As with most good things in life, supergroup Anywhere’s self-titled debut LP was a collaborative effort, born of the knowledge that if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Christian Eric Beaulieu, formerly of Triclops! and Liquid Indian, wanted to explore a more Eastern-based sound with Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, who was DJing at an event in Los Angeles, Calif., that Beaulieu attended. A few months after the meeting, they got together and laid down their parts for the album, followed by legendary punk bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE, The Stooges) and Sleepy Sun’s Rachel Fannan tagging along for the ride later on.
The result is a lush trip to the other side of the world, where acoustic guitars sound driving and intense next to prominent bongos and theatrical drumming. This is adventure music, much closer to Bixler-Zavala’s work with The Mars Volta than At The Drive-In. The premiere single in particular, “Rosa Rugosa,” features haunting vocals by Rachel Fannan, adding the perfect je ne sais quoi to the esoteric first effort.
We talked to frontman and ringleader Christian Eric Beaulieu about how the band formed and what Sean Connery in Zardoz has to do with his music.
I read that Rachel Fannan [of Sleepy Sun] didn’t meet you before she contributed the vocals. What do you think it was that made her decide to get involved, despite being a relative stranger?
Christian Beaulieu: Well, maybe she could tell through my emails that I was an honest dude that truly cherished her style. I first saw Sleepy Sun after reading about them for at least a year. I never listened to their jams before seeing the show, and it was a magical moment. I thought they were the perfect child of the legacy of beautiful psych/folk/stoner [San Francisco] vibes. I’m crazy about bands with male/female harmonies. Those two are real singers and they were just belting it out together and grooving hard.
So when I read she left, I was bummed. But at the time my band Triclops! had called it quits, and I knew how it felt to be down in those emotions. So I figured that she probably wouldn’t shun the idea of hearing this new music I was making, especially since the dudes in Anywhere are in [Los Angeles] where she was moving.
What do you think made Cedric [Bixler-Zavala] want to get on board? Did you see a big difference from his work with At The Drive-In and Mars Volta once things started taking shape?
Beaulieu: I guess he genuinely dug the guitar sounds I was playing at the show we met at. I was playing solo as Liquid Indian. Plus he’s a drummer, and hadn’t had a chance to get behind the kit for a while, I think. I imagine he was hearing beats while I was playing that show, before we even talked about it. I gave him my solo record that night and after that we thought we’d try and get together at some point. The difference between our songs and his previous work wasn’t ever pondered. I was really into the acoustic vibes on [The Mars Volta’s] Octahedron. I think it’s lush and gorgeous.
What did you want out of working with Cedric that you weren’t getting doing Liquid Indian on your own? What did you feel like he could bring to the table?
Beaulieu: Sometimes it can be a lonely affair making solo recordings on multiple instruments. On the one hand, you can pretend you have a few identical siblings who act as your musical servants and through familial telepathy get the thing recorded a lot faster than working with other folks.
But if you can realize that your ego won’t have the song’s best interest in its closed mind, then…giving into the collaboration process in a band context is such a rewarding experience. It might not feel that way at first as your ego gets pissed at someone rearranging your parts, but when you listen to the song the next day or next week, you’re so happy you woke up. Phil Becker, the drummer of Triclops! taught me this lesson and after Triclops! stopped working together I needed to branch out and find new players to inspire me.
That said, it was very inspiring to play with Cedric on many levels. Musically, his influence of Latin and Afro beat rhythms. The 7” that [Gold Standard Laboratories] put out that was his solo thing with his name spelled backwards is dope. I spun those jams for a while. That’s the kind of sound I was looking to get close to working with him.
Why was it important for you to have your album available for Record Store Day before releasing it everywhere? What role have record stores played in your musical upbringings?
Beaulieu: It was important in the sense of why record store day even exists. Getting people to think about the local store instead of the [iTunes] store. But I have to say, this year it seemed, at least in Los Angeles, a bit like [Christmas] eve in Target or Costco. People behaving like creeps about LPs, knocking people over, stepping on toes.
The positive of us trying to get our record out in time for [Record Store Day] was that it lit a fire under the whole thing to actually get finalized. Sonny Kay, who did the art for it, busted it out under fire and it came out beautiful.
I grew up going to record stores, so my musical identity, like anyone else who’s in or past their 30s, was built on cassettes, VHS and vinyl. In [San Francisco], on Haight Street there’s a shop called Recycled Records. The experience of shopping there is like finding sunken treasure chests of gold. I’ve never bought anything I was actually on the hunt for there, I’ve always been turned onto new/old jams that have had a huge impact on my good times.
There’s a very theatrical, sweeping quality to the music. Are there any visuals that go with specific songs in your mind?
Beaulieu: Thank you! That’s rad, I was hoping people would feel that. Fog banks sweeping into lush forests, cheetah chase scenes, old folks winning at Bingo, an all-women’s Western movie, being lost in the desert and happy about that, a composer…who forgot to use the can before the opera, ocean swells, dreams of being Sean Connery in Zardoz and surfing come to mind.
What’s next? Any tours being planned? Future collaborations?
Beaulieu: Hoping that there is a what’s next!
Anywhere is out today through ATP Recordings.