I stumbled across Beauty Pill on Bandcamp while poking around the internet looking for new music. There were a few tracks posted from a forthcoming soundtrack to a play called suicide.chat.room. It was a refreshing break from most of what I had come across that day, and it caught my attention. It was an interesting combination of electronic and acoustic sources, soundscapes, and songs that really captured the emotional space of loneliness and introspection. I went down the rabbit hole, as they say, watching what videos I could find and listening to their available catalog. Their album Describes Things as They Are – recorded while being exhibited in a museum – found itself in frequent rotation (see the online article at <tapeop.com>). I loved the songs, the sounds, and the weirdness of it all. The band’s leader and songwriter, Chad Clark [Tape Op #36], and I got in touch. Check out the recent LP, Please Advise and the Instant Night EP that was just released.
In 2015, Beauty Pill released Describes Things as They Are to much critical praise. How do you make another record when you’ve made something that has had such an impact on people?
First of all, it’s still not a very well-known record. It got a lot of praise, and that’s very nice, but if you ask your friend if they’ve heard of Beauty Pill, it’s very unlikely that your friend will say, Yeah, I know that band.” In that respect, there’s a lot of room to grow. But artistically, I didn’t understand. I was so focused on keeping my band together and navigating that weird project of recording in public. It hadn’t occurred to me when we were done with it. It was my bandmates who first started telling me, “This might be one of the greatest records ever.” My bandmates started getting very, very excited about the record when it was done. I don’t see Describes Things… as a masterpiece. I do appreciate that people say that, because I’m not a rich person or a wealthy person or a famous person, so it’s very nice. This [new] record was something I wanted to do in the midst of all of that; to assemble slowly. It’s more fragmented and damaged in a certain way. I’m happy with it, but the title is Please Advise, which I feel has the right amount of humility to it. It’s a document of a fragmented time. I’m happy with it, but I understand that it’s coming in the shadow of this [previous] record. Everything we do now, probably everything I do for the rest of my life, is going to be post-Describes music. Every motivation I ever have is that I want to make something. I didn’t go into it like, "How can I follow up this amazing record?” I was, "Let me make some music.”
It was at the right time, and it hit at the right moment. It resonated with people, for whatever reason.
Yeah, it’s nothing to obsess over, I guess.
Can you talk about making Describes Things as They Are? It was not a standard run of the mill process.
There was an art museum in Arlington, Virginia, called Artisphere. It was an almost Smithsonian-scale gallery. A jaw-dropping, beautiful, large palatial place right on the Potomac River. The curators asked me to create a sound installation. I would have done that, but I felt everyone has seen or heard sound installations before, and it’s not anything new. I was like, “What could we do that would be new to use this amazing space? Couldn’t we do something more unexpected or creative?” As I was touring the facility with Ryan Holladay – the main curator who brought us in – we took a look at what was called the black box theater; a very large theater space within Artisphere. There was a window that looked down into it, and it reminded me of the [control room] window that looks into Abbey Road’s Studio Two. Anytime you see a picture of The Beatles recording, you see that studio. I started thinking, “What if my band made a record here and we allowed people to watch us from the window?” A lot of my friends imagine that records take as long to make as they take to listen to. When Radiohead or whomever disappears for a year, people are like, “What are they doing?” They don’t even understand. I thought, “Let’s let people see the process of a band making a record, including overdubbing.” Not a live record, where a band is playing to an audience and it’s, “1, 2, 3, 4” and then you go, but rather a band constructing an album in the way bands do in the studio and making it visible to the public. Those watching would see all the boredom, all the ordering of pizza, all the band arguments, and the non-glamorous sides of making music. They would also see the moments of magic. I thought it could...