With songs full of powerful, turbulent tunes and chilled, floating melodies, Health&Beauty’s new album Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure is released into the world today. The Chicago band, led by founder Brian J Sulpizio, has featured a cast of acclaimed musicians over the years. We asked how things have changed and what to expect from their latest offering…
Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure will be your 7th studio album – how has your approach to making music changed over the years?
Well I’ve gotten better, haha. I’ve been working on all the aspects of music I’m engaged in at the same time, more or less. My approach changes with pretty much every record; I’m usually not interested in saying the same thing twice. I’m mostly a guitar player but I’m not like a big ‘guitar’ ‘guy’, you know? That is to say, the thing that is most interesting about music to me has very little to do with guitars. That just happens to be the world we live in – guitars everywhere, raining from the sky, choking you to death. They’re making more guitars every day- can you believe it? I’m sorry, I appear to be having a hard time answering this question.
I try lots of ways to trick myself into making something I haven’t made before. I guess my approach hasn’t really changed, because I’ve never had one, haha. I just write something whenever I have something to say, or maybe something to learn.
The first 2 tracks shared from the album, Rat Shack and Recourse, are musically fairly emotive and intense – is there a thread that links all the songs?
Recourse almost didn’t make the album. It seemed to me that it didn’t really fit with the other songs. But I sort of imagine the trajectory of the record as moving from a sense of hopelessness to a sense of hope. And Recourse fits in that sense. I think of this record as more of a document of a period of personal devastation, growth and development, more than a record with some kind of tight objective to present to listeners. Other records I’ve made I’ve wanted to say something specific… maybe this one is more like trying to listen to myself, to gain some kind of perspective.
A few of the tracks hit the 10 minute mark – how do you know when each piece of music is finished?
Well in Saturday Night and Love Can Be Kind we see the band stretching out a bit. We all get space to define ourselves there as we would like to be. Those songs can be performed in 4 minutes or 40. (Don’t worry we won’t ever do 40, haha.) Clown is 10 minutes because that’s how long it took to say the thing I needed to say with that song.
Tell us about the Chicago music scene…
Chicago’s great. Lots of excellent performers and writers. It’s a major market so almost any US tour will stop in Chicago, so you get stuff from all over the world and a great pool of people to play with in town. There’s a bit of a self-hating element to the city but I think even that is changing as new generations come on the scene.
Who else have you been listening to lately that you’d recommend?
Kendra Amalie’s new record on Beyond Beyond Is Beyond is fantastic. Her older record Thankful is also great. I’ve loved her music for a long time; glad others are starting to hear. I’m on tour right now with JR Bohannon, his new one is a ripper. Low’s record from last year really hit me hard; love it! Lina Tullgren is up to cool things and is fantastic to see perform, solo or with a band. My partner Whitney Johnson, who does the Matchess project, is in a duo project with Natalie Chami called Damiana; their record should be out soon and it will blow your mind. The end-of-year holidays are coming soon so definitely also check out the Blowfly Christmas record.
Aside from the album what’s been noteworthy in 2019 for you?
My favourite thing about 2019 has been identifying some cultural artefact or trend from the 20th century and saying “twenty” and then whatever that year was. For example, we might be impeaching our president soon, and they did that before in 1998, so you might say “twenty nineteen ninety-eight!” Or like I have a friend who thought Lack sounded like the late 1960s, so he goes, “Twenty nineteen sixty-eight!”
Something very noteworthy for me this year has been the remission of a lot of negative feelings I had for a long time. I attribute this to being in talk therapy and would encourage basically anyone to get into therapy.
And what’s next for Health&Beauty?
Not playing many shows in Chicago next year, but we’re going to get started recording again right away while also touring periodically. I’m fooling around with Ableton a bit. Maybe I will trade in my guitar for a faster computer for Ableton. I also really enjoy recording and/or mixing other people’s records so I hope to continue doing that.
Shame Engine / Blood Pleasure is out today on Wichita Recordings. You can catch up with Health&Beauty here and watch the video for Recourse below.
Interview by Siobhan
Photos via One Beat PR, band shot © Alexa Viscius
22nd November 2019