I love discovering new music and discovering something really quite different that is also local is extra cool! Christchurch based experimental rap group There Are No Bees are pretty new, but are already making exciting music. Their EP ‘Before’ has just been released and they are preparing their upcoming debut album. Thank you to TANB for their thoughtful answers to my questions. This was a really enjoyable interview and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in the future!
AQ: I’m loving your new ep ‘Before’! Congratulations on reaching 1000 plus Spotify listens in a couple of weeks. Can you tell me a bit about yourselves? How did There Are No Bees come together? I hate to ask the name question, but it’s an intriguing one so I would be curious to know where it came from …
TANB: Thanks so much! It’s a big milestone for us but we hope that it is only the beginning. It all started at a house party about a year and a half ago where we (Sam, Josh and Will) were sheltering from the rain in a tent and Josh mentioned that he had been writing some raps. Sam had some of his beats on his phone so we were like ‘let’s do this’ and we spent the next hour sharing verses. A few weeks later we decided it’d be fun to get a group together. Josh came up with the name, it comes from a poem of his from a little while back. The poem was about love and loss and ‘there are no bees’ was one of the final lines in the poem. Josh has been writing poems for years and always likes it when new creative endeavours pay some homage to past things so he was really happy we all agreed to use that name.
AQ: Do you write your raps and lyrics individually and then bring everything together or do you write collectively? What inspires you lyrically? You have some quite playful raps and then darker and more introspective ones. You also venture into quite surreal spoken word stuff, which is a really cool contrast.
TANB: We generally work off concepts. This is more prevalent in our upcoming album which will retrospectively reveal more about ‘Before’. We usually get together, listen to the latest beat that Sam has made, and then decide on a theme or a story we want that track to be about. After this we separate and come back together with our verses, give feedback and then lay them down. Lyrically everyone has different inspirations which we really try and accentuate. There’s no point in a rap collective if everyone sounds the same and has the same view. The contrast comes from real life (we know it sounds cheesy). Once we decide what to write about, we all have to draw from our own experiences and we all have good and bad ones. We feel it’s important to share both good and bad in an equally honest way, not everything is bad but sometimes it really is just shitty.
AQ: That contrast is there musically too. I really like how your ep switches between the more song-based raps and then the very abstract experimental electronic tracks that are like drifting away into a forest somewhere. What inspires your musical approach?
TANB: Many different artists influence our musical approach. Lyrically, we all get inspiration from different artists. If we each had to pick the two rappers that inspired us most, Sam would say Yoni Wolf and Doseone, Josh would say Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt and Will would say Loyle Carner and Pell, but we could all go on for hours. It’s also the melding of many different genres that inspires us. Trying to create emotion and transfer experiences in more than just words is important to us. Sam likes to experiment with different and unusual sounds in his beats. ‘Before’ leads into the album we are working on currently and the themes we explore in it. ‘Before’ draws inspiration from the nature of New Zealand, its beauty and its vast loneliness, while our next album is a very ‘Christchurch’ album. Sonically and lyrically it represents our thoughts of our home town and it is much grungier sounding. We are all people that listen to wide ranges of music, not just rap music, so it was pretty natural for us to experiment and use lots of different styles and sounds. It is interesting to see how different people like different tracks and interpret things in varying ways but we are fully aware that our experimental sounds can be polarising.
AQ: I caught a reference to Danger Incorporated and Awful records. That label is definitely known for its experimentation. I don’t know of too many local artists working in your genre although perhaps I just don’t know about them … is there a scene you see yourselves as being a part of locally or in New Zealand or is your outlook more the International d.i.y. underground? And the internet …
TANB: We’re all huge fans of experimental music! We definitely feel like hip-hop, and experimental music in general, is lacking in the New Zealand scene. None of us would consider this group as part of a current scene or movement, we’re looking to create a new one. In terms of an audience, we’re looking internationally, not just locally. That’s what’s so good about the internet, it makes this possible. Some New Zealand artists seem to come out of nowhere with a unique sound e.g. Aldous Harding, Homebrew etc. and we would like to do this too. Yes, Josh is a huge fan of ‘Danger Incorporated’. We all like intertextual music that throws references to other artists, so watch out for some more references in our next album.
AQ: What’s your recording process like? What instruments and/or programs are you using to make your beats and soundscapes?
TANB: I (Sam) produce all of the instrumentals so I’ll answer this one. I carry a portable sampler with me everywhere and that’s where 95% of the sounds on ‘Before’ come from. I’m a devout user of Ableton and I love it to bits. Using Ableton I mangled and mixed the effects to create the strange soundscapes and janky beats of the EP. The next album is more industrial and electronic. It makes more use of my rag tag collection of analogue and digital synthesizers. Don’t worry though it still features many songs evocative of ‘Before’, particularly on the front end. In terms of recording it’s very unprofessional. I get the others around to the small make shift studio in my house and record them using a bike stand as a mic stand with a pantyhose pop filter.
AQ: You have said you have more music and another music video coming. What can we expect from those? Your first video has some great nature vibes!
TANB: You can expect something different for sure. ‘Before’ was a very organic album, and natural sounding. While our next album has moments of this, it’s much more industrial and electronic in nature, akin to its themes. It has a good balance of accessible party music, as well as more dense abstract hits too. Like in ‘Before’ it has a mix of different sounds and we’re really happy with how the whole thing flows together sonically and thematically (won’t give too much away though!). Expect a totally different sound in the next single and a totally different look with the next video. We’re really excited to see what everyone thinks of our other styles.
Check out There are No Bees on Spotify or search for them on Apple Music/iTunes.