New York trio Beechwood forges their own raw pop-punk sound but also channels their love for Iggy and the Dolls through their music
I met up with Gordon [Lawrence], Isa [Tineo], and Sid—who make up the rowdy New York City band, Beechwood—in a diner in Brooklyn this winter. Wearing bell bottoms, long- collared leather jackets, and groovy hats make them stand apart from the crowd. Not to mention drummer Isa’s extensive tattoos and singer Gordon and bassist Sid’s shoulder-length shag hairdo’s, complete with bangs. Gordon sometimes gets harassed walking down the street by men who think he’s a woman. They are all in their early twenties, yet they have the mind of musicians more than twice their age. Exquisite music taste and ideas make them seem from another era.
Their latest release, Songs From The Land Of Nod, is an excellent garage/ punk effort inspired by their struggles and achievements. The utterly sexy song, “C/F,” is sure to make the girls (and boys for the matter) swoon. Gordon’s guitar chords strike a flame in my heart that hasn’t been lit since I first heard the Stones. “Heroin Honey,” is a poppy love song that has me recalling soft, early 1960s melodies. This short track will have you begging for more. I listen to this one on repeat for a good amount of time, singing along. “This Time Around,” is filled with angst-ridden shouts and howls. Paired with aggressive guitars and drums, it’s a killer tune to see live.
I’m very impressed by how easily Beechwood can belt out an aggressive garage track one minute and the next, give us a tender love song. All produced with a raw essence that can’t be faked. With Iggy Pop being in their favorite musicians’ list along with the band Girls, you can’t go wrong with these guys. As they say, “These kids are going places.”
PKM: Where are you guys from?
Gordon: I grew up right over the George Washington Bridge on the Jersey side. It’s actually closer to Manhattan than where I live in Brooklyn now.
Sid: I was born in Sydney, Australia. I moved here to Brooklyn when I was 12.
Isa: I was born and raised in Queens.
PKM: How old are you guys?
Gordon: I used to be the cute one, now Sid’s the cute one.
PKM: You’re all cute. When did you start playing music?
Gordon: I got a little Toys R’ Us acoustic guitar when I was eight years old. My dad knew how to play rudimentary guitar. Bar chords… maybe a hand full of chords. He tried to teach me a bar chord but my hands were too small. So he taught me how to play an A chord and an E chord. So I just played the shit outta them. I would listen to songs and just play those two chords when either of them came on. When I was ten, I got an electric guitar. There was a Tower Records on the way home from the guitar shop and my dad pulled over to buy me two Ramones records. I got The Ramones Anthology and Rocket To Russia. The Ramones were the first band that I connected with and thought, “I could’ve been in this band.” I just played the shit out of those records and reading the booklet inside led me to the New York Dolls and the Stooges. I bought those records and started playing along with them.
PKM: How about you with the drums?
Isa: We learned how to play music together. We wrote songs together. My dad had a drum set at my house growing up but I never learned how to play it. I could keep a solid beat, which I guess is a good start.
Gordon: We met through mutual friends skateboarding.
“We love Big Star as much as we love the Stooges.”
PKM: Where does the name Beechwood come from?
Gordon: That is the name of the street I grew up on. Our original bass player was a kid I grew up with. He was cool. He kinda disappeared actually. Last I heard, he was in Uruguay, but that was like two years ago.
PKM: I immediately think of that band Beachwood Sparks when I hear your name. Do you know that L.A. band?
Gordon: Yeah I know about them. They have a different spelling (Beachwood instead of Beechwood). We have nothing to do with them.
PKM: I actually like you guys way better. What were your songs about in the very beginning? Were they silly?
Isa: They were good.
Gordon: Boredom, no fun, the usual…
Isa: Brigitte Bardot.
Gordon: Yeah, we had a song about Brigitte Bardot. All of those songs that we wrote back then we would play now too.
Isa: The first song I ever wrote in my life on guitar and sang is on our first EP. Literally, I wrote a song to put on an EP and it’s called, “Orly.” You can’t find it anywhere anymore. Rare shit.
PKM: I like your song, “Heroin Honey.” It’s beautiful and melodic.
