New Beat Fund

California Souls

Words: Florian Obkircher
Photography: Dustin Downing

Arrested, rained on and booed off stage. Life on tour is no picnic, say the inventors of G-punk, but it’s the best

After 20 gigs in 26 days, there are 11 more to come in the next 14 days. At this point on New Beat Fund’s first US tour this year, supporting the rap-rock duo Aer, the band are in their hometown of Los Angeles. They don’t look like they’ve been on the road. They’re just four men in their mid-20s, cracking jokes and looking at women passing by. 

“Being on tour is great, but I love California,” says singer Jeff Laliberte, with a grin. “I think we are more understood here than most places.” He speaks from experience: most of this and last year, New Beat Fund have been on the road, tirelessly promoting their 2013 breakthrough EP, CoiNz ($), a breezy cocktail of jingle-jangle guitars, playful electronics and laid-back melodies. Despite the mileage, they were able to record their as yet unnamed debut album, due for release on Red Bull Records in October.

THE RED BULLETIN: Last year you toured with Blink 182. How was it? 

Jeff Laliberte: Our first show was in New Jersey. The place was packed and we were sh–––ing our pants. We walked out and everybody just booed us. They didn’t want an opening act.
Michael Johnson: They’d never heard our music and they didn’t give a sh–t. But by the end of our performance, the crowd warmed up. The shows with Blink-182 were tough because they are such a huge band, it is a fight for attention.
JL: We’d read about the Red Hot Chili Peppers being booed when they opened for the Rolling Stones. I saw the Foo Fighters open for the Chili Peppers and they got booed. You read about it, and then you are like “It is happening to us!” 
MJ: You grow a thick skin along the way. We are used to turning people who don’t even know us into believers.

How do you handle the booing? 

Shelby Archer: “We say stuff back to the audience.”
JL: “It is weird, because sometimes when you fight back a little bit, the crowd will be more into you. It causes a stir in a good way.”
Johnson: “Chances are the dudes on stage are going to get the girl that the dudes in the audience want, so they have a right to be pissed.” 

You are constantly touring: how do you avoid cabin fever?
MJ: We look forward to getting to each city and playing a killer show. Part of the process is dealing with each other. Dealing with each other’s farts. We get high off each other’s farts.
JL: We are in a routine of travelling, but everyday is completely different so it’s cool. New people, new experiences.
MJ: Even brutal experiences, like the tour van breaking down in the middle of Iowa when it is winter, and trying to figure out how to get to the gig. It’s all stuff that is so gnarly that it is kind of enjoyable.”

They’re the things you remember, right?

SA: Exactly! Like when we were arrested in Nebraska five years ago. 

Why did you get arrested? 

SA: Possession of things and one wrong turn. Hippies from California made one wrong turn. Let’s say we were easy targets.
JL: We were treated like a drug cartel.
SA: We spent the night in a cell. At the time we were really stoned and paranoid, it was the worst thing ever. But retrospectively, it’s hilarious.

“You read about being booed, and then you are like “It is happening to us!” 
Jeff Laliberte

What was the strangest venue you ever played? 

JL: “The Asian math sorority in Long Beach [California].” 
MJ: “This was before we had management. We got asked to do this sorority party and we were thinking this party would be crazy, with chicks who, in our minds, were naked. We had potential managers coming to the show to see us play. We got there and it was the Asian math club. They were doing a bake sale with brownies and candy. There were probably 20 people there. We were playing out on their back patio and it started raining in the middle of our set. But the fact that we pulled off that show really impressed the managers. They were like, ‘Alright, these dudes can do anything!’ 
JL: “We are talking about dudes who have seen huge stadium tours, and then they come to that and they’re cracking up, loving it. It was amazing.”

New Beat Fund

You describe your style as G-punk. What does that mean?

JL: It has a lot to do with growing up in California. We were exposed to G-funk from Dr Dre and the West Coast Gangster thing on one hand, and to punk rock bands such as Blink-182, Green Day, AFI and Rancid, on the other. 
MJ: Our music is the middle ground of everything we grew up with. We call it G-punk ghost-rock.

Bands still move to Los Angeles to become famous. What’s it like already being here when starting out? 

JL: Growing up here we just understand it a bit more, and maybe the whole LA thing seems weird to us just because it was given to us. It probably still has its advantages to be here. You can run into a lot more people who can help you out than you can in, let’s say, Kansas.
SA: Wherever you are, you need to build the fanbase first and everything else comes after that. In LA, that’s harder because everyone is jaded and they don’t really care because there are so many talented people. But if you go to Kansas… I don’t know why we’re talking about Kansas.
MJ: Yeah, what’s up with Kansas? We’ve never even played Kansas.

What is the best environment to listen to your new album?

JL: “Right after you smoke a joint in your room and you’ve got your blacklight poster lit up with your lava lamp on. That is a good time. And you are hanging out with your friends. We’d be honoured to be listened to in that way.”

If the album was a pizza, which toppings would it have?

JL: It would probably be a works package with everything you could think of as a topping and cooked to perfection.

That almost makes sense, given the record’s stylistic mix ranges from reggae to punk to hip-hop. But isn’t a simple margherita the best sometimes?

MJ: I guess it is, because we are constantly on tour and not rich. We try to get as much food as possible on one slice of pizza.
SA: I don’t want to be eating my pizza and look over my table to realise that someone else has bacon on it: I want some bacon.
JL: If you just want to enjoy the dough, then listen to The xx. If you want a bunch of good stuff on top and you want to be full after, then you should listen to us.


The line-up
Michael Johnson – drums
Jeff Laliberte – vocals, guitar
Shelby Archer – guitar
Paul Laliberte – bass

CoiNz ($) – EP, 2013
Name TBC – album, 2014

LA Decade
The members are childhood friends from Los Angeles and have played in various bands for the last ten years. Two years ago they started New Beat Fund, the first time all four were in the same band, just to “try something different”, they say.

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09 2014 The Red Bulletin

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