Trip City: Beshken on Tour with Gus Dapperton
Written by Ben Shirken
Jose and I started playing music together this Summer. He was visiting New York for a month and renting out a studio space in Bushwick. We actually met a few years back in D.C. through a mutual friend and really hit it off. Since then he’s crashed on my couch a few times and we’ve shared some top notch experiences together.
Over the Summer I was really trying to get him to move out to New York. We had a conversation over Chinese food where I told him that I wanted him to play synths for me if a tour came around. About a week after he left, Brendan (Gus Dapperton) called me up and asked if I wanted to go on tour with him. Quite serendipitous! I gave Jose a buzz and the rest is history. 12 shows later and we’re the best of friends.
I filmed the video below over the course of our three week long tour with Gus. Before every show I would walk on stage and record the audience with my handycam. I thought it would be interesting to see how people reacted to being filmed, especially because the performer is usually the one barraged with iPhone flashes. The tour was an overall success and I hope this video gives those who watch it a glimpse into what it’s like to be on the road. Much love to Gus, Tommy, Ian, Megan, Jose, Kabir, Chris, Pat, Mac, Evan, Max, Len, and everyone else who made it possible <3
*video edited by Beshken and Notfortheireyes*
It’s 9pm on the East Coast. New York City got hit by a storm. The phone rings.
Ben: (In a robotic voice) Hello, this is your Spectrum Provider…
Jose: Are you sure? This is a (310) number
Ben: Dude it’s me, what’s really funny is that I just got on the wrong freeway. I’ll call you in a second.
There’s traffic in LA. Having recently finished up a North American Tour opening up for Gus Dapperton, Beshken is settling back into life in his hometown.
Ben: Yeah sorry about that, alright so we’re supposed to interview each other? Uhm.. ok, when we first started hanging out you came to one of my shows and then you slept over at my place, and we were all really drunk...
Jose: Is that a question?
Jose: (Also Laughs) I think just ask me how I’m doing.
Ben: So what have you been up to, how are you doing?
Jose: Dude, I’m pretty good, just hanging out here drinking a bottle of wine that I got for this phone interview, like a special occasion.
Ben: Oh yeah?
Jose: It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a date in months.
Ben: (Chuckles) Well I was just about to ask, how is your love life right now?
Jose: Honestly man, right now just focusing on playing my instruments, recording stuff, and teaching. How have you been ever since we got back on the road?
Ben: Yeah, I’ve been good. I’m really just trying to finish up the year strong. You know, going back through a bunch of unfinished songs and trying to finish them up. Not start anything new. Sifting through my hard drive. And organizing. I’m tired, and I think everyone’s tired this time of year. Everyone just wants to hang out with their families.
Jose: I feel you, all my students left town, and I’m about to split soon to be with my parents. You’re right, it’s a good time of the year to look back and reflect on the work we’ve done, and get ready for what we can do next.
Ben: Yeah it’s a time of reflection right now. And I definitely feel that I’m not usually prone to that, so it feels needed right now more than it has the past twenty or so years of my life.
Jose: I feel like that, in some way it’s a sign of maturity. Not to say that either of us are totally mature, but maybe achieving some level of it.
Ben: Hopefully. So what was your favorite moment on tour?
Jose: Probably when we were at El Rey in Los Angeles, and Gus and Tommy and Ian and Megan were finishing up their set with “Twist and Shout.” You and I were dancing on the wings and Ian saw us and started dancing on stage along with us. Then we all sang the bridge together and had a lot of fun. That and probably playing U Street in DC were my favorites. How about you?
A car honks.
Ben: I think my favorite part of the tour was when we did karaoke in Boston, and I kept stealing the microphone from people, trying to sing their songs.
Jose: You stole a mic from a perfect stranger and started singing a Taylor Swift song.
Ben: Exactly, I think that was definitely very fun.
Jose: So here’s another question… how did it feel performing your music in bigger venues, with a new live set-up including me?
