In the middle of last year I stumbled across a video by a band called Beaulieu Porch. The track, Love 80, instantly blew me away with its Beatley melody and especially its Hey Jude type coda at the end. At first I thought it was bit of a Nick Nicely one off, but as I explored the band’s videos and online pages I discovered that they had already recorded quite a few great songs in a Strawberry Fields Brit Psych vein.
Eventually I hooked up with Simon Berry, who basically is Beaulieu Porch, around the time that his self-titled debut album emerged. If you love psychedelia then there is so much on the album that you will cherish
It sounds a like it was recorded in Berry’s attic, but its lo-fi nature doesn’t detract from the exhilarating psych burn outs of Keep On Screaming and the opener Laminations Are Loaded. ‘Navy Blue’ and The Colour 55 shows that Berry is also a master of dreamy ballads. If anyone deserves access to Abbey Road’s Studio Two with a thirty piece orchestra and as many mellotrons as he can handle it’s Simon Berry.
Weirdly though for recordings that that are so steeped in the 60s I can’t help but notice an 80s influence or two sneaking in. Hilly Fields 1892 or even Sowing The Seeds Of Love. So when I got the chance I asked Simon about the influence of the 80s on his project.
‘There was a fair bit of good stuff hidden away in the 80’s, and the the Dukes were definitely an influence, I was working in a record shop when their first lp came out and I had no idea that it was XTC, I was convinced it was a lost 60’s classic !That’s where I discovered a lot of other psych stuff of the time that really hit a chord with me…The Rain Parade, The Three O’clock etc, all very influential. Sowing The Seeds was an eye opener too, a bit of an anomaly at the time, but bang on !’
I also asked Simon why he chose psychedelia as a genre. Surely for a one man band a folk career might have been a more practical option.
‘I got into psych through an unquenchable passion and curiosity about all music – from cheesy pop to pompous classical – and the beautiful, soaring sounds and melodies of the music I love, and vaguely attempt to replicate in my own songs, encapsulates and embodies for me everything about my life and how I live it.’
Simon has in fact been playing in bands since the 80s.However his new stuff sounds a great deal more personal, and in many ways is more English sounding and more psychedelic than previous outings.
Most recently the second Beaulieu Porch album snuck out. A kind of Hatful of Hollow (there’s an acoustic version of the debut’s highlight Laminations Are Loaded included), to The Smiths debut, In Touch With The Infinite is ironically every bit as good as its predecessor. It is perhaps a little noisier, stroppier and less together than its the first album, but Simon has also widened his musical horizons a little to include tracks that hint at glam, punk and prog.
For me the absolute highlight is Anno Domini, which begins innocently enough with a sugary sweet dreamy melody but descends into a noisy guitar-driven freak out with military-esque drums, Rick Wright Piper era keyboards and weird background vocals.
What shines through though is the way in which the band can merge a floaty verse with a killer singalong chorus and wrap it all in the type of arrangement that Macca and Martin specialised in all those years ago.
Simon has some big plans for the future
I’m itching to get on with new stuff, but at the moment I’m mostly ‘beating my luminous wings in the void’ trying, single-handedly, to promote the current album so that I can make enough money to hire a band and an orchestra and go out and play live ! I’m also working on songs for a new band called Astrabella with my wife, Hannah, doing quirky, low key folk/psych stuff which I’m really excited about.