“You just need to believe in yourself. Anyone can sing. Anyone can play the guitar. It’s not that people can say that “I’m not good at that”. It’s not true. You have to not let fear hold you back.” Heather Boo, Beau
On 1 April, HorizonVU Music’s Phil Cartwright met up in Paris with Beau – Heather Boo and Emma Rose – for an informal conversation about the duo’s background, development and points-of-view toward music and expression. Many thanks to Viviane Bres, Kitsuné Records, for making the meet-up possible.
HVMU: This afternoon we have the opportunity to visit with Emma Rose and Heather Boo – together known as Beau. It’s a real pleasure for HorizonVU Music to have the chance to hear your live performance and meet you for a visit today. We can talk a bit about your background, what’s been going on with Beau and talk a bit about the future.
We’ve done our homework reading your profile and interviews that you have done (The Village Voice and Numéro, for example). We understand that you are from New York City, you met through family connections and you have been friends for a long time. You are basically self-taught as far as your musical background is concerned which is quite incredible. Developing on your own is quite amazing.
Can you tell us a bit of the backstory? We have a following of young female emerging musicians and they like to hear from success stories. Surely, you didn’t decide just to have a band one day and all of a sudden you had a manager, a label and went on tour. Can you tell us how your story evolved?
HB: Well, we were always writing music. We started writing songs. This was after we knew how to play the guitar. This is before I started singing. I thought I was going to be a guitar player. We were writing songs, we got inspired by other musicians who are songwriters and we just knew that is what we wanted to do. We started writing and playing guitar together and that’s when things came full-circle. We realized that we have a lot to say. Not only that, but were not going to be self-conscious and be held back. We were going to write, write, write and produce until we thought we had something we felt good about. We made a lot of music. We recorded music on our iPhone and someone heard it.
I started singing and Emma started playing the guitar heavily. She got really involved. She started when she was twelve years old. She just grew. I started singing and became more confident. There’s a thing about music. You do not need to take lessons. You just need to believe in yourself. Anyone can sing. Anyone can play the guitar. It’s not that people can say that “I’m not good at that”. It’s not true. You have to not let fear hold you back. We are human beings in a society where we have been chanting and singing melodies for years, so that is natural.
So, a friend of a friend heard our music and introduced us to the head of our record label. He popped the question whether or not we had a record label and whether we would like one. We said “yes”.
HVUM: That’s fabulous; a great story. When you look back from where you re today and thinking about people that are starting out, were there any real bumps in the road that you hit and you haven’t forgotten them? How did you get over the bumps?
I think the attacks in Paris were really crazy for us. We were on tour in Europe at the time. We were in The Hague at the time. We had the day off the day after the attacks. We started asking ourselves what we should do. That’s one time we questioned whether or not we should take a break. It was scary and it first seemed like musicians were targeted, but of course, it was everyone. That was a big eye-opening event for us in the world. Other than that no real problems.
HVUM: That’s great. So far, so, good. One thing that we’ve noted about your music is that you have a very cool eclectic sound. As we listen to the album we hear rock, folk/rock, a little blues, folk, and some punk and even some jazz. The punk came through more in your live performance last night than it does on the album. The album is beautiful. There is some more “mellow” sounding music. Many musicians have a hard time being eclectic. They hit on a genre and stay with it. They never get outside the borders. How did you pull it off?
ER: We never thought about it. That’s how we pulled it off. When you start thinking about things, nitpicking and judging your music that’s when it all goes wrong.
HB: We are inspired by a lot of people growing up in New York. Every day we wanted to write. I feel like performance-wise making a genre for a band can be a big mistake. Either the band makes the genre or the people make the genre. If the band makes the genre they stick to one thing. If the people make the genre they need to put a label on each song.
Our style and the style of our producer shows through on our Beau album. This gives the album a more specific genre than the live performance, but each song is so different that it should be put under its own genre like “open” or “worldly” or “confusing”. What makes a really good performance is the range a person can give to the audience. You’re expressing yourself. You are expressing the truth of the song, the emotion of the song. You have to be honest with the song and if you are honest each song will be different.
ER: On our set list we also try to put different kinds of songs.
HVUM: You mix it up very well. Can you help us tie together the title, ”That Thing Reality” with the tracks.
HB: Since all of the songs are so different, “That Thing Reality “ is a really good title. For me it felt right. Emma came up with the title and I felt very comfortable with it.
HVUM: What’s the story behind “Animal Kingdom”?
HB: It’s a funny story. Originally we didn’t know what to do with it. It sounded great; great melody, great hook. We weren’t sure if we wanted to talk about the relationship between man and beast or politics…
We had a crazy drummer and we produced a different version of it. It was crazy pop-punk. We all struggled with it. Writing with three people s difficult. We decided to put it on the album. Emma came with final lyrics that were solidified. Emma put it together. It was almost like a book; so detailed. We still didn’t feel comfortable. In the studio it was the last song we worked.
ER: It’s fun to play live.
HVUM: We’ve posted the video and it gets a positive response. Keep it up! Other than music, what do you do for fun?
ER: Walk a lot.
HB: We like to walk and write and draw. In New York anything can happen; a naked guy walking down the street and somebody gives him a pair of socks and a shirt.
ER: I like Chinatown.
HB: We never get tired of New York. It’s always changing. No store stays there for more than five years. It still feels like home.
ER: And we have ridiculously creative and talented friends from New York. Sometimes I’ll call one of them. If they’re in a move I’m with them just because they’re so “out there”.
HVUM: Thanks for your time and we hope you’ll keep us up to date. Hopefully you’ll come back to Paris and have a night to yourself so you can play all twelve tracks. It’s been a pleasure talking with you and we wish you all the best!