The Beta Band

From Academic Kids

The Beta Band is Scottish musical group whose self-described style is folktronic, a blend of folk, rock, trip hop, and experimental jamming.



The Beta Band formed in 1996 around Edinburgh musicians Steve Mason (vocals, guitar) and Gordon Anderson. The two had plans to call their group The Pigeons but later changed their minds. As they pulled together songs for their debut EP, Champion Versions, they added Robin Jones (drums) and John MacLean (DJ, sampler, keyboards). Not long after they were signed to Regal/Parlophone, Anderson became ill and decided to quit the band. He would later produce recordings under the name Lone Pigeon. The remaining members added Richard Greentree (bass) and solidified their lineup. They released Champion Versions in July 1997 to critical acclaim not only for the music but also for the record's innovative cut-and-paste sleeve design. Two similar EP's soon followed: The Patty Patty Sound the following March and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos in July. All three appeared on the appropriately titled The Three EP's collection in September 1998.

They commenced work on their ambitious first full length recording, pulling inspiration from sources as diverse as Jamaican reggae, Disney's movie The Black Hole and Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The record, simply titled The Beta Band, was released in July 1999. The leadoff song, "The Beta Band Rap," managed to tell the band's back story over alternating bubblegum pop, rap and rockabilly backing tracks. It was representative of the rest of the album, which was widely perceived to be more stylistically diverse than the initial EP's. The mixed press turned decidedly negative when the band announced their own disdain for the record. They claimed that Regal's unreasonable deadline and tight budgets kept them from refining their improvisations into coherent songs. Despite this several of the songs rank amongst the group's greatest works namely "Brokenupadingdong" (later used in the film "Igby Goes Down"), "The Cow's Wrong" and particularly the epic "The Hard One."

The band returned to the studio with something to prove. The result of that session was the 2000 "To You Alone"/"Sequinsizer" single. It was received favorably as a return to the style prevalent on The Three EP's.

Around this time, the Beta Band featured in the film High Fidelity which was based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name. In the film, a record store owner played by John Cusack mentions the band by name ("I will now sell five copies of The Three EP's by The Beta Band") and plays a minute or so of the song "Dry the Rain." This exposed the band to a wide range of new fans, especially in the US. "Dry the Rain" was soon the band's most popular song, prompting Mason in later years to retire it from the live set list.

A hiatus followed, during which Mason released records as King Biscuit Time. The band gradually gravitated back into the studio, this time recruiting noted UK producer C-Swing to oversee the process. The album, Hot Shots II, appeared in spring 2001, pleasing critics and fans alike. It sacrificed much of the first album's experimentation for more boiled-down pop structure and hooks. Three singles appeared in due time, each with several b-sides and alternate versions: "Broke"/"Won", "Human Being" and "Squares." The band embarked on a long tour to support the album. Their acclaim grew to the point where, in 2002, they made Q magazine's list of "50 Bands To See Before You Die".

A new single, "Assessment," appeared on April 12, 2004 followed by the album Heroes to Zeros on April 26 and the single "Out-Side" in July. To the surprise of most fans, the band announced their breakup on their official website on August 2, 2004. In November they performed at the Summer Sundae festival and commenced a farewell tour. Their final show was at Edinburgh's Liquid Rooms venue.

A final Beta Band release is expected sometime in 2005. John MacLean announced that he is compiling a 2-disc DVD featuring all of the band's videos and a selection of short films, television footage, documentaries and an (almost) complete copy of the final show.



  • Champion Versions (1997)
  • The Patty Patty Sound (1998)
  • Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos (1998)

Studio albums



  • "To You Alone"/"Sequinsizer" (2000)
  • "Broke"/"Won" (2001)
  • "Human Being" (2002)
  • "Squares" (2002)
  • "Assessment" (2004)
  • "Out-Side" (2004)

External links


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