Despite the name, noise rock gone post punk group Ed Schrader’s Music Beat is primarily two people, Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice. Both take part in writing and performing brilliantly sharp hooks and idiosyncratic melodies, especially on the superb Riddles, which you can read about here. Alternatively you could listen to the album or see them live, check this bandcamp for their albums and information on their tour.
I recently had a chance to ask Ed Schrader himself a few questions about modern music, what music means to him, and more.
Sean: Thank you so much for your time, I’d like to start with one specific question. What does music mean to you?
Ed: I don’t think I am qualified to answer this but I’ll try. When I am not on tour or performing, music just means a fun place where I can escape judgment entering in and out of many worlds of sound. Sometimes it’s nostalgia and comfort, like listening to an early 90’s playlist. Other times it is escape, that’s when I turn to Elton John’s Ice On Fire, a weird, polished, mechanical mess that always pleases! Music is tofu – it’s whatever you want.
Sean: Music has a big part in all of our lives. When did you first get into music? Who were your original go-to artists? Do you think their influences have a part in your current style?
Ed: Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Vol 2, Los Lobos’ soundtrack from Ritchie Valens Story, Sting’s Dream of The Blue Turtles, a Blondie box set I never brought back to the library were [all] some of the first records I remember owning (tapes / CDS). I often ended up with music no one wanted or whatever was a dollar. It’s a weird formula for exposing yourself to new stuff – or rather, cheap stuff – like when I found The Close Lobsters’ (Scottish Jangle Pop) Foxheads Stalk this Land at the dollar store – when everything in the store was actually a dollar! I remember when they started carrying stuff that was two dollars I was like “peace out!” I think you can hear a bit of all that stuff in my jams for sure – granted there’s lots in the tank since I have grown up and now I am not as cheap. Love listening to Free Style these days!!
Close Lobsters performing “Foxheads Stalk this Land”
Sean: Before Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, what kinds of bands were you playing in?
Ed: I was in a bunch of cover bands that did REM hits, as well as The Police and The Smashing Pumpkins. That was my life from sixteen to twenty four. Went through a weird indie rock Built To Spill kinda phase, even tried sounding like Sonic Youth at one point. Then I felt like I got “turned on” by the Swans, Kate Bush, Strawberry Switchblade, Massive Attack, Birthday Party, Left Field, Bowie, Lou, PJ Harvey, etc. My early Baltimore stuff is kinda more in that vein – It set right with me.
Sean: How would you describe Ed Schrader’s Music Beat in 5 words or less?
Ed: Spastic foggy crystals of pop.
Sean: You guys have been playing quite a few shows this past year and you have quite a few more sets coming up soon. What’s your favorite part about playing live?
Ed: The best part of the “live” show is popping in and out Quantum Leap style at different points in different scenes as they’re altering – feels like Star Trek, like we’re on a mission! But it’s interesting as an observer – like being an astronaut on different planets!
Sean: Now that the worlds of the underground/alternative and the worlds of pop culture and radio pop are more connected, the musical landscape is a lot less cut and dry on what can and can’t get popular. What do you think of the current prevailing trends in music? Have you taken any notes from it or decided to keep your distance?
Ed: I don’t let what’s happening irrigate me in any large sense, yet I also do not ignore it. I listen to lots of radio and I guess it’s part of my life as much as old westerns or X Files episodes – I take sips of many things!
Sean: Music Beat’s most recent album, Riddles, was a very emotionally potent record, one very obviously inspired by personal feelings. What does Riddles, as both an album and an artistic statement, mean to you?
Ed: Riddles as an album is probably the closest I wanna come to making country, It’s direct and catchy but I think we needed it to be, given that it was already such a challenge working in a whole new “from the ground up” kind of way with Dan Deacon.
Devlin and I usually just riffed off napkin sketches – Dan was challenging us to up the game and I think it made for an interesting construct – expanding and diversifying composition while also calling me out when I was being too vague with simple questions like “Hey Ed, what the hell’s this song about.” It’s a good question, [it’s] sometimes to me a riddle!
Sean: Who would you consider your biggest hero? How have they touched you in a way that has changed your life?
Ed: Sting is real cool – I heard an interview while in England with his former students and they painted such a pleasant picture of a kind thoughtful man who bought sneakers for the kids or went the extra mile and had the class meditate and cool stuff like that – Sting is cool (I think [I] may have been stoned when I heard this).
Sean: What advice would you give to a young, aspiring band? Anything you would advise them to do/not do?
Ed: Focus on the craft and play lots of shows all over with anyone willing to take you.
Sean: When you were young, what was your dream job?
Ed: I worked putting up stickers for Discover Card, paid five dollars a door!
Sean: One last question, what would you consider your absolute favorite record, the one that you could listen to at any time? What do you love about it?
Ed: Haircut 100 – Pelican West
It’s one of those albums you put on and everyone is immediately down, “Hey what is this?!” Nine times out of 10 no one knows. Who they are – perhaps they’ll have some vague recollection of “Love Plus One,” their biggest hit, but yeah they are great! It’s well restrained pros in a wash of horns and cheap summer days – that has a complexity and a darkness to it that seals the deal!
Haircut 100’s “Love Plus One”
Sean: I’ll have to check it out sometime soon, I’ll put it at the top of my queue.