Beards Releases Sophomore EP Spectacular Flowers

Vida Weisblum, Arts Editor

Despite having already graduated, bassist Cory Todd, OC ’14, and drummer Duncan Standish, OC ’13, will not be leaving Oberlin for a while. You might see them working behind the counter at the Slow Train Cafe by day or at a garage concert performing as members of the experimental jazz band Beards by night. On Oct. 30, Todd and Standish released their second EP, Spectacular Flowers: Live Selections Vol. 2, along with double-degree fifthyears and fellow band members Stephen Becker, guitarist, and Nate Mendelsohn, saxophonist. The artists will continue making music at Oberlin, at least until Becker and Mendelsohn graduate this spring.

The energetic group hopes that its new release, in addition to its first EP, Things Are Great Right Now Vol. 1, will serve as a precursor to a third EP and its first album, which the band hopes to release within the coming months.

Although most of their classmates have graduated and left campus, Standish said that he would be lost without the Oberlin community at this point in Beards’s development. “I think it would be weird for me if I didn’t have this band,” Standish said. “It’s also a great place for getting a bunch of music together. There are a bunch of really talented people and resources to use. Staying here for a year or two is a great way to [hit] the ground running in a city.”

The EPs are the band’s first batch of recordings and were recorded at live shows in Oberlin, according to Todd. Formerly known as Men With Short Beards, the band, which formed in October 2010, continues to perform around campus, not only for its own enjoyment, but because its live sound is what makes it unique as a group. “We’ve always been more successful as a live band than as a studio band,” Becker said. “We’re trying to give listeners a taste of this bootleg vibe of what it sounds like to be at a concert or show.”

Beards remains a close-knit group, yet all of its members are exploring new sounds in separate performance ensembles. Standish and Becker formed a rock trio with double-degree fifth-year and bassist Nathan Swedlow called Idol Hour, Mendelsohn and Standish are working together on an independent project, and Todd has been working with several groups in the Cleveland area. Becker and Todd will also be performing at this semester’s Solarity event “Aurora.”

Aside from the occasional house party, this semester Beards will perform with a noise punk band, a Chicago band called Rooms, a folk-rock band from Boston, and Semble N, an Oberlin student contemporary classical ensemble. After participating in an experimental improvisation based dance piece last semester, Beards will accompany Professor of Dance Nusha Martynuk’s improvisation class this spring. “Our styles are so wide and ranging that we can perform with all … kinds of bands and still [provide] a complimentary sound,” said Todd.

Though it originated purely as a jazz group, Beards no longer fits perfectly into any particular genre. Becker questions whether Beards can call itself a jazz band: “We have maybe more in common with [the various bands we will play with this semester] than with the sort of jazz bands playing around campus in various jazz forums.” Todd interjected, “Not to shut those bands out — just to keep an open mind to all kinds of music.”

The future of Beards is ambiguous but auspicious. “We’re trying to get one of us to run for president,” Standish said. “We want to be Billboard No. 1,” said Todd.

“Honestly, at least for me … the goal in creating original music comes from performing it and recording it and showing it to a lot of people, so I feel like in a way we’re doing that already,” said Todd. “We just want to keep doing it and keep expanding.”