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Music _ Beacon

Text by Shanna Keetelaar

For their  debut LP The Ways We Separate (Ghostly International) Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett, also known as Beacon, explore not only your home-grown, run-of-the-mill breakup, but the fundamental ideas of separation.  The dark side of passion, desire, and regret is tangible, though the heavily processed guitar work and synth melodies function more as a meditation for love.  In recent years they’ve quietly released two EPs, No Body and For Now, but The Ways We Separate shows us something more promising for the future.  To get to know these two Brooklyners better we sat down for a chat, and had them explain their favorite tracks.

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NOU: Can you tell us a bit about your musical background and how you started off working together?

T: We met at the Pratt Institute where we were both students.  I was producing some electronic music throughout college and once we graduated, we started writing and producing together.
J: Producing music together was part of various collaborations throughout our four years at Pratt.  Beacon ended up being a culmination of many of those early projects.  My musical background as a younger kid stems from the guitar so I’m glad it’s made reappearance on this album.

 

NOU: You’ve recently released your first full-length album, The Ways We Separate.  Seeing as most of the lyrics are about separation and fading love, are your songs inspired by personal experiences?

T: I get the inspiration to write my lyrics from a lot of different places, but they are all translated and described through the prism of my personal experience, absolutely.

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NOU: Is it true that the best love songs are break up songs?

T: No way.
J: I don’t know, love songs as a single entity are a bit over the top.  Songs that create emotive space are what I am more interested in.

 

NOU: What memories from the recording process stand out?

T: When we were mixing the song “Overseer” we knew we wanted to treat the vocals differently.  The eureka moment came when our engineer dropped a bit of distortion on them; at one point we were running the vocals through amps and picking them up through  mics facing different directions in the studio.  In this sense every tail on every vocal phrase is individual.
J: Ah, the 5A.M. moments when you think you’ve figured it out, only to come back the next afternoon to discover you definitely haven’t!  I even developed a stress twitch under my left eye halfway through the process!

 

NOU: How do you think your music has evolved since your last two Eps?  What has been the most important thing you’ve learned?

T: I think we’ve learned more about the songwriting process.  We know what kinds of ideas work with the sketches and melodies we bring to the table.  It’s definitely been inspiring to give ourselves the opportunity to experiment while having a sense of direction.
J: I think the range and richness of sounds are a bit more complete on this album.  Each recorded project is meant to be heard as an album, so with each project we’ve had the focus of making a collection of songs work together as whole.

 

NOU: What do you want to offer to your listeners/audience with your music?

T: We hope the music is a place for people to which they can attach their own experiences.
J: I know the relationship I’ve had with certain music over the years, and hopefully an audience can have a parallel experience with the music we’re making now.

 

NOU: Can you tell us a bit about the artwork for the cover?

T: The artwork is by Langdon Graves.  We came to her with the idea of a magic trick, something that had become the lyrical conceit for Split In Two.  It spoke to the album’s larger narratives as a whole.  She interpreted the trick in her own way and the illustration carries its own life.
J: I saw her work online around the same time we were thinking about album art, and was completely floored.  Not only did it have a quiet power to it, but some of the themes she was working with sat very close to the sentiments of our album.

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NOU: Best theme song ever made?

T: I have YouTube playlists with Pino Donaggio’s Blow Out soundtrack looping.  Also love the hymn from Eyes Wide Shut.
J: Johnny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood is incredible; I saw it performed for its U.S. debut and it was mind-blowing. 

 

NOU: Which track has the most beautiful lyrics?

T: Aphex Twin does a remix of David Bowie’s “Heroes” by combining his vocals with Philip Glass’s instrumentation. Lyrics aren’t anything without a performance, so this one is just about as gorgeous and tragic as it gets.

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NOU: A song your parents made you listen to?

T: My parents are from and live for and in New Jersey; for me it was Bruce Springsteen twenty-four/seven.
J: The Temptations Greatest Hits.  I remember going on road trips with my father and listening to that record the entire way. 

 

NOU: Which track are you most proud of? 

T: We made “No Body” two years ago; I’m still quite proud of that one.
J: “Bring You Back.”  Its from the very early days of Beacon, but when it was finally finished and nearly completely reworked it felt like a song that had all of our history wrapped up in it.

 

NOU: A song that brings out the spring/summer feeling?

T: I’ll start listening to more house music during the summer months.
J: I Just got a vinyl copy of Ayatollah’s Fingertips; that will do.