The Beets
by Kevin J. Elliott

Last week in this column we discussed the burgeoning Brooklyn label Captured Tracks, and it was likely apparent that our favorite band of the bunch was Jackson Heights, Queens’ Beets. When I discovered one of the founding members of the Beets was originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, the distant, laidback, no-fi vibes of the trio’s debut LP, Spit in the Face of People Who Don’t Want to Be Cool, made perfect sense. Like the country, the Beets play underdog to a scene now overpopulated with stand-outs, and in the same way Uruguay is quietly nestled between mega-states Brazil and Argentina, the Beets sound as if they prefer to toil in their own corner of the neighborhood, with no real allegiance to anyone but themselves. Nothing selfish about that, but in a perfect world, when you’re making music you care about, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a crowd or not. When the time comes they’re more than able to set up shop wherever—a living room, a basement, a street corner, the open-air market—and shuffle through an array of effortless, all-join-in pop trinkets. The album is nothing sonically ambitious, the instrumentation nothing beyond a beat and a strum, the lyrics easy to remember or self-interpret, the aesthetic simultaneously humorous and simple—together a new shambolic cult of friends to obsess over. The Beets are party rock with a concentrated indifference to the party, unadorned and underdressed.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the band via email about their roots and their future. Both their debut LP and their upcoming 7-inch are available from Captured Tracks.

Can you all introduce yourselves and tell us what you play in the band?

Juan Wauters plays guitar; Jacob Warstler plays drums; Jose Garcia plays bass; and we all do vocals.

Are you all originally from Queens or are you transplants from somewhere else?

Juan was born in Uruguay and then moved to Jackson Heights a couple years back. That's where he and Jose met. Jose is from Jackson Heights. As for Jacob, he came to our shores from Michigan.

Were there other bands you’ve played in before creating the Beets?

Juan and Jose have been playing music together for a number of years. We were in a band called Pow Pow, and then a band called Pink Noise before we were The Beets. Jacob was in a band called the Lavenders and now has his band Gutsies.

Spit in the Face of People Who Don’t Want to Be Cool is a pretty loaded title. Can you elaborate on how you came up with that?

There is a WWE wrestler named Carlito. When he first came to the WWE, he had a video where he says that phrase; you can find it on Youtube. I suggest you check it out, it's pretty amazing. So we pretty much follow his credo: you gotta be cool to hang.

What’s the fascination with Chico Electronicos? Is there something we need to know about obscure Uruguayan psych?

Well, you guys should definitely check out Uruguay for some really great music. A few musts are Los Mockers, Eduardo Mateo, El Kinto, and, of course, Chicos Electricos.We didn't even know of Chicos till after Juan came to the U.S. When they were discovered, it blew us all away. They are a big influence

I noticed one of your songs is sung in Spanish. Is this a tradition you intend to keep for future releases?

We definitely intend on having both English and Spanish songs. I don't think it's something Juan thinks about in his songwriting process. It all just depends on where the song goes.

It sounds like a lot of your songs are written as a group, rather than one person bringing it to the group, especially in the way most of the songs are sung by the entire band. Is this all-join-in mentality how you guys write?

That's an interesting take on things. I guess once we make the songs our own all together it's a bit of a melding of everything that makes our sound. Initially in the process, though, it's all Juan. Juan writes songs all the time and then brings them to the band. Occasionally songs will not work for the band and get scrapped. We definitely make the songs Beets songs when we play them together and work on the vocals, but initially it's usually Juan's brain child

Fill in the blanks please: In 10th grade I was listening to ___ in the ___ with ___ doing ___.

In 10th grade I was listening to Freddie's parents scream at each other in the back of his room with Freddie doing the laughing thing.

There certainly seems like you guys belong to yet another wave of young New York bands, making crafty pop songs with little budget. I’m digging what I’ve heard from German Measles. Besides the obvious, are there some other bands you have a kinship with or think people outside of the city should take note of?

I think everyone should listen to Air Waves. They’re by far the best band. There is a lot of good music coming out of the little niche we've become a part of. Bands we really dig? Cause Co-Motion, Hologram, Beachniks, Jeeze Louise, Nymphets.

The album is definitely my favorite thing so far on Captured Tracks and the new 7-inch coming this month continues in the vein of the record. Have you put any thought into what you want to do next? How you want it to sound? World tour?

So glad you dig the record. As for the future, we’ve recorded half of a new record with our friend Scott, and two songs are already on our Myspace. We're not sure if we are going to put out another full length or stick to 7-inches for a bit. Juan is very prolific, so the way things are going, if people still love it, we'll be making music for quite a while. Other things to look forward to on Captured Tracks is a release from Jacob's band Gutsies, and Juan is putting out some solo stuff as well. World tour? We're game. If anyone wants to put us up, we’re ready to go

Are you aware that you’ve stolen the name of Doug’s band? He’s the fictional Nickelodeon character that had the number one smash “Killer Tofu.”

We are aware that there is a fictional band called the Beets, yes, but we were definitely not aware when we chose the name. Juan's from Uruguay—they have no idea who Doug is. We've definitely played a lot of shows with the occasional yell of “Killer Tofu!” or “I Need More Allowance!” I guess whatever keeps us on your minds works for us.