When it takes months to create a single track, 22-year-olds Eric Brody and Harry Cubberly, the duo behind Beggars in a New Land, appreciate the occasional PDA their songs invite. “Having people dance and make out in the crowd is cool. It’s pretty flattering,” says Cubberly on his favorite part of performing. “When you see people grind to your music, you’re doing something right,” agrees Brody. Their melodies pull in listeners with soft vocals over electronic trance rhythms. It’s relaxing in the daytime, and fun enough at night for whatever feels most compelling: dancing, grinding, making out…
Growing up in New Jersey, the two didn’t have much of an audience for their music, save for their high school classmates and (usually sound-asleep) families. It was around then that they coined their name–”Beggars” because they set up their own basement shows with Teengirl Fantasy and Pictureplane, and “in a New Land” for their unconventional approach. When Brody moved to New York to attend NYU, Cubberly stayed in New Jersey, but they kept composing together by sending samples back and forth over e-mail. Physical instruments gave way to digital compilations. Usually it’s Brody who finesses Cubberly’s flashes of inspiration into file formats: “He puts down a million ideas and I make sense of them all,” explains Brody. “I’ll make the fibers and tie them together.”
Since Brody graduated in May, the two have been able to meet more in person and are planning a move to Brooklyn where they’ve performed at Glasslands and a number of smaller venues. Today, we’re excited to premiere “Dusk Love,” which samples lyrics from 7 Mile’s “Do Your Thing.”
We met Brody and Cubberly, who also plays in the band Treatment, at Noho’s Café Gitane. They had come in from New Jersey for the day, where, for now, they are enjoying the slower pace.
RACHEL SMALL: How did you guys meet?
ERIC BRODY: We bonded through acid jams in high school. We would stay up all night, bother my parents and all my relatives who were at my house. They’d just come down in the middle of the night being like, “Shut up!”
HARRY CUBBERLY: We were both in our rock bands and stuff and we got into live electronics, like synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers. Our style kind of started out ambient, like old Animal Collective. Just noise—soundscapes. Then we started getting into Light Asylum and Teengirl Fantasy and weird studio underground shows. We were like, “Oh, that’s sick, we want to make shit like that.” Since then we’ve adapted straight digital. Before, we were using drum machines, keyboards, and we’d bring so much gear to shows. We wanted to condense it down and be able have more control over it, so we just use computers now. We both use Native Instruments Machines. It’s really portable and you get a nice, crisp sound.
BRODY: It’s like hands-on dance music.
SMALL: Did you guys ever play actual instruments?
CUBBERLY: Yeah, but it just got to the point where it was so hard to record all that. It’s just easier to make the music on a computer.
BRODY: But the one thing that we’ve always tried to do is to not touch the computer at all while we’re performing, and to only use our pads and our knobs and our boards so we can keep it more dynamic.
SMALL: So you still have the performance element.
CUBBERLY: Instead of hiding behind a computer where no one really knows what you’re doing.
BRODY: With the last three songs we put out, we tried to utilize very cohesive R&B-like lyrics. We really like R&B–the lyrics are almost overly passionate, in this cheesy, over-the-top way. No one’s up-front like that. But these R&B artists write these very heartfelt songs that sound great with a club track. Then people are dancing and it’s like this love mantra as opposed to EDM music.
CUBBERLY: I’d say Brody does a lot of the legwork with the band. I’ll just throw an idea in and we’ll both make it and then we’ll play shows live together.
BRODY: We have a really good collaboration process though. We can get so much done in five minutes and then spend like weeks apart just working on our own thing, and bring it all back together. Harry always has like a million ideas musically–he is a melody man.
CUBBERLY: I am more of a piano player and he doesn’t really play piano, but he knows how to work a computer and I don’t know how to work a computer. So I’ll write the melodies and throw in the vocals, and he’ll piece it together on the computer.
SMALL: What was the early feedback you got like?
CUBBERLY: I think people thought we were going crazy. But it’s getting better. We have taken our time, which I like. We didn’t jump right into it. We’ve been building it slowly.
BRODY: Slowly building a big vision with a little chisel.
CUBBERLY: We took a road trip to SXSW in spring of 2011 with our friends. We played a couple really bad shows in coffee shops and then in a bar at 1 am. But then we got our last show there at a University of Austin party in this kid’s living room. Then it was like all these kids making out to our songs. I was like, “This is awesome, this is sick.”
SMALL: What has been your favorite moment so far about being in Beggars?
BRODY: We have had some very high highs, and some very low lows.
SMALL: Tell me about the extremes.
BRODY: Well, I think the best things that we’ve done are the house parties that were just really hip. The worst stuff that we’ve done is like dive bars.
SMALL: You sound like you are still building a vision–do you have a sense of what that is yet?
BRODY: We just want to make the most banging club bangers as possible, and be as diverse as possible. I feel like a lot of artists are really only well-versed in that one style that you know them by, but we want to be really good in a bunch of different electronic dance styles.
CUBBERLY: Everything will have this R&B undertone. Some of the chords are jazzy, and some of the vocals are really prolific and like soul-gospel. I like that. R&B house, definitely.
BRODY: Yeah, that’s what I’d call it.
CUBBERLY: Old-school house with a new-school vibe—using computers to make music that has soul in it.
BRODY: Good way to say it.
SMALL: I feel like your songs are very evocative. With “Dusk Love,” for instance, what do you picture when you play the song?
BRODY: Well, “Dusk Love” is about your girl leaving you. The image we’re releasing it with is this picture that my dad took in Africa. That’s my vision of the song—just the sun setting, I think.
CUBBERLY: The sun setting and people just going out or something.
BRODY: Love ending.
CUBBERLY: Yeah, like love ending and the night beginning.
SMALL: What do you think people should know about Beggars in a New Land?
CUBBERLY: That we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to keep putting out music forever.
SMALL: Eric, same thoughts?
BRODY: I think the same things as him; he just says it in a better way.
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