Beauty Pill’s Immersive Ideal: Near Misses
It's Thursday, and Beauty Pill is working on "Near Miss Stories"—the band's only song that addresses the illness that nearly killed frontman Chad Clark in 2007 and 2008. "You’re in a desperate situation," says Clark, explaining the lyrics. "You’re in a shipwreck, you’re out at sea, holding onto a piece of wood. You’re at the bottom of a well, and you have fantasy of it being a story-"—you know, the kind you look back on later.
The band is working out with instruments sounds that Clark, recovering in the hospital from his illness, assembled on his laptop. "All these notes they’re putting together right now are mouse notes,” he says. Hearing it as a rock 'n' roll song is “really intense.”
Intense, sure, but the vibe is still jovial. Clarks pulls up a click track.
“I’m sure Chad spent a week perfecting that click," says guitarist Drew Doucette, earning a laugh from the room.
"Undeserved," says Clark, smiling.
Devin Ocampo records a drum part. "We need to kill that last bass note. It’s comical," says Clark. "Like a guy who just joined the band. It’s like when Les Claypool joined Metallica.” He's not being mean; this, I'm later told, is a reference to a joke made the day before. "Immersive Ideal" may be a public project, but it doesn't come with annotations.
From inside the room, today doesn't feel especially efficient.There's some brief tension between Jean Cook, who's learning her piano part for "Near Miss Stories," and Clark, who's eager to track the song—hardly the stuff of Some Kind of Monster. Later, the band realizes that it has to rerecord Doucette's bass part. "City Paper, let it be known: We have been recording the bass through a high-pass filter," yells Clark in my direction. "That’s how Beauty Pill rolls. We record the bass without any of the bass.” Turns out it's a blessing: Not every part was lining up, but the problem is fixed with the new bass part.
On Sunday, it's clear the band has more or less kept pace: It worked on 10 songs in nine days. It's the early evening, and engineer Nick Anderson has to check out. "I never liked you," says Clark. "Never liked you." Good feelings abound.
The band is about to take three days off, after which Clark and Cook will return to Artisphere for several days of vocal tracking and post-production. It turns out the other members will have some time to come in and record parts, so tonight's 11 p.m. deadline doesn't feel so final.
The plan was to work on a years-old song called "Claustrophobes" tonight, but at around 9 p.m., the band is experiencing some technical difficulties. Clark walks over to tell me about the track: It's one of the grittiest songs of the current batch, "the 'Helter Skelter' of the record." It's germ belongs to former band member Ryan Nelson, who Clark says will come to Artisphere later in the week to record a guitar part. The lyrics were inspired by a pair of Clark's friends who, intrigued by the possibilities of the Internet many years ago, imagined a world in which they could completely cut off communication with the world—for example, by ordering whatever they needed and leaving a note for the delivery guy. "They liked the idea that you could make pizza appear without communication," he says. His friends don't know they inspired a song, Clark says, but he thinks they'd appreciate the portrayal: Think sexy vampires, hopefully without any contemporary pop-cultural baggage.
We start talking about the album that will result from these sessions: Clark says he thinks he's let go of the idea of releasing a double album. And while he went into the "Immersive Ideal" project interested in making a "useful" record—something evoking a single mood—that's clearly not going to be the case. "I have a feeling it will be more varied," he says. Not a Sea Change thing. More of a Sgt. Pepper's wild tour through different colors."
Photo by Darrow Montgomery