20 December 2009

Peenko vs Beerjacket

Upon reflection 2009 has been a mighty fine year for Peter Kelly aka 'Beerjacket'. He had his five minutes of fame, after his cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'Dancing in the Dark' featured in the Rolling Stone and more importantly he released his critically acclaimed album 'Animosity', which came in at highly impressive #8 in the inaugural Scottish BAMS Award. As a wee thank you to everyone who voted for him he's very kindly given me permission to share the demo's for 'Animosity' with all of you, what a sweetie. As a few of you might not yet have been have heard any of Peters material I got him to answer a few questions for me, prepare to be won over....

Would you care to introduce yourself?
My name is Peter Kelly and I play music called Beerjacket. I don’t like to be considered a singer-songwriter but I do like to be considered. Too many folks have ruined the notion of being a solo musician. I’m not interested in making my own name an object of public interest. I’ve always seen Beerjacket as something I’m part of but which exists separate from me. It’s a bit like Fight Club.

How would you describe the music you make?
In sonic terms, it’s pretty basic – acoustic guitar, vocal and foot stomping, sometimes on a tambourine. On record, there’ve been some other instruments like bass and ukulele, occasional drum machine and handclaps, but these have all been pared down over the years in favour of making everything as direct as possible. The songs write themselves for the most part and I tend not to refine them much beyond the state they came to me.

How did you start out making music?
I was a bit of an odd child. When I was about 9 or 10, I used to write whole albums worth of lyrics and make artwork for them, even though I couldn’t sing or play an instrument. I’ve always liked the idea of a whole album. The big turning point for me was in falling completely in love with Nirvana when I was 13. From that point on, the way I thought about music was altered forever. While I was plugging away in bands in my teens and early twenties, the collective focus – regrettably - was always on doing demos to try to get the attention of record labels, rather than having the initiative to do things ourselves. Thank goodness things have changed so much as to more successfully accommodate the DIY alternative. I would always write whole demo albums and the bands I was in would pick the individual songs they thought would work best as demos for record labels, which was really a bit dispiriting given that I looked at these demo albums as full products. In contrast, when I began Beerjacket, there was an album for sale at my first show. The album format – even in the MP3 generation – is as essential to music as the novel is to literature.

What process goes into the way you write songs?
Usually, if a song is going to appear, it’ll do so without coaxing. I’ll pick up the guitar and my fingers will explain it to me. I try not to think too much when I write lyrics and construct them phonetically. It’s almost impossible to write a song about nothing and the meaning tends to become apparent once it exists.

What inspires you to write music?
It varies – maybe a record, maybe a book, maybe a feeling, maybe a mood. There is no predictable setting for inspiration or it’d be as easy as going there to make it happen. I’m not in control of writing, or at least, not when it’s good. If I have nothing to write, I write nothing. If I have something to write, I write something.

I know you’re probably sick of being asked about it, but did you ever find out whether ‘the Boss’ heard your cover?
The last time I spoke with Steve Van Zandt, he mentioned he’d passed it to Springsteen’s manager but I don’t know if he’s heard it. I’m not sick of the Dancing in the Dark stuff but it is a bit perplexing that it’s still a topic of conversation - after all it was only an hour’s work one evening after the album was finished. I didn’t mean anyone to hear the recording, I only sent it to one person but they decided to let everyone hear it! It’s funny how things work out. I thought it was terrible the morning after I did it but it was too late to stop it going further when it was already all over the Net... I suppose you could suggest it is a little bittersweet that the song that got the most attention is the one I didn’t write, but I chose to do it for the right reasons and I’m really proud of it now.

Have you had any interest from any labels? Is this something would interest you?
To be honest, I’m not sure what a label could offer me that would be worth my while. My output is entirely under my control, people enjoy working with me because it’s easy and I’m basically a nice person, plus I benefit from the support of musician friends like Matt from the National and Kristin Hersh. Their endorsement has helped me make Beerjacket better known in a more respectable way than a blanket poster campaign or something. The Internet has quite rightly made people more suspicious of marketing and has to an extent created more equilibrium between signed and DIY artists. If there is any question of ‘interest’ regarding labels, really the interest is mine. I’d be genuinely interested in what, if anything, a label could do for Beerjacket that I can’t do myself.

Lastly, What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2010?
I’m on a break from doing shows just now and will not be playing at least till about April, whilst in the meantime I’ll be demoing for a new album. Thanks for asking!

Animosity is available to download digitally on iTunes, eMusic, LaLa and Amazon MP3.
A limited edition digipack CD version is also available at his shows and from Avalanche Records in Glasgow.

1 comment:

  1. "I’m basically a nice person" - that's absolutely true by the way, Peter is a lovely guy. It's been quite nice, I've met a fair few folk this year and no one has been a dick. I like it when that happens.