Scotland’s Beta Band recorded their upcoming album four times before finally getting it right this summer, when they tracked a fifth and final version.
“Our first album [The Beta Band] was written in the studio,” singer Stephen Mason says. “But we were ridiculously prepared for this one.” The as-yet-untitled album, the follow-up to 2001’s Hot Shots II, is due in late March.
“I initially wrote a load of songs, and gave the demos to the band,” Mason says. “They went away and each did a version, so we ended up with four versions of each song. Then we had to condense those four versions down to make another version, and we took that and used it as the starting point for the studio.”
The process was laborious to say the least, but it resulted in twelve songs that are among the most cohesive the band have ever recorded, and a louder, more aggressive sound than previous efforts. “This album is, in some ways, a lot less unusual than the other stuff we’ve done,” Mason says. “Unlike in the past, where we’d record a one-minute song with a fifteen-minute outro, there are no monoliths on this one. Some are much more like pop songs, for us anyway.”
The self-produced album — recorded in Wales during an eight-week stretch this summer — is currently being mixed by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) and the band, and it’s due out in March on Astralwerks Records. Among the tracks are “Assessment,” which features a brass section. Mason describes it as “guitar-led with quite a large rock tribal rhythm behind it.” Mason likens “Space Beatle” to “a really sad guy alone in a mine, mining for feelings. The only thing he’s got with him is a tiny little hammer and an out of tune electric organ.” But “Simple” is a “classic acoustic guitar song” that is among the most commercial tunes the group has ever recorded.
A pair of DVDs are slated to accompany the album, one a making-of film shot by Scottish comedian Pete Rankin and the other a collection of twelve videos. Mason, drummer Robin Jones, sampler John Maclean and bassist Richard Greentree will each shoot three of the low-budget videos, which will either be set to demo version of songs from the album or culled from the six tracks that didn’t make the final cut.