Ariel Beesley - Interview and New Single, “So Baby”
|Photo by: Richie Davis
Ariel Beesley is an American singer, songwriter, poet, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Ariel has been busy writing and recording new music and in September she started a nonprofit organization called U Start Here which is geared towards helping survivors of sexual assault and abuse, something she cares deeply about. Her synth-pop new wave sound is heavily influenced by her predecessors and this rising star is paving her way. Her sound is recognizable yet distinct and her lyrics are especially relatable which is extremely important for her.
David Harris for Sound Rebel Magazine caught up with Ariel over Zoom to discuss her new single, “So Baby”, her influences, and why she undresses on stage.
Sound Rebel Magazine: Hi Ariel, I appreciate you are setting up some time to discuss your new single. I was recalling how I first came across you and your music and I want to say it was through photographers, Richie Lee Davis and Brad Elterman. I don't know them personally but I love their work.
Ariel Beesley: Yeah, Richie shot the single cover for "So Baby” and he also shot my EP cover. He is one of my best friends in the whole universe and Brad is a dear friend of mine as well. I wish I can see them during these times but I haven't seen them in a while. Richie is like one of my best friends he’s so awesome.
|Photo by: Richie Davis
Sound Rebel: Congratulations on the release of your new single, “So Baby”. The song is great and the fans seem to be responding positively to it?
Ariel: Thank you! Yeah, I feel it's definitely like a super strange time for releasing music during this, you know, normally I would have a bunch of shows lined up and I, you know, get to feel that connection in real-time to see how people are liking the song. So it's weird not having live shows for me which are such a massive part of who I am. I'm grateful to still obviously get to release music and obviously, the release was very exciting and has continued to be exciting. People are listening to it so it's all you can hope for.
Sound Rebel: How have you been holding up during COVID-19?
Ariel: You know, there were a few months where I like I couldn't write at all. It was very hard to feel like, “I can do anything”. At first, I was just watching a bunch of shows and eating food in bed but the other side of that is I've been incredibly productive. I finished the writing for my record and I've written six songs during quarantine, which is been fucking rad. I've had the opportunity to write with people over Zoom. I’m writing with friends in London over Zoom which I never thought to do before. So I've kind of been forced to open up this whole new door for me to do co-writes which has been cool. I started my nonprofit U Start Here, I feel on a personal level, very positive and productive. Of course, the weirdness of the world does seep its way in from time to time I think that's inevitable, but you know I feel good.
Photo by: Anthony Deeying
Sound Rebel: So was there something specific that got you motivated and out of the bed and in those writing sessions?
Ariel: I remember waking up one day and I hadn't written in so long, and I was just like, fuck that, everything had bubbled up inside me and I was like, all right, I'm ready to fucking go write. I write a lot of my music on a ukulele before I bring it into the studio. So I really just picked up my ukulele and I remember went outside and wrote a song quickly in about 20-30 minutes. That song was back in April and was the first one we wrote during the quarantine and it’s now the last song that I'm trying to finish for the album. It was just bubbling up inside of me where I just need to go write.
Sound Rebel: I know your background is embedded with poetry, or do you consider yourself to be a writer?
Ariel: Yeah, poetry is a first love along with the music. For me they go hand in hand but putting them together initially was when I was like, wow, I can do this. My words are like everything to me. I'd say the writing is the absolute most important part to me. It's very, very important to me that I write my music. That's like the whole deal for me, I started as a writer when I was very young.
Sound Rebel: One can hear your influences and for me, it's very nostalgic, but at the same time it's relevant for today. Can you talk to me about your influences and their impact on your music?
Ariel: It’s interesting, it’s only recently I started even listening to modern music. I grew up listening to The Cure, Blondie, you know, bands like New Order and Joy Division. There was even stuff that wasn't like new wave bands like The Cramps and fucking all sorts of stuff. But yeah those bands seeped their way into my music. Particularly, The Cure who are my favorite band as well as New Order and Blondie.
Sound Rebel: When you think about all those influences you, how do they fit into your life experiences in terms of your writing process and shaping your music to be relevant today?
Ariel: Well, for a while when I was first started writing I felt I was writing good songs but they seemed just like replicas, there wasn’t anything about them that was modern or new or special to me. You could hear it in my sound and be like, “oh this girl likes The Cure”, but to me, it already had been done. It took a while to find the sweet spot of like ok you can hear her influences but “who is this?” I want you to hear my music go oh that’s Ariel Beesley so that took some owning.
Sound Rebel: Yeah, it's not always easy to do either trying to find your style and voice.
