To the uninformed eyes and ears of a dull, uninspiring person, Reverend Beat-Man and Nicole Izobel Garcia give off an impression of a hokey religious gimmick playing only white noise to marginalized segments of society. That description couldn’t be further from the truth, these two are legitimate rock n’ roll lifers who live life by their terms. They don’t owe anything to anyone, and no one owes anything to them. Their work together has taken them to raucous dives across the U.S. Southwest to playing festivals on the shores of Brittany, France and beyond, leaving attendees in awe and giving it 100 percent each night.
That’s what it takes to survive in their line of work, nothing short. Most impressively, these two rack up the frequent flyer miles with the great distance between the two (Beat-Man residing in Bern, Switzerland, Nicole in Los Angeles, California) to bring their gospel trash sermon of Cumbia, garage punk, and psych rock to attendees of all sorts.
Those who know Beat-Man are familiar with his past work as the one-man band/wrestler, Lightning Beat-Man, and his longtime garage punk group, The Monsters. Currently, Reverend Beat-Man continues a perpetual global tour across the world to reconnect us with our most primal instinct and urges with the same one-man approach. As of lately, he’s expanded his sound with the inclusion of the stoic yet sultry Izobel Garcia into the fold, whose Farfisa powered dark harmonies elevates their sound identifiable only to the duo.
Check out the video for “I See The Light” from Reverand Beat Man, from the film Hard Soil.
Touring Europe on a consistent basis and more recently completing their first full U.S. tour, the two commemorate their partnership with their first LP together, Baile Bruja Muerto. We caught up with the two to briefly discuss their history, the album, and other facets of life they’ve encountered on their treks through the Old and New World.
So, how did you guys meet and how did this project come to be? Beat-Man: I have family in Los Angeles and I visit them as often as I can. Back in 2014, I flew to see them and ended up in downtown during part of my trip to watch a local garage band play and that’s when I met Nicole initially. She looked like Morticia from the Addams Family and my first thought was “you must be a musician.” We began talking and she mentioned she plays the organ, I asked her on the spot if she wants to play with me a few days from then at my next show. She said yes, I was happy!
Forgot to mention that she has to play the drums as well. Anyway, the show went fantastic and like it was back then and now, it’s a lot of fun to be on stage with her.
Izobel Garcia: Beat-Man’s version is way cooler (laughs). I was a fan of his band The Monsters since I was like twelve just from downloading weird music illegally all day. I later learned that he had another project Reverend Beat-Man and saw him play a couple times in LA. We have mutual friends and we met at a show... I actually asked him if he needed an organ player for his upcoming show, he said, “let me think about it.”
I thought that meant no…. But then he sent me a set list which was REALLY long and consisted mainly of me playing drums. We had a band meeting at Chuck E. Cheese. I didn’t tell him I never touched a drum before and I figured it out. It was fun.
Don’t make us say it again... “Come Back Lord”!
Talk about the writing and recording process since you two live in different parts of the world. Garcia: In 2017 we were on tour and went to our friend Matt Bordin at Outside Inside Studios to finally record the songs we’ve play together live over the years. So, half of this new album we recorded together in Italy. He had shown me “But I Love You” while we were on tour and I finished the verses in the studio, that’s the only real co-write. I was really excited to help finish that song, Beat-Man wrote a beautiful classic melody which gave me freedom to freestyle the rest.
The other songs recorded there we had played many times together. Like “Come Back Lord,” he had already recorded that song over fifteen years ago with the Unbelievers band (Reverend Beat-Man & The Unbelievers). It’s a good version, but holy crap we realized how much faster our version is (laughs). It’s funny because most bands get old and their music gets slower and less powerful. Beat-Man was like “wow I get older and my music gets ten times faster.” The other half of the album we both wrote and recorded on our own, on opposite sides of the world…
This record is dark, the subject matter in the lyrics of some of these songs seem very personal. Can you talk about what you all were going through personally that made this album sound the way it does? Which are the most personal to you? Beat-Man: These songs on the record are based off some extreme personal history each of us have but I feel the details are best shared another time. I’ll put it this way, we’re both happy dorks with dark souls, why do you think we love the weird parts of rock n’ roll? Those experiences, however, are grounded in the writing of Baile Bruja Muerto along the general state of the world and everything that’s going on inside it. I’m not a talker, I can’t express myself clearly through speaking in conversation, these songs are what I have to make in order to achieve this for me and when I’m singing, this is me baring my soul to you. It’s the only effective way I know how to do this.
