A Brooklyn-based duo that pairs a flawless aesthetic—not only in terms of the imagery surrounding their music, they both appear to have won the genetic lottery—with sexy R&B-influenced electronic tunes, Beacon has just about everything going for them (the bastards). For obvious reasons, very-cool label Ghostly International wasted no time adding them to their already stacked roster of talented, aesthetically pleasing electronic artists. In the wake of two well-executed EPs, their debut album, The Ways We Separate, is as dark as its name suggests. The record is best enjoyed with its pulsating basslines and heartbreaking lyrics oozing through massive subs or, conversely, while sobbing alone in total darkness in the wake of getting dumped. We sat down with Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett of Beacon to chat about the album, art, and the extremely complicated manner in which they determine how to dress for shows.
How did you guys meet and come to be making music together?
JACOB GOSSETT: We met at Pratt. We met the first week of classes but we didn’t start making music together until our last year. Once we got out of school we had some more free time so we started writing together and performing.
THOMAS MULLARNEY: We finished school and then started playing shows like every weekend. That was three years ago and now we have two EPs and the full-length album coming out.
I’ve heard you guys say you’re not big on genre classification, but it’s hard to ignore the R&B influence. Where does that derived from?
JACOB: I grew up listening to mostly mainstream R&B like Ginuwine. It was the first music I really listened to. I think we’re both interested in hip-hop production, which is intertwined with R&B.
THOMAS: I come from electronic music, that’s what I’d say I grew up on. When you slow music down and parts of it are digitally produced and you have vocals, it’s hard for it to not be sort of like R&B. I think the way we talk about it is less like, “this one is going to be the R&B track, this one is going to be the sort of R&B track…”
Ghostly as a label has done such an excellent job of curating its artists. How did you come to be releasing this album on Ghostly and what has the experience of working with them been like?
JACOB: Our first EP came out on a label called Moodgadget, which is kind of a sub-label of Ghostly so that kind of happened from that. We had meetings with them and I feel like they’re very open to us exploring our aesthetic and packaging. They’re super easy to work with and they have a nice roster of designers they work with.
Let’s talk about The Ways We Separate. I read it deals with separation both in terms of the conventional break-up sense and in terms of separating from yourself. Can you elaborate on that?
THOMAS: The title comes from a lyric. It wasn’t like we were doing a concept album on separation. It’s just something that we thought tied things together a little. It’s about the way a person changes in the process of being with another person – letting the whole concept of who you are change. And then the literal sense of how separating from a person also shows us how we separate from ourselves.
Were you drawing from personal experience when exploring these themes?
THOMAS: I think we do that but it’s definitely not a thing where everything in the record is specific to personal baggage.
Can you speak a bit about your songwriting and recording process? What is your typical sequence of events?
JACOB: Since we’ve started it’s been ideas building up over time, and then getting to a point where we can make it happen. We went away, out of the city, for a month and a half or so and pretty much worked exclusively on this album, spending a lot of time just listening and writing lyrics. We had nothing else really distracting us.
THOMAS: It was just four months maybe, five six days a week, getting it done but the prep for it was years in the making. There are certain things that existed back when we first started, like vocal melodies and things like that. In that way the process has been as long as we’ve been working together.
You mentioned before that you started off playing tons of live shows. Was it more of a challenge figuring out the live aspect or how to record it?
JACOB: We learned a lot about what we wanted to do by playing live.
THOMAS: It was having all of this raw energy coming out of the live performance and feeling confident about that and then going and figuring out how to record it. I think by now with these 10 songs we have a lot more confidence in that.
What are some of your favorite local venues?
JACOB: I really like the sound at Music Hall. We have pretty bass heavy songs so it provides for that. We’ve played Glasslands a ton and that’s always really fun.
THOMAS: We always have positive experiences when the bass is like “booooom booooom.”
I was watching the video of the art edition of the record earlier today. Can you speak a bit about the artist that created that and how that came about?
JACOB: His name is Fernando Mastrangelo, I’ve known him for quite a while and he’s one of our closest friends. We wanted to do something special for this release in terms of the artwork that surrounds it and we were talking about doing some sort of sculptural thing. He wanted to do it and we were lucky enough to grab him.
THOMAS: He engineered it using his experience with these materials. I don’t think there’s many other people who know how to cast sugar into something archival, it is so specific to what he does. It all came together.
You are a couple of well-dressed fellows. Does Beacon have a defined aesthetic?
JACOB: If we do I guess it’s not super conscious.
THOMAS: The conversations we have about clothing before a show are usually limited to….
JACOB: Don’t wear the same shirt. Which has happened accidentally a few times.
I saw Sarah from Phantogram performed with you guys at Glasslands. Do you have any other dream collaborations?
THOMAS: The nice thing about working with Sarah is that came together in three days. I feel like collaborations going forward will be like that.
What are your summer plans?
JACOB: Touring. We have some dates set up after the release and some other things pending.
THOMAS: Our first headlining things. That’s gonna be fun.