We sat down and talked with Brian Tucker from Bootleg Magazine a few weeks ago. Brian is a real super guy, very kind and genuine. He wrote the beautiful article below about us. ----------
Ben Mabry’s smile takes up his entire face, a face that is often likened to Steve Martin’s.
As the singer for Wilmington band Beta Radio, which is having an album release show at the Soapbox on Friday, it’s easy to view Mabry as the polar opposite of the duo’s other half, Brent Holloman. Holloman is stoic, bearded and wears a tattooed ring in lieu of a wedding band while Mabry is energetic and loquacious, perfectly juxtaposed to Holloman’s fatherly reserve. Sitting together they interact like family, brothers who finish each other’s sentences.
They’ve known each another for years, first meeting at summer camp. Three years later they began to write music together. During high school they played acoustic music when Mabry wasn’t playing in a metal band.
“I’m not really proud of those days because we weren’t very good. Brent and I were watching a videotape of the band and were getting embarrassed.” Mabry said. “So Brent and I hope we don’t look back in 10 years and think this is terrible.”
Mabry is referring to Beta Radio’s full-length debut, “Seven Sisters,” a wonderful mix of country, gospel and folk music. Fans of The Avett Brothers will be interested, but Beta Radio have just as much in common with Simon & Garfunkel, old-time hymnals or the Belgian rock band K’s Choice. “Seven Sisters” is rife with catchy, radio-ready songs: “Either Way,” “Darden Road,” “Where Losers Do.”
Mabry attended Appalachian State, Holloman went to the Savannah School of Design. When Mabry was home they wrote songs, only to discard them. The fractured periods together led to sporadic writing coupled with varied music styles.
“Each time we always found something new because we never wanted to look back at the old stuff,” Holloman said.
Five years ago they started writing songs they refer to as “OK” but last year, after playing music off and on for a decade, they found their sound. Holloman’s sister owns a photography business and he and his wife helped on a wedding shoot in Ireland. While exploring, Holloman bought a banjo that would become a large part of the album’s texture.
“I don’t really play it normal like a banjo,” Holloman added. “I mainly play it like I would play a guitar.”
For two weeks last fall they had access to good recording equipment, which meant making quick decisions and sticking to them. By December they had seven songs, and later, another four at Holloman’s house with borrowed equipment.
“Seven Sisters” is largely folk and acoustic driven and it’s peppered with gospel, string playing and introspective lyrics. The songs sound like they’ve been written by musicians who’ve been making albums for years.
“People say the record sounds nostalgic. Some say it made them feel happy. Some say it’s heartbreaking,” Mabry said. “We just wanted to make a record we were hoping people would listen to.”
Brian Tucker StarNews Correspondent