By CHRISTINA CLARK
Trying to describe The B.E.A.T.’s music is difficult for even the band members.
Billy Easton, MC for The B.E.A.T., may have said it best when he said their sound was “a very sci-fi version of The Roots. The descriptions really don’t stop, it’s just some really underground stuff that spans everything from underground to mainstream appeal. [We’ve got] roots in jazz, Eli [Kahn]is classically trained, so it’s this really organic experimentation with a whole bunch of stuff…it’s rap, it’s hip hop,” adding that Arthur Schroeder is soon to be adding some digital sounds to live performances as well.
“Yeah we’ll see, we’ll get it figured out” Arthur adds. The B.E.A.T. is one of four local bands narrowed down from 16 groups locally at four Battle of the Band events, culminating on March 29 at Smith’s Downtown Tap and Grill to choose a grand winner.
Describing The B.E.A.T. is difficult because their sound is ever evolving. The B.E.A.T. is comprised of B.East (Billy Easton) as MC, Art-Amiss (Arthur Schroeder) on the drumset and Elroy (Eli Kahn) on guitar and “madness” as their Facebook page puts it,on a large mixing console and sound pedal set up he uses live during shows.
The B.E.A.T. began its formation back in 2005 when Kahn and Schroeder met in class at IU South Bend. They started playing music together in the campus’ Big Band around 2009.
Kahn graduated from the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts in music theory and guitar. Easton came into the picture when Kahn met his producer in the guitar program. The B.E.A.T. unofficially began in September 2010 when Easton moved into the house Kahn lives in. The group did a show together for Kahn’s birthday that year, and after that began taking the project more seriously.
Playing in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Detroit, and places in between, they are expanding across the Midwest.
“We’ve been in the crossfires seeing all this music shooting around us for all these years in the location where we’re at,” said Easton.
“We play Cincinnati quite often, and we play in Detroit, but not nearly enough” said Kahn. “I like it a lot. We’ve only been up there a couple times. It’s a hard scene to get into but it’s my favorite scene I’ve seen so far.”
“They’re really cool there, the scene that we’ve seen there and the people we’ve met with there are awesome. There’s some real underground stuff going on up there.”
These guys are busy. Easton has other projects including “East Meets West” with Wally West. Schroeder and Kahn were recently in another three-piece outfit called “Sobriquet” that is hoping to have a reunion show over the summer. The pair have also started their own jazz duo project entitled “Amateur Hour.”
“Opening for Lotus was really cool, when we got to open for them in Goshen,” Kahn said of experiences with other bands. “They were digging what we were doing.”
“The Black Milk show was really cool,” remembers Schroeder. “That was the first time we got to open for a national act. Pretty cool because it was really the first time I saw other musicians playing the hip-hop thing on stage [like we do], as opposed to a rapper and a DJ, though we do that sometimes as well.”
They’ve all collaborated with Wally West and enjoyed that as well. They’ve played with other hip hop acts as well including Canibus, Brother Ali, and Del the Funky Homosapien, as well as alternative acts Vanity Theft, Shinobi Ninjas, and have an upcoming show with Infinite Buffalo, and Tartufi who hail from San Francisco.
The other bands they’ll be facing on March 29 are local acts include Apophis, Dark Trilogy and Unforsaken. The B.E.A.T. is facing three metal/rock acts with their unique sound.
“It’s nice. At least there’s one non-metal group in the Battle of the Bands,” said Schroeder. “That’s important. We’re glad we could contribute to a different kind of sound to something like that, that’s supposed to be a whole Michiana area type thing.”
Kahan is also optimistic about their unique genre.
“I actually feel really good about that,” he said. “I think we might be as heavy as some of the metal acts. Though it’s not about ‘heavy’, it’s about pleasing a crowd. I wish the other bands the best of luck, of course, but being a standout band that doesn’t have anything in common with the other bands sure doesn’t hurt. I like metal, don’t get me wrong.”
“That being said,” he continued, “We’re also used to playing a lot of Bill Finn/Finncade Shows where we’re the only nonmetal representation.”
“We’ve got metal elements in our stuff, that’s why we’re going to win the Battle of the Bands,” said Easton confidently with a laugh.
So what will they do if they win this Battle of the Bands?
“We’re going to Disney World!” Schroeder jokes.
The prize for the grand prize winner is an impressive package from Right! Records including 200 copies of the label’s inaugural release on 7” vinyl format, studio time, masterful engineering and band swag.
“I don’t even want to say what we’ll do if we win, but we really want to win so…,” Kahn trails off, adding that they were toying around with the idea of putting their winnings to work for them on a crowd funding site like IndieGogo or Kickstarter.
One thing is for certain—there is a lot to come for The B.E.A.T. Hearing the new sounds coming across the Midwest, Billy muses that their sound is part of “the beginning of a new sound.”
See the IUSB alumni in action at Smith’s Downtown Tap and Grill on 110 Lincolnway East, at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 29. They’ll also be performing at 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 at McCormick’s Coney Island on Michigan Street in downtown South Bend, performing with Tartufi and Infinite Buffalo.