably, at the very least, find a smile on their face. The band doesn’t stick to one melody or rhythm for too long, often shifting in the frame of one song. “Oh Hi!” from Shout At People, for example begins like some kind of nineties grunge song but shifts into a hoedown complete with kazoos.
Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness. “I get inspired by the world around which can be like an overheard conversation, or sometimes traffic noises turn me on,” Lougheed says. Once he saw a girl who walked, according to Lougheed, like a cartoon skeleton, and the idea of her doing a weird skeleton walk became the opening line of the song “Bees.” Lougheed will put together some song ideas, and then it’s up to Cyca and Sidoryk to “Beekeeper-ize it.”
“We’re such a fun team in that we both love puzzles in different ways,” says Lougheed. “I love creating puzzles, I love building mazes both conceptually and real in the music and Luke loves solving puzzles, it’s his favourite thing. I think if it was just puzzling music, it can be a little bit, like, the more classical math-rock and the things that I love. It can be off-putting to an audience. But if it’s solved-puzzle music, it’s pretty straight-ahead pop music. And both have their place, but maybe this like back-and-forth between puzzling and un-puzzling is what makes us weird, but still have some people like us.”
“When Devon writes that first song, he’s making a puzzle,” says Cyca. “And when he brings it to Brandi and I, and we have to clarify: ‘Well what do you mean by this part? Can we count this out, can we write it out? I don’t get it.’ And we solve it for ourselves. And somewhere in there’s a tension that finds an equilibrium, and that’s what the song is.”
“We spend a lot of time in the jam space just shouting gibberish,” says Lougheed. “Gibberish syllables. We really speak to the common person.”
Being in Beekeeper has also given Lougheed an outlet for comedy, something he does when he’s not doing music. When he went out to British Columbia for grad school, “I kind of had this annoying stage lust,” Lougheed says. “I have a desperate need to be on stage, be receiving attention.” He did some improv and then eventually standup, being inspired by comedy greats like Richard Pryor and “cocained-out Robin Williams.” “Stand-up’s super fun, it’s tough ‘cause you’re along on there, no crutch to fall back on,” Lougheed says. “The funny thing is it’s only through Beekeeper and kind of returning to music that I really found my comedic voice.”
During their set Beekeeper has a few songs that will probably stick out in the audience’s minds. One is “Pets Eat Their Masters,” a song Lougheed wrote when he eleven (even if the only line he wrote was “Pets eat their masters, yeah yeah”). The band Beekeeper-ized it and turned it into a pretty awesome tune. In contrast, the band also plays a song that is markedly different from everything else, a song Lougheed wrote after an incident with his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s.
“It’s scary to say to people in a full bar, who’ve been dancing or sitting at the back, talking, to say ‘Okay, let’s bring it down really quiet,'” Lougheed says. “But we found that it makes our big endings even bigger. We got a lot of good feedback on it.”
“It’s important for contrast,” Cyca adds. “You have to anchor the absurdity with one moment of seriousness, and the loud rock with one moment of soft, tender music.”
The band certainly has its fair share of absurd show locations as well. They once played in a boardroom of an insurance brokerage (“And they all bought our CD,” Devon adds). They even played to an audience of grade 1-4 children at a Roman-Catholic elementary school. They didn’t tone down their music, but did take questions between songs from the kids and even took the time to introduce all their instruments.
“I love those shows especially because we have a girl bass player in our band,” Lougheed says. “I love the idea that there might be an eight-year-old girl who wants to be in a band but thinks ‘No, it’s all for boys.’ If she can see Brandi up there rocking out, being so awesome, maybe it will inspire [her].”
Naturally their music has brought them fans in casual showgoers and bands alike. Considering Sidney York and Beekeeper share members, the two bands are heavily linked. Lougheed also plays with Fine Times and Hey Ocean!, so it seems like he’s never not busy playing music. During CMW Beekeeper decided to name the excellent Montreal band Honheehonhee their “frenemy band.”
“We were trying to trash talk each other but it turned out so Canadian,” Lougheed says. “It was just like ‘Yeah well, you guys are better.’ At our showcase, I offered that anyone could trade their Honheehonhee CDs for one of our EPs, and one person took us up on it! They were laughing pretty hard when they offered it and I was just like ‘You get it. A pin for your gumption.'” Beekeeper’s “CD swap” is now going on indefinitely, apparently.
Beekeeper has plenty of stuff happening in the near future, with plenty of festival dates for the summer and recording for their next full-length (which they hope to release in the new year). They will also be recording a children’s album after that.
“It started out as a joke that came out in something like this about a year-and-a-half ago, and every time we bring it up it gets more serious so it’s gonna happen,” Cyca says.
“Do you think we should call ourselves the happy Beekeepers? Beekeeper is kind of a scary name,” Lougheed asks Cyca.
“I think if we have the drawing fun on the cover, we’ll be okay,” Cyca answers.
At the end of the interview, I decide to pose an absurd question of my own: “If you guys break up, who will keep the bees?” I ask.
Lougheed first says he hopes it’s me, and then emphasizes that it won’t be Stephen Harper. He pauses for a moment.
“We just won’t break up,” he says with a tone of real seriousness. “We just can’t ‘cause of the bees. We’ve been through too much these past few years.”
- “Beekeeper, inspiring little girls to play bass since the 1800s! I’m a highlander also, I was in the Pixies for a week! Is there caffeine in espressos?”
- “I play in Hey Ocean! now and they’re pretty good people except for one of them who is my mortal enemy, not gonna say which one. Print it!”
- “A Pin For Your Gumption sounds like a jazz band that would be made of all studio guys. They’d just all have such studio-player talent and go “We are… Pin For Your Gumption! This is our cover of ‘Creep,’ by Radiohead, it’s 45 minutes long!””
- “The place that we stayed at SXSW, we stayed at somebody’s house, they rented it out to us, and they had urban chickens and it was awesome! We sent Brandi in to get them because we were scared of getting pecked. And she’s a farm girl. She’s like “Guys, are you serious?” They didn’t want to mess with her. She says the trick is to make a chicken noise at them, I wish she was here so she could make it. She did it three times. I think she speaks chicken language.”