By – Kristi Houk
“You gotta make hay while the sun shines…” —Liz Stokes
I was given explicit orders not to “fan girl” out and I mostly kept my word when I interviewed Liz Stokes, vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter of The Beths earlier this week in promotion of their upcoming show this Sunday, June 18th at Saturn. (Get tickets here.) After all, their magnificent album, Expert in a Dying Field was my favorite record of 2022. No pressure, right?
Liz was kind, gracious, witty, and put up with my meandering way of asking a question.
Here’s what we talked about:
Speaking over Zoom, Liz (in France) informed me that Sunday will be the first time the band has played in Alabama (let’s show up, Birmingham!) The Beths are from Auckland, New Zealand and I learned something special about the New Zealand Arts Commission (U.S.- TAKE NOTE) – Stokes explained that because NZ is so isolated, “the government has these commissions for some industries that can use a bit of support with visas, airfare, etc, when musicians want to go on tour. It’s a way to help artists who are starting from the bottom as a means to get off the ground. It’s the equivalent of “growing a business.” There are a few different funding streams in NZ that we’ve been lucky enough to benefit from. Especially during COVID. The music business managed to stay afloat.”
One of the most striking elements of The Beths music is the lyrical quality – the candor and honesty with which Liz delves into relationships and not just the romantic kind. I asked her to touch on her process for songwriting and what she aims to convey through them. “It’s hard to know the reasons why you do the things you do sometimes. I’ve been writing songs for a long time, even since I was a kid. Sometimes I’ll just write sillier songs for fun and from different perspectives but I always come back to the emotive, and self-expression; it’s the main way that I write—I work it out for myself so that I can be understood. I want to be able to put it in a way that is relatable. Vulnerability is important in songwriting.”
How did the band come up with those beautiful call and response harmonies? Stokes grew up playing trumpet, but realized she wanted to be in a rock band, and sing songs. She knew she wasn’t an amazing singer, but knew she could get better. “Nobody in the band was much of a singer, but part of the fun of starting this band was saying, Let’s start a rock band and let’s all sing. I was a big fan of bands like Ben Folds Five where you can hear everybody’s voice. Adding backing vocals is like adding another instrument.”
Plans for a new record? Yes, I received confirmation that new material was coming sometime next year and Liz has also agreed to play my favorite song this Sunday night. You’ll have to show up to the show to find out which one.
I had a blast speaking with Liz and appreciate her willingness to get silly.
See you at the show!
Written by: kristi houk
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