Photo Credit: Karmen Smith
You ever want something, gotten it, and then yearn for what you already had? Drew Beskin found himself in that predicament once upon a time and from that yearning came something he wasn’t really planning on making something of. Well, he can tell you better than I can how Drew Beskin & The Sunshine came to be. So that’s where this back and forth started, and we started to unravel the layers of this new endeavor with Drew we came across pizza joints, Nicolas Cage, Drew Beskin & The Sunshine’s debut ‘Somewhere Sideways Same As You,’ and more.
Kendra: Over the years it’s been pretty normal to see someone go from being in a band to breaking out on their own, but here you are doing the opposite. You four were only supposed to record together on this sort of one-off thing, so what made you realize that you wanted to move forward and add The Sunshine to the mix?
Drew Beskin: It’s funny, I released my first solo album in 2017 to force myself to break free from hiding behind the moniker of a band and find out what “my” music would sound like and I have been inching my way back toward wanting a real band ever since.
This Sunshine project was never meant to be anything. I had no plans to record or release music. I had just finished tracking 2021’s ‘Problematic for the People’ and I just wanted to try recording a new song with my friends Tommy and Elijah who I had always wanted to collaborate with. They brought Gideon (Johnston, drums) to the session and we recorded one full song in a day and had such a great experience we naturally would just come back every few weeks and record a new tune until we had a full album on our hands. It felt too special to be under my name. The album belongs to my bandmates as much as it belongs to me.
Kendra: Speaking of realizations and moments, in “Pear Plum Blues” you sing of a freeze frame. With that, if you could freeze frame a moment from the past couple of years working together, which would it be and why?
Drew Beskin: I could pinpoint several moments in each song that I cherish because they were magic moments in the studio. Unplanned guitar licks, drum fills, or on-the-spot harmony ideas that completely change the song for the better.
One of my favorite moments was recording the title track to the album ‘Somewhere Sideways Same As You.’ That song was one of the more taxing sessions because there are a lot of changes in the song and we were trying to crack it and make it feel natural. We had gotten to a place that had felt really good. We were almost done and Tommy and Elijah came up with this harmony bit where they sing “Somewhere Sideways.”
It originally only happened in the second chorus. The part felt so great that we realized it was a hook that needed to start and end the song. When we figured that out the whole song felt complete and everyone was jumping up and down like we discovered something. Little moments like that in the studio remind you of what you are chasing and when it works there is nothing better. We had that all over this record.
Kendra: What I love about that song and so many others on ‘Sideways Same As You’ is how they all remind me of a movie soundtrack in the ‘90s; very ‘Reality Bites.’ I know you’re a fan of Oasis, so is that where this throwback sound stems from?
Drew Beskin: I am a huge Oasis and Elliott Smith fan. There will always be a little bit of that in anything I do. I was born in 1987 so I love the music of the ‘90s and the ‘80s, and I am always looking for references when I am recording a new song. Robert Palmer’s “Johnny & Mary” was a song I played non-stop during the pandemic. When it came time to record “Sun Cancer” I knew I wanted to chase that dark ‘80s vibe mixed with some of The Cure.
The band and recording techniques we discussed the most were early Beatles records and trying to go for that warm crisp sound while really experimenting with adding as many elements as we could. We are actually putting together a Beatles tribute set for our album release show in Athens on 10/28. We are going to play our album and then close the night by playing an hour’s worth of Beatles tunes. I personally was also heavily influenced by Taylor Swift’s ‘Folklore’ and I would call upon that in songs like “All Along Your Way” and “Horror Movie Plot.” I love ‘Reality Bites’ and Ben Stiller by the way!
Kendra: I’ve never gotten a chance to see Georgia, only stayed overnight in the Atlanta airport once on a layover. So I’d love to know if you had to compare ‘Sideways Same As You’ to a restaurant in Athens, which one’s menu do you feel matches the overall feel of this debut LP?
Drew Beskin: If I had to associate an Athens restaurant with this album it would be Automatic Pizza. Mainly because that was the go-to lunch spot while we were on break from recording. Big fans of the Chicken Parm sandwich and, of course, the pizza. The album is very much about camaraderie and sharing ideas with each other. You order an extra large pizza to share amongst your friends/band mates you are eating something that has topping choices from everyone involved. Everyone puts in their pizza topping suggestions and you discuss and debate until you land on a pizza that everyone is happy with. It’s about compromise and working to achieve the same goal. We are still talking about pizza right haha?
Kendra: Also, being that I have Lisa Simpson tattooed on me for life, I did get giddy listening to “Lisa Simpson Fangs.” So I gotta know, what ‘Simpsons’’ characters do you think best represent each of you and what you bring to Drew Beskin & The Sunshine?
Drew Beskin: I am so glad you like that song. The episode where Lisa gets braces was always one that stuck in my head. When she sees what could happen if she does not get dental work. It’s pretty scary and ended up being a fun basis for a song. Gideon is Bart Simpson and the rebel of the group, Elijah is Millhouse the thoughtful one with a little tinge of Sideshow Bob’s charisma, Tommy is Ned Flanders, the almost too polite neighbor you trust. I have always felt a kindred spirit with Gil Gunderson the doomed salesman. I am a mix of Gil and Comic Book Store guy. I wish I was as good-natured as Lisa Simpson. That’s who I strive to be.
Kendra: It’s time for a side note: With it being spooky season, I’d love for you to share your favorite movie to watch around Halloween – could be scary, funny, or a little of both!
Drew Beskin: I’ve recently been rewatching ‘Heat’ a lot. It has been my go-to movie for the last few weeks. I had the double VHS when I was a kid. Al Pacino is so electric in that movie and it flows so well. Great dialogue. I just got a copy of the sequel book ‘Heat 2’ by Michael Mann that I can’t wait to start reading. ‘Mandy’ with Nicolas Cage lately has been getting me in the October mood with the Halloween season coming around the corner. Visually you can’t beat that film and Nic Cage is about as original as they come. Sometimes you just can’t beat ‘A Clockwork Orange’ when you want a classic and need to feel a little disturbed.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Sideways Same As You’ out now and a few fall dates in Georgia already on the books, are there any plans to head north or west come 2023?
Drew Beskin: We are doing a few more shows in Athens and Atlanta through the rest of the year. Right now there are no plans to tour the record but if there is a good reaction we may do a few more dates. I have a young daughter now and the road is not something I am thinking about too much these days. I love to play live but writing, recording, and doing a few local shows are my sweet spot for right now, but never say never.