Music

Interview: Beans on Toast

Liam ‘Maccers’ McNeilly has a little chinwag with self-proclaimed “Drunk Folk Singer” Beans On Toast at Clwb Ifor Bach.

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You spend a lot of time on tour. How has this one been and have there been any highlights for you?
This tour’s been a bit of a game changer. It’s flown really well and it’s been bangin’ every night. In terms of highlights, I really like Hull as it turns out. I find that the places that get a lot of stick can really be where the magic is.
I played at a venue called The Fruit, which I guess was an abandoned fruit market that had been left to rot. It’s one of those where a place is really cheap and creative people had moved in and made something and the arts wheel starts spinning. They’ve got a recording studio there, an art gallery and this amazing venue. I don’t want to knock anywhere else, but it’s nice to see exciting places like that early.

How do you find coming to Wales?
Well if you want me to speak truthfully… I’ve always had a really good time but also have a bit of a strange history in Cardiff. I played a great show a few years back at Gwdihw and it was phenomenal but I came back a few years later, got too blitzed and did a terrible show. It’s not very often I’ll hold my hands up and say that I screwed up but I was pretty sure that all of the people in the room would never come to a Beans on Toast gig again. I’d agreed to play at a squat party afterwards too and ended up being sprayed in the face with spray paint because I was just on one. I suppose I’m coming back with my tail between my legs a bit.

With another album ready for release, how does the song writing process work for you? You seem to be able to produce story, after story, after story.
Well every song sounds the same as the last one so that helps. As far as writing a song goes, I just like to sit down in a room with nobody listening, a bit of time to myself and a couple of spliffs. I don’t get to do that very often so by the time that I get the chance to I’ve built up a load of stuff that I want to say.

How much time do you have off? You’ve come straight out of festival season and in to a two-month tour.
I have loads of time off. It’s strange how it’s perceived because a lot of people say that it must be really hard going to festivals every weekend and playing shows, which I just can’t really understand. I feel guilty because all that I have to do is have a good time. What is ‘time off’? I don’t consider what I do to be hard work, I can lay in most days.

This summer you appeared on a track with Slamboree saying, ‘The festival’s not dead’. The role of festivals in society is something that has arguably changed dramatically, so what was it that made you want to write those lyrics?
It just felt that festivals were getting a lot of shit. It was almost becoming fashionable for the press. It felt like people who had never been and just wanted to hate for the sake of it were writing a lot of the reports. Some of the stuff that they were saying was right, things might be getting a bit expensive, but everybody at festivals has a great time and in the media you don’t see people putting themselves out there to say that they’d had a life-changing weekend. It was just a reply to everyone who was slagging festivals off.

With money in the industry being moved towards live performances, music streaming is something that has become ever more popular. What do you make of the criticism of Spotify in recent weeks?
I love it. Spotify changed the way that I listened to music and a lot of my favourite artists are people that I found through there. I’ve watched it all unfold and Spotify was when it really clicked. You’re standing in front of a fucking ocean and you can listen to whatever you want. I still consider myself as more of a listener, so I don’t want to bitch about the money side of it, because that’s how I listen to my music and with my music I want it to be on Spotify the day that it comes out.

You’ve been to America this summer. How was that and how did your songs translate?
It was amazing, I suppose it was a bit of a dream come true. I was selling like 30 CD’s a night and ended up having buy a load of white t-shirts from Wal-Mart and writing Beans on Toast on them. I was buying them for $2 and selling them for $10, living the American dream. Some people were a bit cautious of how the songs would translate and I was aware of that, so I wrote a few songs about America and it actually ended up translating quite well. The one thing that didn’t was the name. They just didn’t get it and countless times I was asked, ‘Why on earth would you put a bean on some toast’. So I actually changed my name to hotdog and was introducing myself as hotdog. I spoke to the record label about changing the artwork on the CD’s but they didn’t find it as funny as I did.

Finally, what’s the best album you’ve listened to this year?
Die Antwoord.

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