If there is no rest for the wicked, New Zealand band The Beths are quite the devils.
The indie power-pop act, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes, guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair, and drummer Ivan Luketina-Johnston, is on their third U.S. tour behind the strength of their fantastic 2018 album, Future Me Hates Me, which is finding airplay on the college and alternative charts. They are taking advantage of the opportunity, having just recently played a string of nine shows as part of the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin.
They followed that up with a show here in Houston on Sunday, March 17 at Satellite Bar. And they definitely saved some energy for us.
“This is our third time back now and we’re starting to get a feel for the different vibes of different states, different cities — we’re really enjoying that and feeling less and less like strangers,” Stokes said, taking a break from the South by Southwest madness. “People are coming back to shows and we’re learning what the budget beer of each city is and which I-number gets you from one state to another. Being Kiwis, most American things are pretty exciting to see in their natural environments — Waffle Houses, baseball, small towns that look like the Gilmore Girls set, covered in snow.”
Stone and Pearce met as jazz students at the University of Auckland, but decided to start a rock band, influenced by Kiwi indie-rock acts of their youth and American emo and pop-punk like Fall Out Boy. They added Sinclair and Luketina-Johnston to the mix and immediately started writing songs together.
“I had finished studying and knew I wanted to be in a rock band,” Stokes said. “I didn’t know if I could still write songs or what I wanted things to sound like, so I spent a year or so just writing, by myself, not really sharing with anyone. So, when we first got together it was just ‘Can we do this?’ and ‘What will this sound like?’ and ‘How do you play downstrokes real fast?'”
Through some local connections, namely New Zealand dance artist Bevan Smith aka Introverted Dancefloor, The Beths gained the attention of U.S. indie label Carpark Records, which released albums from some of the best acts of the last ten years, including Beach House and Toro Y Moi. The result is Future Me Hates Me.
The album doesn’t break any new ground in indie-rock, but it does it really well. There are elements of the contagious, contemplative hooks of Alvvays, the catchy harmonies of early-aughts act Fountains of Wayne, the tight energy of The Cribs, and a dash of Courtney Barnett’s introspection. Stokes’ lyrics are dark, but they are counterbalanced by vibrant and forward choruses.
Critics embraced Future Me Hates Me upon release last year, with its self-titled single getting picked up on radio and Rolling Stone naming “Happy Unhappy” one of its songs of the summer. The rest of the 10-track album is all killer, no filler.
With The Beths’ early success, it’s hard to imagine that Stokes would look back on her time with the band with much regret, but if so, what would her future self dislike about her current self?
“I play this game on my phone — it’s like Tetris,” Stone said. “I play it too much. Future me will probably say I should have been going to the beach or something.”
If by some chance this indie-rock gig doesn’t work out for The Beths in the long run, there’s always a second career in jazz. Stokes isn’t counting on heading that direction even if she enjoys ripping scales on her horn. She’s having way too much fun being a rock star.
“I still love it,” Stokes said about her jazz background. “I’ll have to fight my way back with the trumpet, I haven’t played in about a year. It’s hard to imagine never doing it again though.”