Monday, June 16, 2008

Beat Union set to rock Vans Warped Tour

Davey Warsop at Great Escape Festival, Brighton UK, May 2008 (photo by Jeff Galasso)

(This interview originally appeared in Mean Street Magazine)

As a budding teenage musician in England, Davey Warsop eagerly read about the Vans Warped Tour every summer in local rock rags. Now he actually gets to experience it first hand.

“We’re completely over the moon,” said the singer/guitarist, from Science Records’ office in Costa Mesa. “To finally be here doing it is an absolute honor.”

Beat Union will perform on the entire tour. Warsop cited Against Me!, Pink Spiders and G.B.H., “the old punk band from Birmingham, where we’re from,” as the acts he’s most looking forward to catching live.

In recent months, Beat Union got a first taste of American audiences while opening for Bedouin Soundclash, Authority Zero and Goldfinger. “When you come to a new country, you don’t know how people are going to take your music…but it’s been absolutely crazy.” Warsop said “the crowds are (definitely) more enthusiastic here” than back home.

Formed three years ago by grade school friends Warsop and guitarist Dean Ashton, Beat Union went through various member changes before settling on drummer Luke Johnson (Amen) and bassist Ade Preston. “We met them when we were teenagers, playing in different bands on the local gig circuit.”

The group immediately crafted an exciting amalgam of 1970s punk, pub rock and new wave sounds, did some demos and sent them everywhere. Goldfinger frontman/producer John Feldmann (The Used, The Matches, Story of the Year) heard one and was so impressed that he flew Beat Union out to California to record. “We were absolutely blown away,” recalled Warsop. “We just couldn’t believe it.”

Tethered to a tight budget and time schedule, they entered an L.A. studio and bashed out the insanely catchy tunes heard on “Disconnected” in three weeks. “For a debut album, that’s the best thing to do - especially for a band that’s influenced by a lot of punk music (like us), you get more of that desperation down on tape.”

Inspired by Elvis Costello, The Jam, Joe Jackson, Squeeze, The Police and The Clash, Warsop said he isn’t afraid to admit that “we wear our influences on our sleeves.”

When you’re starting out, “there is no songwriting handbook, so you’ve literally got to listen to what your favorite people have done before and take a little bit from here or there.”

On the blazing title track, Warsop sings about how we often let technology rule our lives (key lyric: “maybe I’m just out of place in the modern world/don’t wanna go to their MySpace/I wanna talk to girls”).

“That was my mild contempt for the digital age that we’re living in…I’m not saying I boycott all that stuff and hate it; I don’t. It’s just realizing how times have changed and not wanting to be left behind.”

Elsewhere, Beat Union delves into ska territory (“Pressure Zone,” also heard in a hidden dub version with a King Tubby/Roots Radics sample), gang-style chants (“She is the Gun,” which was playlisted last year on England’s BBC Radio 1) and insightful storytelling (“Johnny Loves JoJo”). Musicians from Goldfinger, The Used and Good Charlotte also lent a hand. It all adds up to one of the best debut releases of 2008.

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