The Beths’ bandleader/singer/songwriter Elizabeth Stokes is an indie-rock firecracker who, along with her bandmates, creates hook-filled self-deprecating gems reminiscent of acts like ’90s heartbreakers That Dog., current-day dream wonders Alvvays, and fellow down-under-er Courtney Barnett (though Courtney’s from Australia while Stokes and Co. are from the land of hobbits, New Zealand).
Unlike Barnett, The Beths are still flying under the radar, which makes this upcoming Slowdown Jr. show a chance to see them before they become the inevitable festival-circuit darlings. Their new album, Future Me Hates Me (2019, Carpark Records) is, in a word, sublime — one of my favorite albums so far this year.
We caught up with Stokes and gave her the Ten Questions survey, of which she only answered nine, because, well, if you can’t say something nice…
What is your favorite album?
This is unfair, just one? My favourite one for a long, long time was The Postal Service Give Up. I was 14 when it became my favourite record, I think that’s the age at which music just gets absorbed straight into your bloodstream and becomes a part of you. I love it with my whole heart.
What is your least favorite song?
What do you enjoy most about being in a band?
I enjoy physically playing music with other people, connecting and locking in together. It feels different every time and it’s sometimes the easiest thing in the world and sometimes really difficult.
What do you hate about being in a band?
Hate is a strong word. I’m not crazy about the ‘in the van’ element of touring (I know I’m not alone in this). I get a bit carsick and I can kind of feel my brain and body atrophying after spending hours and hours every day sitting in a vehicle. Holding out for teleportation here.
What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?
Chocolate. I wish it was something more original or interesting but that would be a lie. It is chocolate. It is easier to not eat chocolate in America because it tastes… strange? But in Europe and at home I purchase and consume chocolate almost every day, please someone help me; it’s not right.
In what city or town do you love to perform?
This is so hard, so many amazing places I’d have to offend by not saying them. OK, I’m going to pick at random… Glasgow and Edinburgh (I know that’s two, but I don’t want to further divide them). Our shows there are just wild.
What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?
Auckland, New Zealand, a few years back. It was an opening party for the NZ Film Festival. We were playing as quiet as we could but were still way too loud for this party. People came down after watching this three-hour-long heavy film, and we just cranked into a 45-minute set. We were playing super self-consciously and people were trying to talk about this movie. This old guy yelled at us to stop, I thought maybe he was from the venue. Turns out he was just a super-rich patron of the festival who decided he’d had enough, so we finished the set and then I just cried in the equipment closet. I learned to never play apologetically and I know now we could play the same show and handle it a lot better.
Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?
Kind of. We have been touring basically non-stop for a year, and the touring kind of pays for itself now. And we’re just starting to earn a bit of money, I think by the time we get home in September we’ll have earned enough to hold us down for the period we’ll be back home writing and making the next record. When we’re home, Jon does studio work and live sound, Tristan is a freelance drummer. Ben and I are instrument teachers but might just fill the gap with whatever odd jobs we can find. NZ has some great funding bodies that have been very supportive and without whom we wouldn’t have been able to afford to tour at all. The NZ Music Commission helps with international touring, NZ On Air helps with recording and music videos.
What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?
I wish I was brave enough to have ever tried stand-up comedy. Or maybe writing would be something I wish I was good at. I think customer service or sales I’d find pretty rough. I grew up working in cafes and even in that job customers could make me cry pretty easily.
What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?
Nothing bad I promise! First thing that comes to mind is a line in ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ by Jenny Lewis.
The Beths play with Girl Friday on Monday, July 15 at The Slowdown, . Tickets are $15. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to theslowdown.com.