By Jules Muir
It’s been a long journey for Seattle based, indie-electronic band Beat Connection. They started back in college as an electronic duo, consisting of founding members Reed Juenger and Jordan Koplowitz. Koplowitz would eventually leave the band and in turn, Beat Connection would go on to absorb the talents of Tom Eddy (guitar and vocals), Jarred Katz (drums), and just recently Mark Hunter (bass).
As a result of these changes, the band has seen itself go through quite a musical evolution. From strictly electronic songs like “Theme From Yours Truly” to their latest bubbly track “Hesitation,” Beat Connection continues to push their sound forward with every transformation.
Now—more than ever—it’s an exciting time for the group, as Beat Connection seems to be solidifying who they are as a band, and as they are putting the finishing touches on an upcoming album. Amidst the craziness, we caught up with Reed Juenger, who spoke to us about seeing Outkast live, mysterious South American animals, having the same song titles as Future, and what it’s like being independent.
Alongside our interview, we’ve got the premiere of a Magic Sword’s remix of Beat Connection’s “Hesitation.” Check out both below.
How did Beat Connection first come together?
I guess Beat Connection started from mutual interests that me and my friend Jordan had. We just started trying to learn how to produce tracks—we had both been messing around with GarageBand when we were younger—then we bought Logic and started doing that. Also, simultaneously we started to DJ, doing house parties around the University in Seattle. It just grew from there pretty organically. We were also busy going to the University of Washington and trying to figure out how to navigate the music industry. I feel like now we’re in the final form of Beat Connection, we’re all very serious about it, and in the past it has been—I won’t say a hobby—but more of a good distraction from our school work, a passion. Now it’s our passion and our job, which is awesome.
Was there a specific moment when you had to decide that music was going to be your job?
I don’t know if there was a real defining moment. There was kind of a catalyst about a year and a half ago when Jordan decided to leave the band. He moved down to San Francisco and I think that was the crossroads moment for the rest of us: are we going to keep going, or call it quits here and have it be a fun thing from our pasts. We all decided we wanted to keep doing it, and I think that was a turning point, being serious about trying to take it to the next level.
We’re all very serious about it, and in the past it has been—I won’t say a hobby—but more of a good distraction from our school work, a passion. Now it’s our passion and our job, which is awesome.
After starting out solely as an electronic duo, how did Jarred (drums) and Tom (vocals and guitar) get in the mix and start to add the acoustic elements to the production?
Again that was pretty organic. We actually have a fourth member now, Mark Hunter, who plays bass. He’s been working with us on the record, playing live with us. He was there at the very beginning too, he’s an old friend from college. When I say organic it’s like we grew as songwriters so we were ready to incorporate those things, and also organic in the fact we’ve all been friends for a really long time.
It kind of made sense to bring it all together. Tom sang on the very first EP we put out. It was pretty much, “Hey Tom do you want to come do this, we’re recording in the basement of my house right now.” He just came in, recorded in one take, peaced out. It was incredible so we really wanted to work with him. With Jarred, he was an awesome addition. I feel like drums were one of the most direct things to add in the beginning when trying to transition into a live band and recording live instrumentation, so it just made sense. That’s how it’s been I guess.
How does the band go about making a track? Are lyrics written for a song and then you guys build a beat around it, or is it the other way around?
They’re all different, I’d say leaning more towards the second option. There’s usually instrumentation before lyrics. But often times simultaneous with the instrumentation there’s kind of like an idea for a song behind it, a guiding principle. Like this is a song about this type of emotion, this is a song about that type of emotion. The songs kind of grow from there, but often times we build a certain mood with rhythms and melodies and then build a song lyrically that fits with that.
How was seeing Outkast at Sasquatch Music Festival?
I loved it. Andre 3000 was like a zombie out of the crypt. I was just imagining some conversation ten years ago where him and Big Boi sat down, and he was like, “Dude, you know what would be the most out there thing? If I just dipped out for ten years and we came back and fulfilled the prophecy we made with all these tracks.” It’s a hit list. And that tag he has on his jumpsuit with “Sold Out” on one side and “Not for Sale” on the other side. That was great.
Is it nice going to a festival like that and not having the pressure to perform? Or do you find yourself getting antsy to get back out there?
There’s definitely some of both. I mean there’s always some of the, “put me in coach, I’m ready to do it,” kind of vibe. But it’s also nice to just be out there relaxing. I get a strange feeling because that’s the festival I started going to when I was younger, back in like high school, and it was kind of a dream come true to play it. Now to be back there there’s a little bit of nostalgia from when I was a kid going to that festival, and nostalgia from when we played it. But there’s also that need to jump up and do it again.
How excited are you to start touring again?
So excited, man its been too long. Outrageously excited. We just had our first show in like six or seven months I think, two weeks ago. It was a private friends and family event here in Seattle, it was great. It was just so good to be doing it again.
Your latest song “Hesitation” is almost at 90,000 Soundcloud plays. How encouraging is that for you guys?
Oh really! Thanks for letting me know, I hadn’t checked up on that in a while. That’s great news.
On the chorus of “Hesitation” you sing, “Hesitation, wait until the moments right.” Before this, you guys have been on a little bit of a hiatus. Is there anything in that?
Well, it probably seemed like a public hiatus but we were out here working the whole time, staying busy, secretly almost. And in many ways we still are. I guess it’s kind of an inside joke for us to put out the first single after two years of not releasing new material and having it be called “Hesitation.” It’s really for us kind of the opposite of that emotion. We didn’t hesitate, but we did feel like we waited until the moment was right until we had all our stuff in a row. It’s never quite that simple, though. There are still a lot of loose ends to take care of, songs that need to be finished and unsent emails that are all parts of it that we can’t just forget about.
