Drew Beskin, who fronts Athens/ATL bands the District Attorneys and Party Dolls, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me in the wake of the release of Party Dolls’ debut LP, Love Wars Baby. I’ll have a review up later this afternoon, but for now, enjoy Drew’s thoughtful responses to my dumb questions.
Love Wars Baby has a real range of sounds on it — a few real rockers, and some, like “Vampire”, that are a lot more understated. Is there a theme to the album that you feel pulls the varying sounds together?
Lyrically, all the songs on the album are tied together. The album is about heartbreak and all of the fun repercussions that come with that. These songs were written on either acoustic guitar or piano and as they were brought to the band the tempos and sounds kind of shaped organically and I am not usually one to get in the way of what feels natural as you go through that process when putting together a record.
Related: how do you differentiate the songs that you write for the DAs, versus the songs that ended up on this album? Are there specific qualities or subjects that set them apart?
Almost all of these songs were written in a one month time frame. These songs could have very easily been saved and brought to The DAs but I was in a different state of mind and wanted to do something completely new for these songs. I think the time when these songs were written and how soon I wanted to get in the studio were the ultimate factors in deciding that this should be a separate project.
What’s the most important songwriting lesson you’ve ever learned?
I used to be afraid to write about what I know or things I have gone through. I always figured if I wrote something and it was too obvious that it would come out cheesy. This record was about being very honest and I definitely stepped outside my own comfort zone lyrically. I have learned to trust my instincts more and if I want to be more black and white about my lyrics, I am allowed to do that.
“Vampire” is a real off-kilter love song. What are some of your favorite other not-quite-straightforward love songs?
I have always loved “Just Like Honey” by The Jesus and Mary Chain because it feels like a love song but I could be very mistaken. Also any love song Tom Waits has written.
Is there anything about Love Wars Baby that we might not know, but should know when we’re listening?
These songs are all very much related to each other and most of them were written one after the other in the order they appear on the record. Also, Frank Keith IV (DAs, Tedo Stone, Ruby the Rabbitfoot bassist) played, engineered and produced the whole record!
What are your three biggest vices? Three biggest indulgences? Are indulgences always vices?
My indulgences are food, television and sleeping. Everyone is different but for me, indulgences are vices because I usually take them too far to a point where they become dangerous.
You’ve got this new record, but I bet you’re still writing songs, either for Party Dolls or the DAs — what’s inspiring you lately — books, music, film? Any and all.
I am always writing. I have what I think will be the next DAs record written, I also have an albums worth of material for a film that a friend of mine wrote. There is a pop project that I have in the works as well as my first solo album that I am eager to start. I am a film buff as well as a music, television and pop culture junkie. I love True Detective and still can’t get past the fact that Breaking Bad is over. I try to see and hear everything and they are always big influences on my writing.
And to sum up: if you had a time machine, and you could use it to see one show (or tour, or band at a particular time), what would you go see?
I would love to go see Prince and the Revolution with Morris Day and the Time on the Purple Rain tour. I saw them perform for the anniversary show but I would have loved to see them when those albums came out and they were fresh. I also wish I could have seen Big Star and The Smiths.