by Jane Roser
When I was two years old my mother left me in the backseat of the car while she took the groceries inside. This was in the 70s when doors were easy to open, seat belts weren’t necessary and child car seats were apparently easy to make a quick getaway from. I crawled into the driver’s seat, shifted into reverse and proceeded to demolish the neighbor’s car.
Keith Musil, who directed the “Is What It Is” music video for Brooklyn-based She Keeps Bees, was inspired by a similar story. A friend’s brother had unstrapped himself from the backseat as his mother was driving, unlocked the door and just slipped out as if it was the most natural thing on earth, except for the fact that the car was in motion. Amazingly, no one was hurt, the child was retrieved by a very freaked out mother and a super cool, slightly jarring music video was born.
“When we read the treatment, we thought it was a great idea and it gave us goosebumps,” says drummer Andy LaPlant.
Formed in Brooklyn in 2006, Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant met at a bar (I’ve always wanted to say that). “I was Andy’s bartender,” Larrabee recalls, “and I just kept enticing Andy to come in. I knew he recorded music and I really wanted help with that. I gave him one of my CDs and we started taking the weekends to record stuff, then we released our first album together which was Minisink Hotel and it just grew after that.”
The band’s witty moniker comes from Larrabee’s last name. Wanting to somehow incorporate the word “bees” into the band’s name, she tried everything (“I’ll be a beekeeper!” “A beelady!”), but nothing took until Larrabee just hit upon She Keeps Bees. “It just stuck with me and the more I learned about them [bees], I realized they’re basically the life blood of everything and that’s what music is to me.”
Larrabee taught LaPlant how to play drums and the rest fell into place organically. Now releasing their 4th album, Eight Houses, on September 16th, She Keeps Bees is hitting the road to promote their beautifully ethereal and haunting new album, which features guest performances by Adam Schatz, Molly Donahue, Nicolas Vernhes, Gabe Wax and the formidable Sharon Van Etten.
“This is our first studio release,” says Larrabee. “A friend of a friend introduced us to our producer, Nicolas [Vernhes] and it just felt very comfortable; he wasn’t afraid to stretch our limits. It was hard, but great in the end because we were able to focus completely on songwriting, so it was a nice break for us to just be musicians and creators.”
LaPlant adds, “We’ve never really solicited outside opinions during the recording process before, so it was definitely a learning experience. We had to learn to hear other people’s opinion, but not to take it personally and just trudge ahead.” He laughs, “even though sometimes you may feel like an asshole. It was half existential crisis and half fun.”
Larrabee and LaPlant have known Sharon Van Etten for years, having been neighbors in New York. They would hang out and test songs on one another, eventually contributing to Van Etten’s 2010 album Epic.
“She’s so supportive and her energy is always welcome,” says Larrabee, “and she just happened to be in town when we were recording.”
“Their voices sound so good together,” LaPlant says, “it would have been a shame to make a new record and not have her sing with Jess.”
“Owl” is one of two tracks that Van Etten contributed vocals to and I couldn’t help but be reminded a bit of 90’s groups Mazzy Star and Morphine while listening to this song. The saxophone really punctuates the tune and adds a gorgeous blues-driven depth to it. “Adam Schatz played sax on this song,” says LaPlant. “He came in and played for, like, two hours then just took off.”
Larrabee was inspired to write “Owl” by books she had been reading that really empower one’s soul. “There’s so much suffering and pain that happens to be everywhere right now,” explains Larrabee, “that when it comes to desires, the truest pulls in your life aren’t true to the person that you want to be and if you get everything that you want, is it self-sustaining or is it just a classic mimic of what you really desire in your life?”
She Keeps Bees will be performing at Kung Fu Necktie on September 26th and fans can expect an epic, memorable time. “We’re so excited to get the new songs out there,” says Larrabee, “and we have a new member that we’re taking with us [Adam Eisler] who’s adding textures to the songs.” Eisler will be with the band for the length of the tour “unless we leave him at a truck stop somewhere,” LaPlant jokes.
With a trek to Europe in November, a few more music videos and possibly some new songs on the horizon, She Keeps Bees is keeping busy. I highly recommend you check this fabulous group out because as Henry David Thoreau once said, “the keeping of bees is like the direction of sun beams.”