The Beirut Evolution Continues

Photo by Olga Baczynska

Beirut play the Orpheum Theatre on February 26.

Over the past 13 years, Beirut have evolved from an experimental project for frontman Zach Condon into critically hailed indy darlings. The band properly formed in 2006 when Nick Petree joined the band. Now drummer Petree, Condon and bassist Paul Collins are the mainstays in the band joined by three others onstage when they perform live (featuring various horn and keyboard arrangements). Vancouver Weekly caught up with Petree after sound check just outside of Philadelphia, PA:

Vancouver Weekly: Tell me a little about the new record (recently released Gallipoli). What was different about the recording process?

Nick Petree: The location was definitely different, as we started in Italy and finished in Brooklyn. It was a similar process to No, No, No,  where Zach brings ideas to us and we flesh them out as a band. Another difference is the amount of synthesizers and keyboards we used on this record.

VW: Is that a trend you are trying to capture deliberately or just a result of the songs?

NP: I think it comes from trying to find as many new sounds as possible. It’s not a trend, it’s a goal to explore and make as many new musical landscapes as possible.

VW: How do the new songs translate into the live set; Was there a specific attempt to record songs that will be great live or will challenge you to play live?

NP: A little bit of both. It’s more of a challenge in a way because in the studio you can always add an extra sound and experiment as much as you want but when it’s time to go on the road there are six of us and we have to make this sound. And if we can’t make this exact sound, how can we best represent the song and it’s desired textures.

VW: You’ve been in this band 13 years. That’s a long time. What’s the secret to staying together in this difficult business?

NP: That’s a good question. I think it either just works or it doesn’t. One of the things that definitely helps is that you REALLY love the material. And if you really love working with other people, that obviously helps a lot.

VW: When you started out, moving CDs/units was a success measure. What are the band’s current success measures?

NP: Record sales are still a measure but it’s really the ticket sales that are the indicator we watch. If people are coming out and seeing us, I feel like then it’s a success. Ever since I started in the band record sales have been declining. The year I joined, I remember Tower Records shut down. With Napster, we’ve prepared ourselves for this decline. We look at live shows as the success measure.

VW: This started out as Zach’s side project and has evolved into a band. How do you all place your stamp on the band’s sound?

NP: Zach has such an amazing musical mind that he’s always involved in all aspects. We’ve always had a great collaboration on the drum and percussion sounds. Before he would bring more of a formed sound to the 6 or 7 of us and now it’s a tighter group with Zach, Paul (the bassist) and myself really working to form the sounds at an earlier stage.