Isa: I wrote that. It’s actually not about heroin though.
PKM: What I like about you guys are that you have fast songs and slow songs but both are super groovy. It almost feels like two completely different bands.
Gordon: “C/F” is a slower song off of Songs From The Land Of Nod. We sometimes have that Big Star, poppy thing going on too. We love Big Star as much as we love the Stooges.
PKM: Yeah, you have a Brian Jonestown Massacre quality too. So you’re open-minded about music. You won’t ever be put in a box.
Gordon: We just go with our feelings for the day. Sometimes it’s loud and fast and other times it’s slow and emotional. Nothing we do is ever preconceived.
PKM: How did you meet Cynthia Ross of the ‘B’ Girls? She’s your manager now, right?
Isa: We love Cynthia.
PKM: When I first met her, I felt like she was my friend that I had known for a long time.
Gordon: Yeah, she’s very real and gets it. We were playing a show at Goldsounds and Chuck and Elisa from the Cast were there. They came backstage and let us know how much they dug us and told us to stop by the shop. They told Cynthia about us. Cynthia and Patrick from our record label (Alive Naturalsound), they both said, “There are no good new bands.” They felt that way until they saw us. Cynthia said she was basically done with new music until she saw us.
PKM: What are some new, local bands that you actually like? Not just because they are your friends.
Isa: ElectraJets!! Jeff Ward is my favorite musician.
Gordon: A friend of ours called Victor Longo, who is the son of the artist Robert Longo, is great too.
Isa: Djuna is really good. A punk band called The Trash Bags are also cool.
“I always loved the fact that the New York Dolls were voted the best band and the worst band at the same time.”
PKM: Have you seen Nasty Band? There was an 84-year-old guy in the crowd with a suit on and a hunchback. Everyone was like, “Is this guy lost?” Then the old man jumps on the stage and puts a leather daddy hat to sing with them. Roddy Bottom of Faith No More was on keyboards and they had an evil wizard in the audience holding a staff, scaring people. The older man has been in the electronic scene since the ‘60s and does a lot of spoken word stuff. He was in a band called Electric Lucifer in ‘69. You should check them out.
Gordon: We were just talking about hunchbacks. Haha!
PKM: Songs From The Land Of Nod is your latest album. What’s your first called?
Gordon: Trash Glamour. It’s much less produced and more raw. We recorded it in my basement on Beechwood Street. I was 18 then, it’s heavier straightforward rock n’ roll. That came out in 2014. The next year we had a seven inch come out on a subsidiary label of Fat Possum. The main song is “Uptown Daughter” and the B-side is called “It’s Not Wrong.” Songs From The Land Of Nod came out on January 26th on Alive Natural Sound records in vinyl, CD, and digital formats.
PKM: Are you guys going on tour?
Gordon: We’re getting ready for a European tour from May 25th to June 8th. So far we’ll be hitting France, The Netherlands, and England. We’ll also be opening for the Bush Tetras in Toronto on May 19th. Other than that, we’ll have some dates up and down the East Coast in April, and you can also catch us at Kingsland in Brooklyn on March 29th.
PKM: Tell me about the first time you saw a band play that blew you away?
Gordon: I saw the Stooges play when I was thirteen up in Harlem. My dad came with me. That was right when the Weirdness came out and everyone dissed that album but I ate that record up. Love that shit. That song, “My Idea Of Fun,” is great. Iggy told everyone to get the fuck up on the stage and I ran up there. I was right in front of Ron Asheton in awe. Security was throwing everyone off the stage. Iggy made eye contact with me and I was touching his boot as security was throwing us off.
Isa: Christopher Owens. He is the reason I started to play guitar and write songs. Gordon took me to the show at Other Music, that doesn’t exist anymore. His band was called Girls, but it was really all about him. I had a guitar that my dad bought me that I never touched. That night I went home and learned how to play guitar. Stayed up until the sun came up.
Gordon: Girls put out two great albums and then called it quits. I think learning how to play guitar makes you a better drummer too.
Isa: Nobody has ever influenced me or impacted me as much since then.
