Indietracks interview #10: The Beautiful Word

By Stuart Huggett

Brighton’s The Beautiful Word are a sunny bunch who have described themselves as ‘Mystery Pop’ (the title of a previous EP) and ‘Casio folk’. Their most recent single ‘May Not be Love’ came out in April, with a new single and second album, both called ‘Particles’, due soon.

The Anglo-Scots five-piece are Emily Bryant (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Megan Clifton (vocals, keyboard, glockenspiel, guitar), Tom Newman (guitar, keyboard), Scott Jones (bass) and Jamie ‘Gruff’ Keogh (drums). We went down the pub to meet the band, where they explained how Take That paid for their new album, how they’re influenced by The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and why they’re the new ABBA.

Have you been to Indietracks before?

Emily: No, but one of my friends went a few years ago and rang me about it and said it was amazing. That was back when I used to really be into Aberfeldy.

Megan: People kept saying to us, “Yeah, you should play there!” And we’d be, “OK, we’ll try!” We just emailed them ourselves and asked. We didn’t get a weird ‘in’ or anything.

Emily: It’s good that they genuinely do listen to everything.

Have you played many other festivals?

Megan: Shall I tell the whole story of T In The Park? Ooh, I’m gonna say it. It was literally ‘cos of Take That’s manager. He said we were really good, and then gave us a gig at T In The Park, and then we never heard from him again. We were like, that’s amazing! You’re amazing! We love you! Where have you gone?

How on earth did you get involved with Take That’s manager?

Megan: We emailed him! As a joke! And he replied!

Emily: He got back to us, saying, “As manager of Take That and the individual members…” We were reading it and laughing and then thought, shit, OK. We kept emailing him and I just thought it was a joke, and then eventually he invited us up to meet him and he did exist.

Megan: He was really sweet, a really nice man

Emily: He smelt really good.

Megan: He smelt amazing, He smelt of Hawaiian Tropic.

Emily: And rum, and money, and Barbados. Really expensive sun-cream and rum.

Tom: But not like alcoholic?

Megan: No, not alcoholic! But he’s disappeared and that’s fine. We’re not exactly gonna be signed to a major label like Universal anyway, ‘cos we’re too indie. It’d be weird. But he was a nice man. Anyway, so we played on the T Break stage at T In The Park, which is great, but it’s slightly frightening because it’s for Scottish bands. Emily’s Scottish. I’m not Scottish. So I was like, “Please can we survive this?” But, oh, it was great, a massive stage, and it did go really well. We held our own, it was wicked. I was really happy.

Emily: It was really muddy though.

Scott: We lost our shoes.

Megan: So we all had to buy wellies, we just left our shoes there. That was lovely, that was Tom’s second ever gig with us.

Tom: I joined the band just last July. I’d got a text from Megan, but at that point I didn’t know her number, so it was an unknown text asking if I’d like to play T In The Park. So I ignored it, thinking that it was a wind up or that I’d received the wrong message. Then I got a follow-up phone call.

Megan: I’d met Tom ‘cos we were helping out doing music in a youth club. We didn’t know each other that well but I knew that he was nice.

Emily: We did (Brighton community festival) Paddle Round The Pier the day before. That was Tom’s first gig and it was awful, really rainy, and then we drove up to Scotland that day, stayed at my mum’s house, and the next day we played T In The Park. And then the next day we played in London at the Half Moon, so it was like a really, really short – but really long – tour.

Megan: Yeah, you had to stay with us for three whole days.

Scott: Obviously Tom being the new guy, he got a separate bed.

Tom: It was a new experience.

Emily: And you got to meet my mum.

Megan: Oddly, because of Take That’s manager and the money we got for that gig, we recorded our entire new album. If that hadn’t have happened we wouldn’t have been able to go into the studio.

Is it ready to come out soon?

Gruff: Yeah, we’ve already released ‘May Not be Love’ which is on the album. We’ve got another one coming out called ‘Particles’ and that might be in June.

Megan: Yeah, the first of June and then the album after. I’m really excited. We just thought: two singles, album. Boom! We’re really happy with it.

It’s been five years since your first one (‘Curvature of Words’). It was a very long album, wasn’t it?

Megan: Yeah, 17 tracks!

Emily: I don’t know what the idea was with that. I think maybe it was ‘cos me and Megan and (former guitarist) Nelson were all writers ourselves and just started to record everything because we thought it was all amazing. Maybe we were just over-excited.

Megan: I wanted to cut it down to the best ten tracks, but then we spent like a year and a half going, no, we’re not doing that. There’s so much weird stuff on it, it’s got like jazz tracks on it and a blues jam…

Emily: We’re a lot more streamlined now than back in 2008.

Megan: We try and make new music now, something that’s not too much like anything else. It’s obviously still pop but we want it to have a sound that’s definitely ours. I think we’ve finally nailed it.

There’s elements of The Beautiful Word that are really distinctive, like your toy piano.

Megan: That’s Joyce.

Scott: All our instruments have interesting names.

Megan: She’s been around for years, but after T In The Park we were basically a soundman’s joke. Like, “Why are we miking this toy piano?” So now I’ve put her soul into a sampler. It’s like a MicroKorg and I just sampled every key in. I’ve just started putting my own voice into it now so you can make up harmonies. It’s sick. But it’s sad actually, ‘cos I really love Joyce but we can’t take her out any more. Maybe I’ll take her to Indietracks.

Why do you use a six-string bass?

Scott: It’s good for pop. I did play a standard four-string, but then I thought I’d go for a five-string and be a bit of a metaller. Then I thought, ah, if you’re gonna get that then may as well go the whole hog and get the other one. It took a bit of getting used to but I’d never go back.

Gruff: At T In The Park, weren’t people like, “Why is there two guitarists?”

Megan: “And why has he got such tiny hands?” And it’s called Uncle Phil.

Scott: After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And I’ve got two other basses, one called Jazzy Jeff and one called Carlton Banks.

Megan: They don’t get a look in these days though ‘cos they can’t do the low B.

Why else should people come and see you?

Megan: We’re the new ABBA. You’ve got to catch the new ABBA.

Who called you that?

Megan: I think I did. There’s a ginger one and a blonde one, and that’s it basically.

Emily: And he (Scott) looks like Benny. Even if you’re not into music but you’re fans of the beard, we’ve got that.

Megan: That’s literally all it is.

Emily: And the harmonies obviously.

Anything else?

Megan: Well I like us best live. It’s jokes, it’s fun. We’re probably the happiest band I know and it’s nice to be happy. If there’s more people there we’ll be even happier, so then it will just be like an infinite circle of happiness. And then we’ll all blow up.

If you can’t wait until Indietracks to see The Beautiful Word, they’re playing in London on Saturday 1 June. And if you can’t wait until then, here’s their new video for ‘Particles’: