Tastes usually don’t come any more eclectic than the helpings Beck offers up. Strangely, the same can be said of the record collections that Beck usually crops up in too—the star has been lauded by artists as disparate as Johnny Cash and Kanye West. This, in part, is because he ties together a weird world of timeless influences with his own melodic sensibilities.
As the aforementioned Mr Cash once remarked: “I listened to him backstage and I was so impressed with the way that he could do Appalachian music, like a Hillbilly, he’s really good at it. And then his own sort of songs,” he said. In fact, Cash reserved specific praise for the track ‘Rowboat’, stating: “It sounded like something I might have written or might have done in the sixties when I was going through some weird times.” In fact, Cash liked it so much that he later covered it on his 1996 record Unchained.
Embracing the wild west of music is something that Beck’s new favourite band do very well. As it happens, they even call themselves a “glob” of “action figures”. That band is Gustaf, and they are undoubtedly the sort of melodic mishmash of madness that makes the post-punk label often applied to them seem paper-thin. If that sounds like the sort of thing Beck would love in theory, then we also have his word to back it up.
When speaking to Gustaf as part of an Interview Mag feature, Beck recalled the last time he witnessed the band (being a fanboy, he often does): “I think I saw your last performance as well. You know it’s a good show when you leave your own show while it’s still happening.” Later joking that the audience were “captivated by your absence.”
This sort of slightly manic approach is central to the creative splurge of Gustaf that has allured a growing legion of fans. It was one of these daring live shows that first startled and then stirred Beck. “A few years ago we played together in Brooklyn in a loft with a bunch of friends and many other bands. You were one of my favourite bands, I’d say, in a long time. My favourite new band in America. How many times have I seen you guys play live?” he ponders. “More than any of our friends,” comes the reply.
Sticking with his live appraisal, Beck continues: “I really think you guys need to do a live record sooner than later, too. Because every time I see you it’s a little different. It’s always evolving and changing. There’s something sort of improvisational about it. You’re obviously playing the songs, but there’s an element of the unknown every time I go to see you. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I think it’d be good to capture that.”
While that live album might not be on the way a string of summer festival shows including a SXSW Show with Yard Act and a slew of other highly exciting names. What’s more, a lot of the emerging acts creeping up the bill on this year’s festivals seem to be part of a collective zeitgeist.
Gustaf – much like Yard Act and other bands like Dry Cleaning and Warmduscher – can prise a laugh as they rattle the rafters and this is also something that Beck reflects upon. “There’s a humour to your music that’s so natural. As somebody who incorporates humour in my music sometimes, I find that when it filters the popular culture, it can get reduced down to quirkiness, or made into something cute. Are you dealing with that kind of reductionist take? I think what you’re doing is sort of beyond humour, there’s something in it that’s just human.” He eulogised.
In short, Beck says they’ve “got a kind of magic” and if that isn’t worth a quick listen to see if they’ll be your new favourite band too, then nothing ever will…