PKM: Have you ever told him?
Isa: I did. I went to see him and I told him and he was like, “Oh yeah man, cool.”
PKM: Haha! Right. Is he a good writer?
Isa: I wanted to express myself exactly that way. I wanted to make someone else feel the way he made me feel. Everything made sense after that show. It was a real moment of, ‘This is what I wanna do for the rest of my life.’
PKM: It’s amazing when an artist makes you feel like that. When you’re young and you feel isolated with your family that doesn’t understand you. Another weirdo makes music that sticks with you and you don’t feel as alone or depressed.
Gordon: It saves lives, well at least mine. Every song that each one of us writes, all of our life up until that point is going into that song. Bad times, and the times I’ve felt on top of the world. Whenever I perform live, I kind of disassociate. It’s like my life experience is compacted into a thirty-minute set, and it even gets to the point where I don’t even remember playing the show afterward.
PKM: Do you ever feel vulnerable after a show? Because a piece of yourself is revealed to the crowd that was only yours before.
Isa: There is a reason why a lot of people don’t want to talk after a show. It’s because they’ve already said everything on stage.
Gordon: It’s like coming down from a drug. There are very few experiences in life where you are doing something where your whole life is put into this thirty-minute space and you aren’t thinking and you don’t feel anything. You just do it. It’s all or nothing for us. Everything that we are goes into our music. There is no plan B for us. This is it. If this doesn’t work out then…
Sid: So to answer your question, “Yes, vulnerable.”
Isa: I feel like everyone should do it. It doesn’t have to be playing music. I feel the same way when I skate. I think skateboarding and rock n’ roll go hand in hand. I’m going to California this week to skate and write. I write poetry. The first time I read poetry was at the Bowery Poetry Project.
PKM: I was there once when Patti Smith read.
Isa: I was there when Patti Smith wasn’t supposed to be there because she missed her flight, but then she got to be there and she saw me read. I feel vulnerable after I read poetry in front of people for sure.
PKM: That’s awesome. The fear is of judgment I guess but at the same time I don’t give a shit what people think. There are always gonna be haters along with the fans, but as long as they are talking about you, then you are doing something right.
Gordon: I always loved the fact that the New York Dolls were voted the best band and the worst band at the same time. Haha!
PKM: I still feel that way about the New York Dolls.
Gordon: Same with our band. People either love us or violently hate us. Ha! I think the best artwork has that kind of a reaction.
PKM: Did you guys grow up fast here in New York? Because to me you guys seem very mature for your age.
Gordon: Yeah, for sure, I had some shit happen to me as a kid that forced me to grow up. I lost that sense of childhood innocence before I was ten years old.
PKM: This city attracts crazy and creates crazy. Probably the worst people look the most normal and safe. My bartender friend had a body that was thrown out a window land in front of her as a child.
Isa: Phillips Marcade from the Senders who wrote the book Punk Avenue talks about seeing a dead body on the street.
PKM: He’s a good friend of ours. I was robbed the first night I moved here from California. In home invasion style by a crackhead.
Gordon: Some guy got murdered on the steps right in front of my apartment last year. I’ve even got called a bitch and a cunt on the street before for looking like a blonde white girl and not responding to cat-calls. Ha!
Isa: New York isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to give off a certain energy when you walk down the street. My dad is Juju from the Beatnuts, he travelled the world and introduced me to all kinds of music growing up. My parents let me have a lot of freedom. They recognized I was a crazy kid. I used to secretly want to be a famous painter. I take photos, I’m writing a book, I skate…
PKM: Who would you guys want to have guest star on an album if you could have anyone?
Isa: Iggy Pop. Nick Cave.
Gordon: Brian Jones.
PKM: What can people expect to see you guys live?
Gordon: You can expect an environment where anything can happen.
Isa: We are older. We play different shows than we played when we were younger. I’d be a fool to do the things I used to do, because I know better. So I’m not gonna hit a guy over the head with a guitar.
Gordon: We’ve fought each other on stage. We’ve been arrested.
Isa: People never feel like we are approachable by the way we look and our stage personas but I’d say everyone in this band is a great person.