Ariel: I feel now like I’ve known it. But it was in 2015 when I found my sound when I was in Stockholm. I took a trip to Stockholm to record and write and that's really where I kind of honed in exactly on my sound. At the same time, I feel like my sound is always evolving but I feel like I know who I am as an artist if that makes sense?
Sound Rebel: It does make sense. When writing a song like your new single, “So Baby” do you start with the experience in your mind and define it by the lyrics and ukulele, and then see where it grows from there? What does that process look like?
Ariel: I don't always write with the ukulele for example, if I go into a co-write I generally don't bring the ukulele. But yeah, I mean, every single song comes from an experience, and emotion, and a specific thing that's happened to me or a specific person. I don't necessarily feel that it comes from a place of like, it's not always my conscience it’s usually crazier like oh my God if I don't write about this, I'm going to lose my shit. As you put it everything is very emotionally based and very, very real. Usually, one line just flows out. So with “So Baby” when I went to the studio with Daz my co-writer and producer, I told him I was, really, angry. I just told him we were going to write a really angry song about how men are trash, and that's what I did in my way. By the way, do I feel all men are trash? No, but at that moment, that’s how I felt I wanted to say and what I needed to say.
Sound Rebel: You mentioned anger as the emotion in “So Baby” can you tell me more about how this came about?
Ariel: Yeah, so I was really angry. So 2019 was my first year where I was single. I wasn't in a relationship, but I did date a few people here and there. I just was like I'm not going to like settle down. I realized throughout those experiences I was getting these like trash men one after the other. So I believe there was a reason why I needed to be single, but I thank them for that because it built up. The rage in turn built up the confidence to stand up for me and say like fuck this I'm not going to be treated like this by anyone. You know this is exactly how I now lead my life. Now I'm with a partner who is fucking incredible and I love very much you know and who treats me amazing. So I think I needed those experiences to kind of build myself up, you know like I said, but yeah, I was really mad.
Sound Rebel: Yeah, I get it. I think we've all been there at one time.
Ariel: I was really mad but you know I was also really starting to go on this journey where I started to believe, I do deserve better than this. You know, I think when we're in those positions we don't always believe we do deserve better. You know sometimes we're in these dark relationships and whether we are conscious about it or not we sometimes don't think we do deserve better. I think that when I wrote “So Baby”, I was coming to terms with the fact that for too long like I've kind of let myself get treated like trash and now I'm like I'm, I'm really, I'm rad.
Sound Rebel: You wrote “So Baby” did you say 2019?
Ariel: I wrote it, like the end of December 2019.
Sound Rebel: Good for you. I think about what your mindset must have been like at that time towards guys mistreating you and now for you to say you’re in this amazing relationship. That’s great because you could have easily put a wall up and not allow yourself to even experience what you're experiencing now in this relationship.
Ariel: You know what I mean, yeah, that's the power of art, in general, it gives us these outlets for us to express this stuff.
Sound Rebel: I know there's not a lot of opportunities to perform right now. When you do perform a song like “So Baby” or even another song you've written in the past that has just as much emotion. Are you always able to translate that emotion from the time you recorded the song to the present time when your one stage?
Ariel: I love that question. Nobody has ever asked me that, and it's really, it's fascinating to me because it's actually why I love performing. But it doesn't make it always easy though. So for me, when I sing a song on stage whether I try to or not, I immediately go back to that place where I wrote the song. I feel when I'm on stage this is my chance to express the song in the way it was meant to be expressed. It's one thing for you to hear my song in your bedroom and you interpret what you're going to feel the song is about for you. It's another thing for me to be right in front of your fucking face like screaming that song, crying (Ariel laughs). I do go through phases, to be honest when there are some songs I just don't want to play because I don't want to go back to that place. I think that's the beauty in music and performance is I have the power to control whether I want to feel that or not. It doesn't mean that I don't do the hard songs, I do, but it's nice to know I have the control to decide what I want to do and what I want to feel in that moment.
Sound Rebel: Does a song ever take on a different meaning over time? For example, if you wrote a song where you were extremely angry does it ever become so therapeutic for you where you’re like fuck yeah I'm so glad I went through that experience because now I'm not as angry as maybe I once was?
Ariel: I think that no matter what writing the song gives me a release in some way. Now, whether it's like a total release of the emotion, like oh I'm not mad about that anymore, I don't know about that. I think whenever I write a song It's because that emotion is present in my life, and in my mind and my heart and it needs to come out. If I'm feeling that way maybe somebody else in the world somewhere has also felt that way. That's the coolest thing about putting out music in that person can hear it and hopefully, they feel a little bit of a release like, oh shit, I'm not alone in this she feels this way too.
