At Outsideleft we recognise that it is all too easy to linger on familiar names and faces. We have done that ourselves it’s true, yet often true innovation, artistic value, or just plain quirky weirdness belong to those who operate at the fringes and exist in that netherworld under the radar that throws up the unexpected and original (if there is such a thing any more) to challenge our jaded tastes.
Bein-E are certainly one of those. A three piece comprised of ex partners, production wizard Simon and singer Tiffanie, who converted their emotional break up into a musical formation, joined by synth genius (and potential third wheel!) Mark, Bein-E’s full name is the near unpronouncable ‘Bein-a-heleiden-schafts-gegenstand’, standing for ‘The thing that you almost want, but not quite’. Abbreviating the name out of necessity, they self-release their EPs and albums online through Bandcamp like so many others. They have supported acts like Die Krupps live and even received the obligatory endorsement from Louder Than War as a ‘new’ act (they have in fact been around for 10 years), but have yet to break through. So why are we enthralled by them based on a chance viewing of a smartphone video taken of them playing a support slot in a tiny and near empty Bristol club, their first live outing since the Pandemic? Put simply, they have a certain undefinable ‘something’. Musically, at times their sound is simple and experimental, reminiscent of acts like Coil. Thudding heartbeats, ghostly vocal nursery rhymes, eerie tones reminiscent of a horror film soundtrack. At other times it plunges into industrial pulses and stabs or even acidic dance beats. It’s confusing and confounding. With whispered secrets laid over percussive hammer blows and reverb drenched electronics, 2023’s ’Ghosts’ EP, strips it down even more, with layers of space filled with sparse electronics and intimate spoken word vocals. There is a new EP in the works too, 'An Unforseen Silence', which may or may not come out at Halloween. Outsideleft caught up with Simon and Tiff in cyberspace in an attempt to find out what makes Bein-E tick.
OL: When your band name is such a mouthful that you had to shorten, it made me wonder; why not just call yourselves that in the first place?
Tiff: “I don't think people would have got the in joke if we had shortened it, the name comes from an episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and is used to describe how someone feels about their Ex. It was relevant because myself and Simon are ex-partners. As we moved on, we moved forward and it's become less relevant, hence the shortening of the name.”
Simon: “The name had a meaning, and at the time I don't think either of us really expected the fact that it was unfeasibly long to turn out to be an issue. We'd started as a 'studio' band without having any intention to play live, so we'd never considered the amount of faff it caused gig promoters making posters or, later on, people doing layout for compilations. Mark actually pointed that out to us when we submitted tracks to a couple of compilations, prior to him joining the band. Whilst people often knew us as the band with the unpronounceable name, it was a lot easier to use the abbreviation for things like posters so we switched, and, as Tiff said, we've moved away from exploring the dynamic of being ex-partners these days.”
OL: It must be hard being in a band together after a relationship break up though, surely? What happens if you disagree on how a track should sound?
Tiff: “Simon’s my bestie, he just gets me and it’s not hard to be a band with him. Bein-E is a place to channel our collective rage at the injustice of the world, what we say is (sadly) still relevant and we don't pull any punches there. We're too busy being angry at that to be mad at each other.”
Simon: “In the very early days there was I think one song I refused to put music to as I wasn't happy with what I felt it was saying about me, but in general it was catharsis for Tiff and allowed us to move past what could otherwise have been things that festered and undermined our friendship. It's never really led to many arguments about recorded material, but I think it probably made me really tough on Tiff about getting stuff right for live performances - because we were so close, I felt I could be really honest about what wasn't working. It's changed over the years and I've mellowed about it.”
OL: Musically, I guess you must get fed up with being compared with Coil all the time? What would you prefer instead as a reference and why?
Simon: “I have, unsurprisingly, a lot of respect for Coil, but they were never really a band that I felt particularly influenced our sound. One of the first tracks we did together was actually cover of Psychic TV's 'In The Nursery' and I think from a sound composition point of view I was listening to a lot more Throbbing Gristle and [Einsturzende] Neubauten in the early days of the band than I was Coil. I never really intended us to sound like anyone, and I think our early stuff was very much a product of the primitive gear we were using. I think the description that made me happiest was having our cover of Current 93's ‘Falling Back in Fields of Rape’ described as sounding like “Lament-era Neubauten”. We'd incorporated a lot more percussion than we usually would, including giving Mark a hammer and a beer barrel, and I was really glad that it came across like that. “
OL: All of your full-length releases have been self-released on Bandcamp to date. Any plans to get on to a label or release stuff on vinyl/CD/Cassette?
Simon: “We self-produced a CD version of Monsters, which Mark and I did the artwork/layout for, and which I was really happy with how it came out, but I'm not sure there's much of a market for CDs these days (we just about broke even on Monsters). It's a pity because I really like the opportunity for artwork that physical media gives, but I suspect, even if we got a label behind us most of our releases would be digital only. I'd love to do a vinyl pressing someday, because the opportunity to expand the visual media is so much better. Perhaps more realistically I'd be quite interested in playing about with a tape release to try to manufacture varying levels of glitches/interference on different copies of the release. I'm not sure we'd really be the kind of act many labels would really know what to do with.”
Tiff: “Simon’s a genius with mixing mastering and producing, so never felt we needed a label to pick up for us regarding production. Also, self-producing is very true to our punk ethic. When formed 10 years ago we figured very quickly there would be no money in it whether we were with a label or not so we just went ‘fuck it’! It gives us freedom to self-produce at our own pace and release when we are happy and we can think about how we give our music to those that don't have an income without having to charge a set price.”
Simon: “I'm not sure on the production front that I'd agree with Tiff, my experience is mostly in live sound engineering and I've learned as we went along. I think the thing that really helped me to improve how I work on studio tracks was having Brant Showers (?AIMON/ SØLVE) who was doing a remix for us very kindly lend me his ear and thought process on mastering and production when we were doing ‘Dead Cities’.”
OL: You’ve been going for 10 years now. How can you step it up a gear?
Tiff: ”I hope we continue to mature our sound and our context. There always something to sing about in this world.”
Simon: “Hopefully a lot more live gigs, I hadn't realised until the recent gig in Bristol just how much I missed playing live. We now live quite some distance apart, so one thing we're talking about being able to do gigs in different formats, working with some of our collaborators to do gigs in different forms, not as a replacement to normal gigs, but in addition. I'm also working on a series of instrumental pieces on a theme (almost a soundtrack to a non-existent folk-horror film, with some sampling in of old 70s/80s public safety videos), which I'd ideally like to get out for Halloween (which will be the tenth anniversary of our first EP). Life has become a bit hectic recently though, and I'd really like to get a friend to lay some violin lines down for one or two of the tracks, so the intended date may fall by the wayside. At the same time Tiff is writing lyrics for what will be a more 'normal' Bein-E EP that's probably going to emerge the first quarter of next year. “
OL: Lastly, my favourite question. Will AI make creating your own music redundant?
Simon: “Not I think in any meaningful way. I can see it being used to generate, especially in a corporate setting to avoid paying artists royalties, music but I don't think it will push out people who want to make music (we're scarcely doing this for the fame and profit) and I suspect that, much like with artists, there will be a lot of pushback if it starts to become a thing.
Find Bein-E on Bandcamp here https://beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand.bandcamp.com/music