Psych-rock royalty Beans release third album, ‘Boots N Cats’

Geelong garage-psych band Beans have just dropped their third studio album, Boots N Cats, via Fuzz Club Records. The long-awaited follow-up to 2018’s Babble and 2020’s All Together Now, it’s a record which finds Beans frontman (and The Murlocs drummer) Matt Blach putting percussion at centre-stage of the music.

The result of this drum-fronted approach is a body of work which so expertly walks the line between sunshine and gloom. In one moment, it captures the most vibrant, synesthetic movements of sound and rhythm in a way which oozes warmth and brightness; in the next, it is gentle, almost eerie, and characterised by trickling melodies which creep thoughtfully into the back of the listener’s mind. Throughout, however, it buzzes with heavy guitar riffs and basslines, reminiscent of so many of the 1960s and 70s psychedelic and power-pop greats.

The album itself was titled, too, with a sense of nostalgia at the heart of it,  named for Blach’s memories of learning to play the drums from his dad: “He had a background of German heritage and during lessons would jokingly say ‘Nein, boot’n’cats’n,’ like a simple 1,2,3,4.”

The individual tracks on the record, Blach says, are “mostly based on a state of mind or place of consciousness, intended to be open to the audience’s own interpretation as well as for [Blach’s] own self-release.” The extreme contrast of “life’s ups and downs” comes to focus between tracks like the aptly-titled opener ‘Groove’ (based on not wanting to let loose/be yourself and dance in a crowd), and others like following single ‘Haunted’ (written on the near-universal sense of being ‘Haunted by the fear of failure’).

The album’s penultimate track ‘Dreaming Daisy’ is a song for the devil on your shoulder, tackling addiction/alcoholism as well as the experience of “people wanting to live their life to prove right to others rather than themselves”.

Songs like ‘Calling’ take on the paranoia of the times they were made in, speaking to “that period of covid time where everyone, including [Blach himself], felt like they were going insane. When people were being really sensitive and reactive, calling people out over pure boredom – obviously sometimes worthy, sometimes far-fetched.” 

Elsewhere, amongst the several instrumental titles on the album, we find tracks like ‘Siamese Blundstone’ and ‘One To Four’ absolutely dripping with funk, and characterised by synthy keys that bounce around the songscape with such vivid motion.

Written and recorded entirely by himself — with mixing and mastering by John Lee (The Murlocs, Sunfruits, Mod Con, The Stroppies) — the album came to life when frontman Matt Blach set up a DIY studio in the garage of his North Melbourne home over the pandemic.

He began working on the record in lieu of the full band (Jack Kong, Lachlan McKiernan, Vincent Clemenston and Mitch Rice) with whom he’d been tearing up stages in and around Melbourne (under a number of different names) since they were all sixteen.

“We didn’t get to see each other as a band AT ALL”, Blach recalls of that time: “This is why the album came to fruition, as it kept me sane and feeling productive to still be writing/recording and achieving something. Having this opportunity and time and space really got my tires turning so I basically recorded every part and engineered the entire thing myself. Not that we wanted it to be this way, but we couldn’t collaborate together during this time, so it was a case of adapting.”
Making the most of the enforced isolation to venture down new creative roads, Blach came out the other side of the pandemic with two new Beans records in the bag (“Just you wait for the next one, we will go much more folky and chill on lockdown session 2…”).