TOP 20: Birds & Beasts
We asked the rather fabulous Huddersfield duo and thoroughly nice people, Birds & Beasts, to answer our Twenty Questions. Check out their debut album, Entwined and other mech here
1. What record changed your life?
Leo – I grew up in the golden age of cassettes so it would probably be a compilation tape my dad made me featuring mainly – The Beatles, David Bowie and The Beach Boys.
Anna – Hard to pick one in particular, maybe Dark Side of the Moon or ABBA Greatest Hits?
2. Have you ever suffered from writers block?
Anna – All the time!
Leo – At times when I was younger. Since we started writing songs about animals though I have the opposite problem, too many song ideas and not enough time to finish them!
3. What do you consider your greatest musical achievement?
Leo – Becoming more open minded musically as I grew older. When I was younger I used to say I only like old music. These days I try to see the good in nearly everything and learn more as a result.
Anna – Our upcoming single ‘Wingman’ – it is a short song that packs a lot in. It was a song that nearly ended up on the scrap heap but we gave it some love and encouragement and it re-emerged into something fantastic. It is about a bird, the lance tailed manakin. The males dance as a team to impress the female.
4. What word would adequately describe your 2019?
Leo – Growth
5. It’s now 2020, what do you hope to achieve this year, musically?
Leo – New album, new places, more gigs, more fans.
Anna – We started answering these questions pre-corona virus then got distracted with finishing the new album. That means we have checked one of those off the list, hopefully the others can be achieved with the power of the internet!
6. Do you use a tremolo arm?
Leo – Both of my Guild electrics have Bigsbys which I use quite a lot. Guild guitars are my favourite! I also enjoy the feel of a jazzmaster vibrato, quite unique!
7. Please suggest a song to learn for a beginner on the guitar.
Leo – Purple Haze – immensely satisfying.
8. You thoughts on True Bypass in a few words.
Leo – Sometimes you need a nice buffer!
9. What is your current rig?
Leo – ’63 Guild Starfire with Dearmond pickups, I recently found out it is actually a rare Bert Weedon model, they sold badly at the time as Bert wasn’t trendy in the time of the Beatles, a UK shop replaced all the parts with his name on, mine is one of those! I never used to like pedals with too many parameters as they just weren’t practical for gigs. However, since I bought a Boss ES-8 loop switcher and opened up the world of midi I have got into pedals where I can find a sound I like and then save it. Since we started performing using drum machines and a sequencer I don’t even have to switch sounds myself! Magic! My current board which I have no plans to change has a lot of Chase Bliss pedals – Brothers, Condor, Tonal Recall, Gravitas and Warped Vinyl. The Condor EQ is such a useful pedal and can do some great filter stuff too. In addition I also have a Strymon Volante (I used to carry around a WEM Copicat to gigs but this is so much more practical) and an Eventide H9 which is useful for lots of things. Amp wise I have started using a cab simulator and two Two Notes preamp pedals. I can carry around a stereo setup with ease then and it sounds great to me! For a while I used to carry around an ac30 and Deluxe Reverb but got bored of being asked to turn down all the time!
Anna – I mostly play a Rickenbacker bass although I have a nice 70s Fender Musicmaster, shorter than short scale – it has a great low end and plays nice with flatwounds. I also have a refinished 60s Hofner Verithin, it sounds great but the intonation can be iffy. For acoustic gigs I use a Fender Rumble, so light and for electric gigs I use a Palmer amp pedal and Helix which gets its sounds switched via the MPC sequencer we use!
10. What was your first guitar, and do you still own it?
Leo – I still have the 60s nylon string that sat around my parents’ house. It had been left there by my aunt when she moved to Australia. I recently looked up the brand out of curiosity and found it was worth an amazing – £3.99 on Reverb. Sounds great though! My first electric was a 70s Kay Strat copy, sadly I dismantled it and never put it back together. Still have most of it somewhere!
11. What was your first guitar pedal, and do you still own it?
Leo – I think it was a Pearl Octaver. It is a nice pedal and they go for silly money on eBay, mine is ridiculously battered though. I have sold almost every other pedal I have owned but seem to be hanging onto that one. I bought it in a junk shop that sold mostly washing machines.
12. Glass, acrylic or bottle neck for slide guitar?
Leo – Mine seem to be brass. I do like slide guitar a lot and have a Tele that is kept in an open tuning with flat wound strings for that purpose. It sounds great!
13. Which genre of music do you not own, and why?
Anna – Techno, we own a fair mostly vinyl and it is hard to know what to buy in that genre. We should start researching stuff we like though now we are using more synths and drum machines!
14. Should bands get back together?
Leo – If they want and they have a good time doing it!
Anna – There is usually a reason things come to an end in the first place, can these problems be overcome? If not is it a recipe for disaster?
15. Do you enjoy nostalgia?
Anna – No…sometimes…a little…maybe?
Leo – Yes, I am personally a bit suspicious of stuff when it gets too purist. However, if people like it and have a good time then…enjoy yourselves!
16. Should artists release new music on cassette?
Anna – Yes! I am also in a hardcore band that did a cassette release!
Leo – Buying a physical product can be a way of showing support for a band. I think a lot of people may even buy a vinyl to show support then still listen online the majority of the time. This is why mixing and mastering engineers have to spend time thinking about how a mix translates onto phone or laptop speakers these days!
17. How would you like to be remembered?
Leo – Fondly.
Anna – That I was really funny.
18. What is your favourite word?
Leo – Shenanigans.
Anna – I am German so, flitzekacke. Look it up! A great literal translation to English too!
19. Tell us a joke.
Leo – It has to be animal themed for us so…what do you call a flying monkey? A hot air baboon.