Live Review and Interview: Beastmilk

Beastmilk are a curious clash of music eras; the half-shouting style donned in most songs, coupled with distinctive bass-lines and the occasional white noise, earns the band an unmistakable 80s post-punk stamp. However, on the other hand, the hauntingly catchy guitar and dark droning echoes bring the band closer to the more contemporary metal of Children of Bodom and Trivium – albeit perhaps less fast or heavy.

The results are surprisingly effective. The band’s onstage energy is contagious, and the underground grittiness of Audio works to enforce the apocalyptic tones, especially when the band launches into songs of nuclear winters and ghosts. At times it’s a little difficult to disentangle the lyrics from the half-mumbling vocals, though this doesn’t stop fans at the front row from going wild and singing along to every word, while Kvohst cleverly introduces song names with a semi-narrative sentence in between every song (“Glasgow…You Are Now Under Our Control.”)

My only beef with the band is that whilst each song flows very well from one to the next, with a solid overall sound; few really manage to stick in my mind at the end of the gig. Overall, it was like a good night out that’s thoroughly enjoyable and easily pushed to the back of my mind to be forgotten later.

Qmunicate’s Karen Cheung, and our first cover story writer of the new term, had a chat with with Kvohst (Matt McNerney) from Beastmilk. Kvohst says he’s never really listened to much Bauhaus, yet of all the bands Beastmilk have been compared to that fall under the post-punk umbrella, it’s this gothic legend that they’re most reminiscent of. He also got asked who he’d kill and marry, aside from his wife of course.

You guys play music described as apocalyptic post-punk – being from Finland, what are some local bands that have influenced your music? Or is it mostly the international scene?

Matt: The Finnish post-punk scene is definitely more musically interesting to us than say, the British one – we’re looking at bands like Radiopuhelimet, a lot of these bands from the Finnish scenes – it’s because of the record labels as well. Like our vinyl label, which used to be called Love Records – they changed their name later and started putting out post-punk stuff and hippie music and became a post-punk label, and they press a lot of those classic records. But for the band, for the music and for the culture that was big for us, the Finnish scene back in the ‘80s.

How did the name ‘Beastmilk’ come about?

M: It came about because me and Goatspeed read White Stains by Aleister Crowley, and we really wanted to have a dialogue about what it means to be a man and go through all these male emotions, in a non-homosexual way, things that maybe other bands don’t sing about. It was sort of a conversation on what is your father’s milk, what is your mother’s milk and so on, the essence of which leads you down a different path, it’s kind of an inspirational fluid for us to do the great work. It’s quite Freudian, and of course there’s the pun, but that was really the last thing on our minds. Though it’s the first thing on a lot of people’s minds, many think it’s a silly name, and they’re kind of annoyed by it, like, ‘Oh is there a band called Beastmilk? Oh my god are you serious?”

But in the old days people use to find interesting name for their bands, and a lot of the time nowadays you have a lot of crappy ones, like Black Magician or something and you’re like, this is so uninspirational for us. We want something that makes people think a little bit, or it might take them by surprise, or makes them laugh – but whatever it is the postpunk in the 1980s was very confrontational, so we want some sort of that confrontation even in the band name. And then you think about Metallica, which like the most silly band name ever, but it’s also one of the biggest bands in the world, what are you going to do? I think it works if people listen to the music and read the lyrics, and they get the Beastmilk-White Stain-Crowley connotation.

What is your favourite music era? Is it the ‘80s then?

M: Well, I don’t know if it’s my favourite music era, it’s that as we get to this age and we get a bit older we realize what actually really does deeply inspire us and that’s been the music we grew up with; and it’s like a subconscious influence that goes through everything we do, and I was born in ’78, so I really am a child of the ‘80s. But I like all kinds of eras of music, I think some things really happened in the late ‘60s – especially since ’68 – to ‘70s with music and I like a lot of albums from that period of time. But I do like all kinds of music, I’m not just sitting there listening to ‘80s post-punk all the time.

What about some bands or music that was on your playlist when you were 15?

M: I started with heavy metal and thrash, and then I went into the death metal and black metal, I guess it would have been Dark Throne, My Emperor – and if you go back earlier it would be Duran Duran, The Cure, Depeche Mode, and so on.

You’ve been frequently compared to Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure, Talking Heads, all those bands in that kind of genre.

M: Yeah, I think Talking Heads and The Cure are the two bands I listen to, but I never actually listened to Bauhaus or Joy Division, I mean I know the hits and there are some songs I really like but I won’t be able to tell you very much about Joy Division, some people are like “Oh you guys must be the biggest Joy Division fans ever” but I think there are more bands that sound closer them than we do – we have the whole metal side to us. Though I think it’s nice people get reminded of that and not some shitty band. Yeah, they’re legendary and they have a lot of great songs, I think that’s what people connect with – it’s dark, and there’s good songs there, I think a lot of post-punk bands haven’t been able to pull that off, they don’t really have the songs, just the atmosphere.

Any bands, dead or alive, that you’d most like to share the stage with?

M: I guess Metallica is one for me, I really love them, and The Misfits, and then you’re talking about people like Elvis or something like that – that would be really cool.

Kill, fuck, marry: Siouxsie (from Siouxsie & the Banshees), Courtney Love, and Deborah Harry.

M: [Laughs] Well I’m already married, so I can’t marry any of them, but hypothetically – I’m really not that interested in Courtney Love, her or her music, at all – Deborah Harry does have some great songs, but I suppose it’ll have to be Siouxsie, and I guess my wife won’t even mind me saying that because she likes her as well. I think she’s the coolest out of the bunch. I don’t know, those are all really strong words, I mean Siouxsie quite originally sexy, though I don’t sit around thinking I want to fuck her or anything. But if I was at knifepoint and I’d have to choose, it would be her.

Earliest and most memorable gigs?

M: We [Matt’s earlier band] used to play at this club underneath the school I went to, and we had one night onstage, we made this band that was called The Rapist. We advertised and made all these flyers and people went completely nuts, especially the punk thing, we really wanted to get in people’s faces. We were only 14. We went onstage and lasted like half a song, and people just went crazy; they bombarded the stage. We had this song that was called “Inside Cindy Crawford’s Cunt”, and when the singer announced it everybody went nuts, tore the stage apart, went outside and sat on the field, and put things through the window of the school, and there was like this huge riot just because we played. That was the earliest time I’ve played. So since a young age I’ve sort of been doing these extreme, in your face things with bands. With Beastmilk, our earliest memory playing live…I guess the weirdest thing was when we toured with HIM, there were all these venues with these young girls standing at the front with their arms folded and they were like who are these guys, we’re waiting for HIM to come onstage, so that was very strange for us because we were mostly playing to an audience that mostly didn’t want to see us. But we picked up a few crazy fans from the tour. You go, you try out different crowds to see if your band can work with them, I don’t know if it was a success or not but it was definitely an interesting thing to do.

[Karen Cheung – @karenklcheung]

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