Bethpage Black is not your average rock band. “Our music is like potato chips; crunchy, greasy, tasty and not so healthy,” explains drummer and songwriter Steven Coy, whose spell as a chef at LA’s top-rated restaurant Mélisse has cultivated a fondness for food references. Bethpage Black is available for record, publishing and management deals.
You don’t have to ‘like’ Bethpage Black’s debut record, Opéra-Comique, to respect how well the Long Beach, CA quintet rock out with their chops out. Drummer/songwriter Steve Coy is a graduate of the UCLA Music Department with a penchant for 19th century opera and Josh Freese-ian rock drumming, who has discovered a second passion as a chef at LA restaurant Mélisse. After landing in the grayer pastures of a software company on the rise from a soul-crushing break-up, Coy recorded ‘Your Wish, Granted’ with longtime friend and bassist Derrick Tucker – with promisingly post-emo results. A year and an economic downturn later, a blissfully unemployed Coy had time on his hands, and a new 5-year plan - “Well, it’s now or never; let’s be professional rock stars.”
Coy needed more than a rhythm section to take the newly christened Bethpage Black (yes, named after the site of golf’s 2009 US Open) beyond the bedroom studio. He struck gold and golder with guitarists Michael J. (“I saw his crazy pedal board – and that he actually knew how to use it – so I had to have him,” says Coy) and Davin Givhan, whose world-class shredding ability went mostly untapped during stints as touring guitarist for Lauryn Hill and Saul Williams, but stands front and center throughout Opéra-Comique. (Check out “You’re Everything” for a solo that’s destined for the YouTube cover circuit.)
Bethpage Black found its singer when Coy stumbled upon Matt Carmichael fronting an ‘80s cover band. “I figured if he could go from Journey to Iron Maiden to Pat Benatar, he could sing anything I could write,” says Coy - who, this is probably the time to mention, shares the name of the original drummer for Dead or Alive.
The band then enlisted Long Beach über-collaborator Ikey Owens to mix a 7-track EP of, as Coy puts it, “musicianship that’s actually accessible, that just fucking rocks.” Not always in the most obvious way, mind you. Witness the heavy metal punk bebop cover of Chick Corea’s ‘You’re Everything’, which Coy labels “a minute forty-five of what-the-fuck-was-that?” ‘Panic Attack’ is orchestrated anxiety interspersed with operatic excerpts, a chaotic catharsis of kick-in-the-teeth rock, while ‘Sixteen Candles’ is an ominous - and ambiguous - foretelling of a doomed relationship set to a beat hip-hop producers only wish their MPCs could reproduce.
“Most musicians think their songs are the most precious, original gems ever crafted,” says Coy, “but Bethpage Black mindfully pays tribute to the music we all love – and not with some bullshit Silver Lake Casio keyboard irony. It’s rather like how there are no new ideas in cooking, either. Any chef today is basically doing the same things as they were 100 years ago – putting ingredients together in the cleverest, most satisfying way possible. So regardless of whether listeners recognize some motif from Carmen we use in a song, we’re just mixing our favorite things and trying to make something tasty.”
Credit Owens, keyboardist for The Mars Volta and Free Moral Agents, with stirring the pot. “After we were done recording,” Coy says, “we had some rough mixes that sounded really clean and boxed-in. We wanted it to be more explosive, like when you bite into something delicious, and it gives you that feeling in the back of your mouth, and the taste kind of lingers,” Coy explains. “Ikey put that tastiness back in.”
The result is Opéra-Comique. If revenge is a dish best served cold, the last word on a bad relationship is best served on record. Coy cites Eminem as his biggest lyrical influence - and not just for the rapper’s habit of lyrically throwing his ex-wife down a flight of stairs. “It’s the way he rhymes within a phrase, extending it longer than you think it will go, repeating the same syllable in a syncopated rhythm within a line,” Coy says. Take ‘Your Wish Granted’, “You’ve got these habits that ruin your shot at redemption/and all the things you enjoy but don’t mention/won’t get my attention/so keep running on.”
Good-timey jams it’s not, but Opéra-Comique certainly provokes a feeling. While it’s predominantly wrenching and anguish-filled – the last line is “I don’t need you” – the record is ultimately uplifting in its own way. “It’s not hopeful in a love-conquers-all sense,” Coy says, “more like ‘you conquer love, you realize you’re better off, and life goes on.’”
This attitude – together with the considerable talent on display throughout Opéra-Comique – are what set Bethpage Black apart from your tragically-in-touch-with-their-feelings neighborhood emo band. Not that they mind being thrown in alongside the raw sincerity of The Used, the aggressive pop-rock of 30 Seconds to Mars, the unabashed kineticism of My Chemical Romance or the dramatic grandeur of Muse. Industry veteran Owens, meanwhile, puts it this way, “Man, I don’t have anything like this on my resume.”
Biography by Hobey Echlin, West Coast Editor, Paper Magazine
"It's rare to find a band as young as [Maroon 5] were who play drums and guitars but aren't a stereotypical rock band. My thought was their music was advanced for its time, but when the album came out it would be where music was going. Sure enough ..." Interview with Ben Berkman, EVP at A&M/Octone for Maroon 5