Boston garage-punk trio Black Beach is set to release their second LP Tapeworm on October 11th. Before now, the band’s sound primarily consisted of fast and fuzzy grunge tracks. On Tapeworm, Black Beach branches out sonically, experimenting with dissonant guitar tones, synths, and saxophone as a nod to their love of jazz, punk, and hip hop. Composed of Steven Instasi (guitar/vox), Ben Semeta (bass), and Ryan Nicholson (drums), the band premiered their new single “Shampoo” last week.
Below are some highlights from my chat with guitarist and singer Steven Instasi. We chat about Boston’s music scene, the story behind the album’s artwork, and his favorite music.
How’s the music scene in Boston?
There’s a lot of house venues, which is cool. They kind of pop up all the time because they get shut down all the time. There’s a lot of new bands because it’s a college city. There’s kids coming in and leaving all the time, so there’s all these new bands and new venues, which can be a downfall as well because there will be a cool band for like a year and then they break up. But it also kind of keeps it fresh.
What can you share about your forthcoming LP Tapeworm?
We have been working on it longer than we’ve really done anything. Usually we write a bunch of songs, record them, try and get them out as fast as we can. With this, some of these songs we’ve had for like two years now. We did one recording session and then decided to re-record and we changed a bunch of the songs around. It’s been pretty laborious compared to our past releases. We’re just really trying to experiment with stuff this time—sound-wise and songwriting-wise.
What’s different specifically with this album compared to your previous releases?
From song to song on this album, you could call everything a different sub-genre of rock. Before we had anything named we would just write, “Our Post Punk Song” or “Our Stoner Metal Song.” So we’re just trying to bring in more of our influences than we have before. Our first LP is like eight songs and I think it’s pretty uniform throughout. They’re all just fast, kind of short grungy songs…On this album, we use some synths, we have some saxophone. So we really just wanted to mess around.
Who are some of your musical influences?
While we were writing this [album], I was listening to a lot of Touch and Go stuff—like Chicago noise-rock bands. I really like any Steve Albini band. I’m also super into jazz— that’s where the saxophone came in. Tonally, I like that free jazz artists are kind of dissonant, so that’s how I try and play guitar. Black Sabbath is my favorite band, so that’s an overarching influence always. We’re also all really into hip hop as well.
Will you include saxophone during live sets?
Can’t do that, actually (laughs). I left my saxophone at my old house, which I beat myself up about. A lot of the songs that we’ve recorded, we’ve been playing live for a little bit. But there’s definitely a bunch of stuff on the album that no one’s ever heard. So we’re excited to play those. And touring in general is fun, so we’re excited to go and play a bunch of shows for a few weeks.
Are there any songs in particular from the new album that you’re excited to play?
There’s a song called “Southern State” on the album that we have played live, but I think it’s my favorite song on the album. We haven’t played it in a while, so I’m excited about that. “Nervous Laugher”—it’s pretty synth-based on the album—we’ve spent a lot of time trying to recreate that live. It’s still totally different. It’s also totally different than how we originally wrote it, so I’m kind of nervous for that but also excited to play it.
Can you talk about the album’s artwork?
It was shot by our friend EV Krebs; she did all of the photography for the album…She rules. She spent hours helping out and I really trust her eye…Our friend Nick Reagan did the cover. The cover idea—I guess was us—was another jazz influence. This designer Reid Miles—he did a bunch of stuff for Blue Note back in the day—and I thought he had the coolest album covers. I didn’t want the cover to match the album sonically. I don’t know if it does, but that was the goal—just having a monochromatic image that doesn’t really say much about what the album would sound like. [The cover] definitely alludes to a song on the album. We ended up lighting the globe on fire in my basement, so there’s photos of that, but Mannequin Pussy—a week or two after we shot the photo—put out an album with a cover of a globe on fire. We didn’t want to rip them off, so we went with this image instead.
What’s the meaning behind the album’s title?
It comes from a song on the album, which is actually about climate change and how I think it’s stupid that a lot of people ignore it. That just really pisses me off because I think it’s kind of obvious. So [the name] comes from a line and that of like, people are tapeworm on earth, and it keeps providing but we just kind of keep fucking it over.
The band released a music video for “Shampoo” last week. Are you brushing your teeth with charcoal powder in the video?
You’re the only person that figured that out. Yeah, my teeth were actually very clean that day. Everyone thought I was using dirt or something (laughs).
What music are you currently listening to?
I listen to our friend’s band Puppy Problems a lot. They’re very Microphones-esque. I listen to their album at work all the time. Our friends Nice Guys also have an album coming out two days before ours. I’ve been going through a real big hip hop phase the past few weeks, so I haven’t been listening to a lot of newer bands.
Which hip hop artists have you been listening to?
The same old New York stuff that I always listen to like Mobb Deep and all the Wu Tang members. I just read that Pitchfork list that came out yesterday, which a lot of people are upset about. Everyone was really bummed about it, but I don’t think it really matters. I heard this album by D’Angelo and the Vanguard called Black Messiah. I hadn’t heard it before, but I listened to it last night and I was obsessed with it.
What’s your favorite record from start to finish?
Oh, that’s hard. I’m really into jazz stuff. I really like Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda. It’s like weird spiritual jazz and has the heaviest bass lines ever. I always put that on and chill and listen to it. I’ve also been listening to GZA’s Liquid Swords over and over again the past few weeks and that never gets old. The Jesus Lizard’s GOAT I think is the best album of the ’90s. Mitski’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek. I love Mitski, I think she’s the best songwriter of my generation. That album was perfect, I listen to it all the time.