Sound Rebel: I think that’s the power of music and arts in general. It can kind of normalize situations. Going back to what you said before concerning relationships where some people will put up with things they shouldn't. Unfortunately, so many people do because they don't know any better. After all, that's their normal.
Ariel: Yeah, they think they deserve it. There are so many different layers to it but I do feel that any kind of art, allows us to dive into those layers and kind of, you know, dissect them if you will and find out what the hell is going on.
|Photo by: Rick Perez
Sound Rebel: So I have a question for you and I'm trying to dissect and put all the pieces together. It's maybe more of a theory and I’m trying to see if what I’m thinking is even close or accurate or if I am completely off and out of my mind?
Ariel: I’m intrigued.
Sound Rebel: I think it was your show at The Troubadour, but I could be wrong. You had played a show and during the performance, you began undressing on stage.
Ariel: Yes, yes, yes.
Sound Rebel: Do you recall that?
Ariel: Yes, it’s very clear in my mind (laughing).
Sound Rebel: Was that the show at The Troubadour?
Ariel: No, it was the very first time I played the Echoplex. It was an almost sold-out show for and I think there were like 750 people there.
Sound Rebel: I was thinking about you the show the moment you undress and I remember the following day or so you shared a video of yourself I believe as you left your therapist and that you were crying because of how happy you were. I’m curious if in hindsight if you think back was that moment of undressing symbolic in any way of you shedding a part of yourself or your past which in turn was therapeutic in a sense?
Ariel: Wow, deepness.
Sound Rebel: By the way, I could be way off.
Ariel: So, nobody's ever brought this show up before in an interview. People have talked to me about it personally but nobody's ever brought it up and it's really funny. So I just want to explain what and why I did what I did. We were playing the Echoplex opening for VHS Collection which is a New York City band. And, yeah, it was almost sold out like 750 people, something like that. I love dressing up it's like a part of the ritual for me. So I was wearing this amazing Kopples dress. That was sparkly with sequins and it was thick. Sometimes on show days with so much going on I have a tendency not to eat which is a habit I’m trying to fix. It’s such a busy day with practice or sound check or whatever but you’re going all day. So basically long story short, I was halfway through the set wearing this dress, and all of a sudden, I start to feel super, super nauseous. At this point, this is probably like the biggest show I'd ever played and there were so many people there. You know I have to say like my band was like fucking killing it like we were doing so well. This is awful but you know that feeling where you just start to feel like your mouth watering when your sick?
|Photo by: David Harris
Sound Rebel: Unfortunately, I do know that feeling.
Ariel: As I was singing I could feel that coming on. I'm looking at my bassist, I'm looking around and I'm literally in my mind going, I think I'm getting heat exhaustion because I couldn't breathe in the dress. I was so fucking hot also I dance for all my shows and when I'm on stage I'm like a puddle I'm so sweaty. So I'm looking around going, I can either throw up on stage right now. Or, I take off all my clothes to cool off because I am getting heat exhaustion and I'm going to get sick. Both did seem punk rock to me. But I decided to be a little less punk rock and not throw up on stage and to take up the clothes instead. As soon as I did that I immediately felt way better and I was able to finish the set. Once I got off stage I did not feel well for like 45 minutes it was gnarly but everyone was like, that was so punk rock because they thought I did it as like part of the show. I was just so sick. I've never thought about it like that, like shedding my skin. But I will say that when you mentioned me crying because I feel happy after a show that's something that happens to me a lot. I think that's why I said that playing shows for me it's not just about my career or like spreading my music like it's something that's like really like it like propels me forward in my life and makes me feel alive and human. So I often feel after a show that kind of euphoria as I’m sure many musicians do. I feel just so grateful. After shows, I also feel like I’ve learned something, you know, about myself. So, whether it was it correlated to me shedding my clothes I don't know but is the idea of playing shows something that makes me feel happier in that sense it propels you forward absolutely. Your question is interesting and I never thought that way but I'm going to think about that now.
Sound Rebel: So when can we expect to hear the rest of the music on the record?
Ariel: Yeah, I’ve written six new songs for the record and there are other songs from 2015 that were never released. I’m also still trying to finish the last one. But yeah, I mean, 2021 is all I can say. Weirdly the setback was a bit of a blessing. I was already supposed to be recording the rest of the record in Europe right now. So the fact I didn’t, allowed myself to write all new music that now I’m like this has to go on the new record.
Sound Rebel: It was so nice to catch up with you. Once again, congratulations on your new single. It sounds fantastic!
Ariel: Thank you so much!
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Interview by David Harris for Sound Rebel Magazine.
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