Beechwood members Gordon Lawrence, Sid Simons, and Eric Carney seem to exude the raw downtown energy that old-school New Yorkers claim died decades ago. Raised by the city, they feel like extensions of it, interpreters of sorts. Musically speaking, they’re on a roll, and they show no signs of slowing down. In 2018, Gordon, Sid, and former member Isa Tineo gave us Songs from the Land of Nod, which the Village Voice called “a darkly shimmering rock ‘n’ roll record of bruising timelessness,” and more recently, Inside the Flesh Hotel, a follow-up album that is as beautiful as it is intense. It’s a triumph of skillful playing, well-oiled melodicism, come-hither vocals, and infectious appetence.
I recently spoke to Gordon about old and new New York, and Beechwood so far:
Tell me a little bit about Beechwood’s beginnings.
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to play guitar in a band. My father introduced me to a lot of great music early on, and I became obsessed. From a very early age I was on the lookout for potential band members. By the time I was 16, I had found two guys who I connected with musically, and we started to play in my parents’ basement. We played shows for our friends in the basement and at parties before we finally started playing around the city. We took it seriously from the very beginning, and within the first year or so of the band’s existence we recorded our first album Trash Glamour ourselves in that very same basement.
Two of you grew up near Manhattan, right? Do you see yourselves ever leaving New York?
Yes, I grew up 5 minutes outside of Manhattan and now live in the Lower East Side in a little one-bedroom apartment. I love New York. My life is here, and at the moment I have no plans to leave, but I am open to the idea of living somewhere else at some point. Maybe somewhere in Europe.
You guys are known to be pretty unpredictable on stage, at least in your early years. Tell me about your onstage personalities versus your offstage personalities. Do you feel like there’s a divide?
We definitely are not playing some kind of role on stage. We’re not at all actors. We are who we are on and off stage. When we play, what you’re seeing is raw emotion. Every ounce of anger, joy, and everything in between that we feel in our everyday lives is being channeled into the music we play. Sometimes people get hurt, sometimes people dance, some people run in fear. There’s no reaction that’s wrong in our book – and we’ve seen it all.
What is your most memorable show you’ve played so far?
A few shows come to mind, mainly the London show we played at Shacklewell Arms this past June. It was the last show of our first European tour, and it was just great. Peter Perrett, a hero of mine, came with his wife Xena to the show and afterwards we got some kebobs and went back to his place and just talked for hours.
As you age, how does your music evolve?
It’s not easy to look at my songs objectively, mainly because my songs have always been very personal, but I can say that the songs I’ve been writing lately are not as wild and rocking as some of my earlier stuff. I’m focusing much more on writing good lyrics that can hold their own. The other thing I’ll say is that I’m much more interested now in creating space in my songs as opposed to trying to fill up every second with a guitar line or screaming or whatever, like I may have done in the past.
There’s a really beautiful, honest simplicity to some of your lyrics, like in “Our Love Was Worth the Heartbreak,” while others carry more weight. Who writes them?
I wrote that song myself, but it really all depends on the songs. Up until now I’ve written the majority of the songs on my own, but Sid and I are collaborating more and more on songs. He is writing a lot on his own as well, so in the future songwriting duties will be shared pretty equally between us.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene in New York, and your place in it?
There is most definitely a great music scene in New York right now, but it’s unfortunately very confined to a certain degree. There’s a lot of undiscovered talent in this city that is just waiting to be heard on a larger scale, including us. We love New York, but we don’t want to just keep playing the same three clubs on Avenue A for the rest of our lives, and neither does anyone else.
That being said, there is a very specific musical history that is unique to this city, and rather than being a part of a current “scene” we feel more a part of a larger historical context that encompasses New York bands like The Velvet Underground or The New York Dolls. We connect with bands like that ideologically, and I think that has a lot to do with just being from New York.
Do you draw inspiration from other types of artists?
Yes, more and more my songwriting is influenced by poets/writers, and films as well. Dylan Thomas, Jim Carroll, William Blake, the films of John Cassavetes, and the Bible are all endless sources of inspiration to me.
What are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening mainly to The Birthday Party, The Gun Club, and Sparklehorse. In the mornings I like to listen to Wagner.