Beta Band Give Hot Talk, Ready Radiohead Plans

Spacey Scots' next album will be 'more focused, more pop-oriented,' frontman says.

How did the techno-prog-folkies of the Beta Band land the opening-act slot on Radiohead's Amnesiac tour? The old-fashioned way: They earned it.

"[Radiohead] pleaded, begged and came to church meetings," frontman Stephen Mason joked, "and we eventually said, 'Yes.' "

The Scottish quartet is happy to be touring with fellow nonconformists (see "Radiohead Begin Tour Mid-June, Beta Band To Open"); known for blending disparate influences, Mason said the Beta Band's new work was inspired by Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan, among others. They're not without pre-tour jitters, however.

"We used to play to audiences of 50 to 75 people," Mason said. "Now we'll be playing to 20,000 at a time. That's quite a jump for us."

Accordingly, the band will have to switch up its onstage presence for the Amnesiac outing.

"Usually, our shows are more multimedia-enhanced," drummer Robin Jones said. "Each song is accompanied by its own video, but we're going to have to ditch all that. Our projector just isn't very strong — [the videos] would be about the size of a telly in front of 20,000 people.

"When we come back and do our own headlining tour, you'll get the whole Beta Band experience," he added.

The band is expected to return to the States on its own in October in continued support of its second full-length album, Hot Shots II, due July 17 (see "Beta Band Prepared To Be Hotshots").

"It's more focused, more pop-oriented," Mason said of the LP, which was produced by R&B producer C-Swing. "We tried to condense the songs down from 15 or 30 minutes to four. We wanted to make them more exciting to listen to rather than a pain in the butt."

"When we made the last album, we didn't end up making what we wanted to," bassist Richard Greentree said. "There was less emotional trauma this time around. We've sorted things out and become more enlightened and relaxed. [As a result], the music is more positive, the melodies are more beautiful."

While on tour with Radiohead, the band will play "mostly new stuff," Mason said. "It's more exciting to play — we've been playing 'Dry the Rain' for the last four or five years."

Even so, "We're definitely going to do 'Dry the Rain,' because people here have gotten into that through 'High Fidelity,' " the frontman explained. The track was featured prominently in the 2000 film and on its soundtrack.

"It'll be a really uplifting, spiritual, dancing time," Mason said of the tour, which kicks off June 18 in Spring, Texas. "As long as everyone goes home happy. That's all we can wish for."

The first U.S. single from Hot Shots II, "Squares," will hit radio around the same time the band hits the States with Radiohead. "Squares" was also intended for single release in the U.K., but plans changed when I Monster released a single that, like "Squares," sampled the '60s easy listening track "Daydream" by the Gunter Kallman Choir — a sample already familiar from Portishead's 1994 single "Sour Times." The I Monster song has since become a hit in the U.K.

The track listing for Hot Shots II, according to Astralwerks:

  • "Squares"

  • "Al Sharp"

  • "Humanbeing"

  • "Gone"

  • "Dragon"

  • "Broke"

  • "Quiet"

  • "Alleged"

  • "Life"

  • "Eclipse"

  • "Won"