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Music  >>  Vinyl  >>  Rock/Pop

Ed Schrader's Music Beat

Riddles

Ed Schrader's Music Beat Riddles
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Ed Schrader's Music Beat needed to make this record. 19 tours in the U.S. since the Baltimore-based duo’s formation in 2010, from headlining underground spaces to opening massive venues for Future Islands, had left vocalist Ed and bassist Devlin Rice exhausted—and hungry to take their music to the next level. Both live and on record, they’d probed the limits of their primal noise-rock approach, which showcased Ed pushing his vocal cords to their breaking point while furiously pounding his floor tom into the ground. Ed and Devlin dreamed of a fuller sound—layered, breathing arrangements their early rapid-fire compositions always seemed to imply, without yet having the tools to realize. On Riddles, their first release for Carpark, the Music Beat begins their new life. In search of a fresh direction, Ed and Devlin invited their close friend, electronic-pop maestro Dan Deacon, to expand their sound and experiment with them as the album’s producer, arranger, and co-writer. “I knew Dan would challenge me in a way that I needed to be challenged,” recalls Ed. “He knows me in a deep way. He knows what I'm capable of, and won't let me settle.” Working steadily in Dan’s studio for two years in total collaboration, three evolving musicians pushed through an intense period of personal tumult and found purpose in the sounds they were committing to record. The result: a polished and passionate masterpiece of nuanced alt-rock. From driving opening track “Dunce” and the soaring single “Riddles” to the disarmingly gorgeous closer “Culebra,” Ed and Devlin unapologetically channel a personal pantheon of pop and rock gods while growing into the band—and people—they’d previously kept caged inside. Dan honed in on a disconnect between Ed’s passion for pop music and the Music Beat’s maximalist drum, bass, and voice output. “Dan would always ask me what I was listening to in my headphones, and the answer would often be things like Billy Joel, Janet Jackson, or The Police. He finally said, ‘why don’t we make that, if that’s what you love?’” The first step was liberating Ed from beating the drum and freeing him to focus on being the frontman. “I always saw Devlin and Ed as the post-punk Bernie Taupin and Elton John,” muses Deacon, who for the first time stepped into the role of producing and arranging an album for an artist other than himself. “As a fan of the band, it was fun to watch them realize they weren't hinged to voice, drums, and bass, but could completely and utterly expand to any sound. I wanted to work on this record to help keep their raw energy, but also help them explore more lush sounds, and dive deeper into abstract song forms with various textures.” To this end, Dan enlisted the services of an array of incredible drummers—Mike Lowry (Future Islands), Jeremy Hyman (Boredoms, Animal Collective), and David Jacober (Dope Body)—as well as skilled art-rock players such as Owen Gardner (cello) and Andrew Bernstein (saxophone), both of Horse Lords. As Dan’s rich arrangements provided a new foundation from which to build, Ed could finally focus on lyrics and vocal delivery, encouraged by Dan and Devlin to distill complex thoughts and feelings into their a more direct and immediate essence. Dan, Ed, and Devlin all poured emotions produced by major life changes into these sessions. While in Puerto Rico on a rare vacation, Ed learned of the death of his stepfather, a charismatic but abusive figure who’d cast a dominant shadow on his formative years (feelings explored on the elegant “Tom,” and crucial to the flow of the album). Devlin sat at the bedside of his brother, who’d long lived with a terminal illness, as he saw through his choice to die with dignity. And Dan’s longest relationship, which had stretched across his entire career as a musician thus far, came to an end. “I looked forward to these sessions when everything else in life was a shit-sh...

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