by Mark Janz
For fans of: The Cars, A Flock of Seagulls and Siouxsie and the Banshees
I will admit, I write this article with a certain degree of perplexion. What has made me feel this way? It’s that I’m not sure whether a better testament to Betaboys’ sound would be to hit you with three bands, or three films. Everything about the new wave group conjures up images of Pretty In Pink (1986), but also the sonic sensations of A Flock of Seagulls. “Our sound is essentially a love-letter to 1980s new wave and power pop. I wanted the songs to be melodic, poppy and have catchy synth parts weaving in and out. Our newer songs have definitely expanded the pallet in terms of mood and texture. No matter what, I hope that nostalgic yearning comes through in our sound” bassist Scotty Perrin explains. “For whatever reason, that time period has always resonated very strongly with me, in terms of music, pop culture, style, sports, etc. I was only alive for a brief window of the decade and yet it feels like home to me.”
The influence of the new wave sounds of the Reagan age is very palpable upon listening to Betaboys’ 2018 single “Who I’d Dance For.” The track permeates with the tubular synths and delay-soaked guitars that would find their home on the soundtrack for a film like Adventureland (2009), with lyrical content that would actually fit the film’s protagonists pretty well. “The emotional science of dancing is such an interesting thing,” vocalist Brett Sandford begins. “For some people it comes so easily, they’re just naturals. Personally, I never do it much. I always wonder— am I doing it right? Are people watching? I bet I look so dumb. But then, when the right person comes along, I’m suddenly into it. And that’s what the song is about, how the right people can pull you out of your comfort zone and make you have a little more fun.”
With all of this discussion of a band with such a bold sound and a bold aesthetic, one might wonder what the origins of such an outfit are. Bassist Scotty Perrin was certainly no stranger to the live music scene, having toured Canada and the USA for multiple years with his previous band. After an amicable parting of ways, Scotty had a window that he wanted painted baby pink. A vision for a group of characters, with a sound and vision to harken back to a time of relative simplicity and occasional time travel. Admittedly being a little gun shy at first, we all can’t help but rejoice that Scotty put the beat out to vocalist Brett Sandford, guitarist Thomas Englund, synth wizard Davis de Souza, and beat machine Sean Hamilton. Coincidentally, the band’s latest single is actually called “So Shy,” which carries a different sound than “Who I’d Dance For.” The band tells me this is because they always valued albums where songs all have their own identity, and we can expect more sonic variety from them in the future.
Betaboys have discussed the influence of film on their music as much as they have the music of The Cars, A Flock of Seagulls, and Siousxie and the Banshees. And that influence is definitely why their songs sound so at home on a coming-of-age soundtrack, because they are written in that vein in the first place. “The approach is generally to get some concepts going in the beginning, then try to build a story around that which fits the feel of the music” Brett explains to me.
The band marks all of their visual material with “Betaboys Worldwide, 1987.” What was it about the year of 1987? Music typically recognizes it as the release year of the best selling debut album of all time (Guns N’ Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”), but I figured there had to be something more sentimental there. “We have a song on our upcoming release called ‘July 87’, and although that was just a working title for the song, it just kinda stuck. We liked the look and feel of it and just decided to add it wherever we could” Brett explains. Betaboys have big plans for more releases in the future, and are planning a relentless embrace on the Calgary crowds after this pandemic. Expect a 4 song EP to be released “when it feels right!”