Band is greater than the sum of its parts

If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, Geoff Barrow must be a saint. Fresh from “Third,” his latest album with his ethereal trip-hop trio Portishead, the busy Brit oversaw production on new records from the Coral and the Horrors, along with an upcoming hip-hop anthology, and he’s the CEO of his own UK/Australian imprint, Invada Records. Also, he found time to finish the eponymous debut from his ghostly, prog-rocking side project Beak>, with bassist Billy Fuller and multi-instrumentalist Matt Williams.
 
It was important that you conducted this interview on one specific phone at your house. Why? The other one does my head in. It’s all echoey and related to a bad memory. Namely, smashing my head on the ice at Christmas and losing my memory for a couple of months. I was walking down the street at Christmas, going to get some groceries, and I slipped, fell over, smashed my head and knocked myself out. And that was it, really. I didn’t know where in the hell I was for a bit, and it’s taken about five months to get my memory back properly after the concussion. I knew who my family was and my wife, but I didn’t know if we’d celebrated Christmas or not; I couldn’t remember short-term stuff. But, I’m fine now.

Is that why Beak> hasn’t toured the States yet? No, not really. We played a bit in Europe, I did some records with other people, and then thought, “Yeah, now would be a nice time to go to America!” But, to be honest, we just didn’t think anybody would be particularly that interested in it. It’s what I enjoy doing, but it ain’t a stadium rock band, if you know what I mean.

There’s a “greater than” sign after your name. What is Beak> greater than? Greater than the sum of its parts combined. We went in the studio, set up the gear, didn’t really talk about stuff, played, and that’s what happened. The first track on the album, “Backwell,” is the first time we ever played anything. So, we did an entire album in 12 days — we wanted to break down the whole structure of supposed music-industry recording, basically.

Whose spectral singing is that on the record? That’s me. Sometimes we swap over, but the majority of the time it’s me.

How is Invada doing? We’re just breaking even, after eight years. We’ve got some bands that are doing really well — uh, relatively speaking in the indie-music world. Some will sell 1,000 copies and break even, some 5,000 copies.

IF YOU GO

Beak>

Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Tickets: $20

Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketweb.com

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