I guess it’s kind of an inside joke for us to put out the first single after two years of not releasing new material and having it be called “Hesitation.”
Did the band change during that public hiatus?
I’d say so. We can’t stop growing, we can’t stop changing. I can’t say that there’s anything really dramatic that has happened. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the last year about myself. I really want to reach my goals, as opposed to just completing tasks, which was what I was doing for a long time, just checking things off the to-do list. I’m still trying to not do that and take time and appreciate the opportunities I have, but I’m still the kind of person to check things off the to-do list when it comes down to it. I’m trying to break with that a bit.
Your Facebook profile picture is a cover art with the words, “Hesitation, Leisure, Perseverance, and Service.” Are those all going to be singles or are those words you guys are trying to live by?
Well they’re all, in some ways, opposites, and things that are necessary for one to exist, to accomplish. I can’t give it all away, but they’re not all singles I will say that. They’re some guiding principles that we’re thinking about, and the way one thing relies on its opposite is something we’ve been thinking about quite a bit. It’s also just trying throwing people for a loop I guess.
Where are you with the new record and how long has it been in the works?
I’d say we’re coming up on pretty much a year of really serious effort on this record, we all had some other things to take care of. Jarred, Mark, and I, all graduated from the University of Washington, and since then we’ve been really working hard on this. You know, there were some things that slowed us down at certain times. Working the live show for one, we really want to make that an important aspect of our existence so that’s taking time too.
The record is definitely more than three quarters of the way done, but it’s not quite there yet. The plan is to not stop writing songs and not have a finished product until the last minute. We want to have a record done in the next couple weeks, next month, next two months or so. But even once we’re there, we keep writing songs, because we might have an opportunity to trade them out, or we’ll find some inspiration that was lacking, or get something we feel more strongly about.
It is a crazy, awesome thing to not have a hard deadline. But it’s also the worst because we want to make that hard deadline happen and find a home for the record, but we have the opportunity since we have so much of it done already to just kind of keep at it.
How is the freedom of not being signed? Are you enjoying that more?
Yeah our contract’s done so we’re unsigned, out here solo, cruisin’ around. [laughs]
It’s stressful because we would like to find a really serious outlet to put this record out on, a passionate home for it, but on the same hand maybe that passionate home is just us.
I don’t know if we’re enjoying it more. It’s easy to lose track of that because we’re in our own isolated little world, the four of us, sitting in the studio working on tracks. We’ve written like 40 tracks and have 8 or so we’re really pleased with that will be on the record. So I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about that to be totally honest. Part of it is stressful because we would like to find a really serious outlet to put this record out on, a passionate home for it, but on the same hand maybe that passionate home is just us. So there’s a lot of thinking that I’m realizing now that we kind of put off.
You guys recently went up to a cabin in the woods. Was that a nice escape?
That was a nice escape. We’ve never really done anything like that, so that was cool. We were up there for like four days and we didn’t see anyone else. We were out there taking kayaks out on this frozen lake, we were writing tracks, and hanging out. It was wonderful. Yeah it was cool too, we listened back to one of the songs we’re really pleased with from that session, and when I listen back I immediately get taken to that location and I can hear the shape of the room. Nobody else will pick up on it but it’s a cool thing we have within the band.
Totally switching gears, are you aware you have a song title shared with the rapper Future?
Oh yeah totally man. “Same Damn Time.” That was hilarious for us.
Are you fans of rap music? What does the band like to listen to?
100%. I think it comes through a little bit in our music. I probably listen to rap and hip-hop more than electronic music. The cult of personality that exists there is incredibly interesting, and the way personality and pure storytelling on a personal level drives so much of that music is amazing to me.
Towards the end of “Hesitation” you sampled “Y’all ready to party?” Do you like sampling directly from rap?
Definitely. I have this other project called Dutty Wilderness. I put out a tape and it’s all hip-hop instrumentals borrowing from classic beats and stuff like that. But we’re all into that stuff across the board, from the old school stuff all the way to Young Thug and the real heavy Southern rap. Whatever is going on in each individual location is really interesting to me too. It seems like rap is one of the only genres left that has a real regional influence and sound.
Could you see a rap collaboration in Beat Connection’s future?
Yeah maybe. Anything’s possible. With this record, we really want to keep it the core of the group and make a coherent statement the way the four of us would make it. But once we wrap this thing up there’s lots of stuff we all want to do personally and professionally to stretch ourselves, and explore that kind of avenue.
Are you friends with Odesza?
Definitely, I’ve known Harrison for a couple of years actually before he started Odesza. He became friends with one of my really good friends from high school. Their first tour dates were with us, traveled down the west coast with them and around the northwest and stuff like that. We kick it a lot with those guys. Really excited for them, they’re having so much success it’s crazy.
I especially like their remix of your song—I hope I’m pronouncing it right—Saola (Say-Oh-LA)?
You know I thought that for a while, but I actually found out it’s Saola (Sau-La). So don’t worry about it I didn’t know it either.
Is it named after something in particular?
Yeah, there’s this animal in Southeast Asia called the Saola. It’s really, really rare. Every time they actually capture one—they don’t know what the population of them is, and it’s kind of like a small deer—but they just spontaneously die in captivity; so whenever they do catch one, in like 24 hours they die suddenly. It’s kind of a weird defense mechanism and I thought that was really interesting. There’s just like this weird mythical creature rolling around Southeast Asia that they can’t even get a handle on because it just… kills itself.
Beat Connection tour dates:
7/26 — Seattle, Washington @ Capitol Hill Block Party
9/5 – 7 — Spokane, Washington @ BartFest
10/16 – 18 — Los Angeles, California @ Culture Collide Festival