Most of what I know of the 1960’s and 70’s I’ve found out from books, video footage and old people. Even so, the imagination is the best place for reconstructing what it must have been like to actually experience the world then. Slipping on some big headphones, playing a record, closing your eyes and letting the sound wash over you gives your subconscious mind the opportunity to pick up on all sorts of tiny nuances. You can build a mental picture which is impossible to describe to someone else, so you keep telling them they need to feel it for themselves.
This is where The Peppermint Beat Band reside.
Perhaps that description sounds a little over the top. At the heart of the band are five guys with a van-load of instruments, writing and playing the kind of music that they’d want to hear themselves. They bring together such a cacophony of influences to create something that transcends your usual garage band sound, somewhere in the realm of psychedelic acid folk. There’s also an explosive rock n roll quality that forces you to realise: this aint the kinda music you stay sober for.
While I was planning this article out, I was lining up all sorts of (what I thought were) clever comparisons and phrases in my head. There was definitely going to be a Timothy Leary quote in here somewhere, cleverly twisted just like so many other reviews and features on bands that sound a little like something from the 1960’s.
Looking at them again in the cold light of day though, it didn’t seem to fit. On the surface, the comparisons to the sounds and images of a certain era in rock n roll history leap out at you, but that kind of comparison completely misses the fundamental point of what’s really going on. They don’t just reach back into one era, ignoring the intervening space, their reach encapsulates the decades of music that shaped where we are today.
I first heard the band a few years ago, watching them squeeze themselves into tiny pubs before blasting out music like this:
More recently, I caught up with them in The Hope, where the dim lighting added an extra quality to an already “intimate” venue while the band was busy setting up.
As a drummer myself, I can’t help but appreciate a good drum part when I hear one. Martyn’s use of the kit seems to come from a kind of subconscious understanding of how to make a groove feel good. His approach comes off as almost melodic in attitude. He never plays more than he needs to, never steps out of line, he just sits there and plays really great sounding parts – not an easy feat considering the chaotic storm of activity occurring inches in front of him.
You can visualise pop music as either capturing the essence of the mind, or the body. The PBB bring these worlds together. Touching on delicate harmonies coupled with well thought out tunes, but bundled together with a chaotic live show that has all of the ferocity needed for exciting music. For this reason alone, you should go see this band. They’re one of the best live experiences you can have on the local scene in Brighton. You can sit back and listen, or you can jump up and dance, but either way you’ll feel intoxicated just being in the same room.
I don’t think this band is about recreating the past; it’s about using the best slices of history to look to the future. This is visionary rock n roll at its finest.