Ben: It feels kind of amazing. I’ve wanted to tour since I wanted to be an artist when I was thirteen, fourteen. Touring was something that I’ve wanted to do every year, but to be able to do it for the first time playing really big crowds was kind of mind boggling. And also, playing with you, I think… you know I actually really enjoyed it a lot. I think we got to spend a lot of time with each other before the shows. We were rehearsing like four days a week. But we were also becoming good friends. You had just moved to New York for this, just starting your life after college, and that’s pretty crazy. And to play with someone professional like yourself who learns the songs was great.
Ben: And that kind of brings me to my next question, you moved out to New York and we got right down to rehearsing—how does it feel being here after two months?
Jose: Well, I definitely wasn’t able to settle in until we got back from the road, but now that I’m here and establishing a routine I’m teaching five days a week. Gigging freelance whenever I can. It’s amazing how many dope musicians I’ve met recently. Not to mention how humble and hardworking they all are. And it’s definitely felt very motivating, I know that’s a cliche, but it feels that way. It’s great to be surrounded by people who are constantly trying to better themselves. I had that in school, but now that I’m responsible for my own education I’m seeing what everyone is bringing to the scene, and I see that everyone is really doing their own thing. So I’m trying to learn as much as I can from everyone that I see and slowly figure out my own path.
Ben: Awesome, I feel like New York is so rich with creative and talented people, you just have to go out and find them. You have to go to shows and be a good conversationalist—people are interesting out here and there’s a ton of artists. And you’re right it is very motivating.
Jose: Dude so I have a question that’s been pretty central to my thinking as of late, especially as a teacher you know. I think it’s important to constantly try to teach myself something new, something that personally challenges me in order to grow. What’s something that you’re hoping to experiment more with?
Ben: Hmm… I think I’m trying right now to present my vision in a clearer and more assertive way. Like, if I’m working creatively with someone, say a filmmaker, musician, or graphic designer, and I feel that there’s something that I need to say I want to actually say it. A lot of times I’ll hold it in, and then it will undermine the final artwork, or product, or show. I have a coherent vision and I’m trying to reach those goals with more confidence. I think it’s something that comes from doing it a lot. Knowing what you want. Technically, I’m also trying to get better at modular synthesis, sound design, and randomness.
Jose: Randomness. How do you get better at randomness?
Ben: Randomness in the context of music production. How do I create a sound that changes where I don’t have to control the change. I don’t have to be the one touching it or moving it and it can just exist on it’s own.
Jose: So in a way it’s existing organically and then you react organically to the sound.
Ben: Exactly, I think it makes things easier on yourself when you are less in control of it, but you enjoy it. (Laughs)
Jose: It’s like you’re granting sentience to your technology, allowing them to communicate in a sense.
Ben: Yeah, because you set up the technology. You’re the one who ordered it to do something, but you aren’t in control of what is happening after. And I find that interesting.
Jose: You been doing a lot of film scoring lately?
Ben: Yeah, just finished working on a few friend’s projects, overall just working on a ton of different music. You?
Jose: Same, scoring, arranging, and practicing. Hoping to release stuff soon. Five most influential artists for you right now, go!
Ben: One second I’m taking a right. Uh... right now I’m listening to this guy Roberto Musci a lot, Stars of the Lid, The Dead Texan. A lot of ambient at the moment. Also influential are… Kandinsky and Werner Herzog. Who’s really influencing you right now?
Jose: Mr. Rogers, Bill Evans, Agnes Varda, John Coltrane—but I only started checking him out yesterday. Not trying to brag on him, I just read about his spiritual ideals, and how he used his music the same way a preacher speaks from the pulpit. I found that compelling. Bach also has been big on my mind lately.
Ben: Miles Davis has also been pretty big on my mind lately, the way he surrounded himself with better musicians than him, constantly pushing himself and his bandmates.
Ben: Alright man, I gotta go get dinner with my family, I’ll catch you soon.
Jose: Take care. Tell your parents I say hi!
The sun is setting over Southern California. Tail lights reflect on Beshken’s windshield. As he pulls into an Italian restaurants parking lot he hangs up the phone. Jose continues eating Indian food, finishing his second bottle of wine, and sending emails.