The Beths on “Jump Rope Gazers” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, March 4th, 2021  

The Beths on “Jump Rope Gazers”

Grappling With Sincerity

Jan 28, 2021 Photography by Mason Fairey Issue #67 - Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney
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“I feel like I used to be a funnier person? And now I feel like, I don’t know...I’m just a bummer. Maybe that’s where we’re at.” The Beths’ lead singer Elizabeth Stokes laughs and Jonathan Pearce, the lead guitarist, assures her she is not a bummer. That self-effacing humor is exactly what made The Beths’ debut, 2018’s Future Me Hates Me, so gratifying. Witty writing, four-part harmonies, and power pop energy formed the backbone of the New Zealand band’s sound. That consistency was an intentional choice, Stokes says. The debut was meant to be a record “that is just top to bottom, fast and tight.” 

Fans of the band’s debut might then be surprised to hear the changes on the sophomore record, Jump Rope Gazers. The band’s rhythm section—bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Tristan Deck—set a breakneck garage rock pace on “I’m Not Getting Excited,” while Stokes delivers a subdued folk song with “You Are a Beam of Light,” and sugary melodies on the heart-baring “Just Shy of Sure.” Yet, the consistency on the band’s debut set the stage for a diverse followup. “I think...being kind of comfortable with our identity and what we think that we sound like meant that we could approach this one and maybe relax a little bit, try some things out but still feel like we know who we are at our core,” says Stokes. The result is the band feels more varied and mature than ever.

“Jump Rope Gazers” is an especially strong highlight, but was a challenge to write. “It was difficult to go all-in on like a sincere love song and stand by it and not try and make it into a joke,” Stokes admits. “Which is kind of what I did on the first album where it was like, ‘Ah I love you. Shit.’” 

That process of masking insecurity isn’t lost on the new record. For Stokes, it’s a part of her writing. “I feel more comfortable writing something that sounds really happy knowing that it’s kind of sad on the inside,” she says. “It feels like me, the way I feel. I’m never truly comfortable just being happy and being completely content with where I’m at. I’m always like ‘Wait a minute, what if?’” The element of uncertainty extends to her bandmates as well. The DIY process behind the record afforded creative control, but could also be insular. Pearce says the band had to grapple with the album they had made, questioning, “Do we have a radio song on there? Those sorts of things that you feel are important but they’re not really that important to how people actually receive it.” 

Yet, the band found that they’d made an album they can be proud of. It is a progression, in both the band’s sound and Stokes’ writing. Pearce spoke on the album’s “Out of Sight,” saying, “That feels like a time when we kind of allowed ourselves to be less sticklers for the formula and that exploration paid off.... That song really feels like our group right now.” 

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.

Read our My Firsts interview with The Beths.

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