Meet B>E>A>K - Sunderland’s very own super group. Each of the six-strong crew are named after different British birds and regularly describe their sound as tropical, post-punk bird-rock, made for fans of Shellac, Battles and Don Caballero.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 8 Oct 2012
  • min read
, made for fans of Shellac, Battles and Don Caballero.

The band's core players include members of Coal Train, Field Music, Razmataz Lorry Excitement, This Aint Vegas, Boxed Roomer and The Lake Poets, while some live shows include guest appearances from The Futureheads and Maximo Park.

B>E>A>K first hatched in 2005, and since then have picked up a formidable reputation as an unmissable live act. With each member colour-coordinated and masked, they put on energetic shows, actively encouraging audience participation and interaction with the crowd.

For our recent True North focus piece, we caught up with Bluetit, aka Kev Dosdale from Field Music, to find out more about the band and its roots.

Can you tell me who is involved and how you all got together?
At the moment we have six full time members in the band, Bluetit (me), Yellow Belly, Red Rooster, The White Swan, The Green Gannet and The Raven. When we first started the band in 2005 it was just myself, Yellow Belly and The Red Rooster in the nest then we were later joined by The White Swan, The Green Gannet and more recently The Raven.

We are all individually involved in other bands and projects in the North East (This Ain’t Vegas, The Lake Poets, Field Music, Razmataz Lorry Excitement to name a few), which is essentially how we all know each other and we are all actively involved in within the Tyne and Wear music scene and have been over the last 10 years or so now.

People have described your sound as ‘bird-music’ – what do you think about that? Can you describe it any better?
We usually refer to our music as 'bird-rock' but 'bird-music' is fine too. Our music is mainly instrumental (we have been experimenting more recently with some vocal ideas) but it's difficult to describe exactly what it sounds like.

The sounds and music we make is basically just what happens when the six of us get together in the rehearsal room; we never really discuss what we want it to sound like, it just happens. Individually I guess we all have our own preferences and musical influences (some we share, some we don’t), but the way it filters through to the music is mainly on a subconscious level I think.

How healthy is the Sunderland music scene at the moment? 
The Sunderland music scene has been a bit of a hot topic in recent months, largely due to an ill-received article written by The Guardian Online Northerner Blog back in May this year. People's opinion on whether the current Sunderland music scene is healthy or not does vary depending on who you talk to - I suppose it depends on your opinion of what a 'healthy' music scene consists of.

There are pockets of people doing great things for Sunderland music at the moment which is great, but taking into consideration the size and population of the city it surprises me that there isn't more going on.

Unfortunately, Sunderland struggles in terms of decent music venues and it’s really sad that the only decent venue is getting knocked down later this year to make way for city centre redevelopment. The city has produced some amazing bands over the last decade, which have gone on to be nationally (and internationally) renowned artists but can the city claim credit for that?

It's an interesting debate, probably too long-winded and complex to discuss within this interview. All I would say is, if you're passionate and care about music in the town/city where you live - get involved, be enthusiastic and be proactive... Don't sit around waiting for someone to improve it for you because you might be waiting a long time.

The area is known for the angular and leftfield indie of Futureheads and Field Music – is that legacy continued today? Or has the scene changed?
In all honesty I would probably say no. The Futureheads and Field Music came out of an era of Sunderland music roughly 10 years ago that was predominantly more leftfield and angular than it is now. I suppose you could include B>E>A>K in the angular/leftfield indie category but we were all a part of that era also, from my experience it’s not something that seems to be as much an influence on more recent younger Sunderland bands.

But that's all completely understandable, things change, trends come and go and influences and attitudes change. I think back then it was more an ethos of rebelling against the mainstream, whereas these days it seems a lot of young bands to gravitate towards it.

I don't mean that in a harsh way either, things are different these days - bands want success and they want it fast, whereas in Sunderland 10 years ago amongst that particular scene 'success' wasn't really the main reason for doing it, it was more about doing something interesting for our own entertainment away from the commercial indie music mainstream that none of us were very interested in or inspired by - we inspired each other!

Do you have connections with Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Teeside too?
Very much so, the links and connections within music in Tyne and Wear, and Teeside are very strong at the moment. It's very encouraging and an extremely positive thing to see going on. There are lots of bands, venues, promoters and organisations working together throughout the North East - it's beneficial for all involved.

We play in Newcastle and Middlesbrough I would say just as regularly as we do in Sunderland and the response we've had in all three towns/cities has been fantastic.

Is there much support available for musicians in your area? 
There are some great organisations and people providing support for musicians in the Tyne and Wear area - Generator North East (http://www.generator.org.uk/) does a lot working with local bands and providing support through putting on shows, events, seminars and talks as well as providing facilities and equipment for young artists and performers.

The Bunker (http://www.bunkeruk.com/) in Sunderland has been working with bands providing rehearsal space/studio time and providing support for local musicians for years now and continues to do good work. There's always room for improvement and more support and investment from local councils would be good but it's good to know that support for musicians in the North East is available if you need it.

Why do you think there are such distinct scenes in the area?
I'm not sure really, I suppose the fact that Sunderland and Newcastle are quite isolated from the music industry in terms of the distance from London might contribute to that. It’s possible that bands in the North East may feel less pressure to conform to the trends of music and styles that may be going on elsewhere.

I think the fact that a lot of North East bands sing in their accents helps differentiate them from other scenes across the country and gives the North East its own defining sound. There is a lot of musical diversity here but I think the media can be guilty of labelling a particular area with a particular sound or scene purely based on one band's success - when the fact of the matter might be that they're the only band in the area that actually sound like that... And from their success a fictitious 'scene' is created by the media. I don't know, it's a funny one - all we know is that we're proud to be involved!

B>E>A>K on Bandcamp