Garcia: Unlike Beat-Man, I probably talk and express myself too much so here I go. That year I had a break-up… the real pain was that I had lost myself in that relationship... I lost confidence in my music as well. Anyways, most of my vocals were done in one or two takes and I hope you can hear that it’s real. It was therapeutic to just sing for this album, specifically the Spanish songs. It had been years since I felt my voice was appreciated. Beat-Man really believes in me and makes me feel free to express myself, not self-conscious or like a fool.
Here’s a sample of The Monsters for you with the video for “More You Talk, Less I Hear.”
With you two touring the world frequently, you’re aware of how different audiences are in the various countries you’ve visited. What did you take back to Europe in regards to playing to audiences in America? What contrasts stick out between the two from that experience? Beat-Man: There is a big difference in the mentality of everyone everywhere you go. I wouldn’t say countries though, it’s as local as the towns and other areas you visit and you yourself are close to. After a while though, it doesn’t show and you realize the foundations in their thinking are the same (i.e. security, survival, needs, etc) and that’s for people all over from Denmark, New Zealand, the US, Mexico, Japan, etc.
Those people come to our show expecting to see something different and they get with no less than 100 percent from the two of us. They see the light, this is rock n’ roll with a weirdo factor. We’re here to connect people... not divide and polarize them like politicians, countries, and walls are capable of doing.
Nicole, talk about how you’ve grown in a musical and cultural sense since working with this guy? Garcia: Well the biggest shift I felt, especially in the beginning, was the “freedom.” Ever since I can remember my brain has worked totally mathematically like I’d literally see numbers in everything when I was little. I taught myself piano at five and later played classical clarinet. I see music and sheet music as very mathematical as well. I am great at counting and keeping time. I have a really trained ear as well. So as you can imagine… playing live with Beat-Man I had to strip everything I knew about music.
I remember we had one half-ass rehearsal and I asked him how many measures the drums go for… he didn’t know. Or I’d ask “how does this song end?” and he said, “it just ends.” He taught me to totally let go. It’s real magic playing together, I get excited when people after the show appreciate how difficult (and such a dumb idea) it is to have one person playing the kick and the other playing the off beats. I’ve gotten used to Beat-Man switching songs on me halfway through a song. Just really listening to each other. It’s so much fun and special.
“I Have Enough” is the title track from Reverend Beat-Man and the New Wave’s album, released last year.
Beat-Man, how does Nicole challenge and change your approach to things? Beat-Man: Oh, a lot and I love it. First, she is a woman and women are a mystery for us men. That alone is a great and inspiring challenge. Second, she’s not a drama queen and works like an idiot (i.e. carry backline, drives, tour manages, etc). Like me, she loves to eat and we like to go to the best restaurants in the towns we play. All that and more is a comfort for me, not struggling with a bandmate that’s a pain gives me space and freedom on stage and in our music, it’s what makes us great.
Nothing lasts forever. Saying that, how do you two want to be remembered regarding your work together? Beat-Man: I wouldn’t say that releasing an album means you have something that’s going to last forever. It’s like a tattoo, it’s tangible and we’ll have it until we die. As for being remembered, I don’t think we will because of us being in the present and we do it for the sake of ourselves. If you release an album, then it is forever. It’s like a tattoo, you never get rid of it, you have to live with it until you die. We will never be remembered because we always are present, and we always do whatever we want to do. If not in this form then into another.
What is the single most important piece of advice you can give someone embarking on a similar path as yours? Beat-Man: When your band is the single best thing on this planet and on the first show you play, everyone walks out and is embarrassed by what you do, don’t fret. You’re on the good way, you’re on the Beat-Man way.
Garcia: Trust yourself!! Be real. Be warm and open. Be grateful. Laugh things off. Take care of your body. Take care of your instruments. Love them, practice them. If you feel like shit, sing really loud, it helps. Do whatever you want to do. Just always do it 100 percent. You will never have any regrets that way.