Hailing from the southeast corner of Connecticut, The BeeKeepers combine Folk, Acoustic, and Blues for a unique sound described as "classy, swampy, bluesy, alternative folk that sticks to your soul like honey." Winners of the May 2017 Akademia Music Award for Best Folk/Singer-Songwriter EP, Amanda “Mandy” Sullivan, Sylvie Abate and Phred Mileski “display dense and diverse instrumental ability” on guitar, classical guitar, bass, u-bass, merlin, banjo, mandolin, accordion, organ, piano, hand-percussion and ukulele. The BeeKeepers had their video "indecision" distributed via Bongo Boy Records to national cable television throughout the country and their debut EP, 'Songs from the Hive, Vol 1" has been met with praise from the press. The band's single, "Indecision" is on heavy rotation on 10 radio stations.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
Sylvie: I went from Classical to Celtic to Folk. I was playing solo, classical guitar music for years. I then started playing in a Celtic group with Phred and became interested in folk music. From there, I started writing my own songs because I loved the idea of putting lyrics to timeless melodies.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? Phred: Years back, I was in a band that did classic rock covers. We were rehearsing at the drummer's house one night, going through Steve Miller's "The Stake," during which I played a keyboard hooked up to this amp called a Leslie, which lends a sort of three-dimensional effect to organ sounds. The speed of this effect was controlled by an over-sized, antiquated metal foot-switch. There was zero floor space for this dodgy switch, so I had to put it on a table next to me and whack it with my hand every time I wanted to change the speed from fast to slow and back again—which I had to do a LOT for this song, while constantly riding on the volume pedal and singing an occasional harmony. At one point, I leaned forward to slap the switch with my hand and sing into the mic. My mouth bumped the mic, and—ka-BLOOEY!—an electrical charge seized up my forearm and ran through my mouth. I screamed, flew back, and slammed up against a window right behind where I was sitting. (I'm amazed I didn't break it.) The guys all gave me a "what the hell's the matter with YOU?" look, and I shakily explained what had happened. The drummer fiddled around with some of my cables and cords, said something about "not being grounded," and then told me to try it again. To which I responded, "No. YOU try it." Not surprisingly, electricity tastes terrible. What has been the high point of your music path? The BeeKeepers: Our high point was completing our first EP, 'Songs from the Hive, Vol. 1' at Rotary Records in Springfield, MA. It is such a huge undertaking - to record an album - and when it is finally done, it feels really great to share it with others. So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? Mandy: A lot of time I get ideas when I’m doing something mundane like driving in the car or cleaning. I’ll start with one good phrase and melody and sing it over again until I think of something that could go with it, then I sing the two ideas together and gradually add on more. At that point I will only have a verse or a chorus or just a hook… then I’ll take it to Sylvie and we will work on finishing the song together. Some songs I’ve finished on my own like “We Both Know.” I created that song after getting my Merlin dulcimer guitar. I was fiddling around on it and created the beginning riff and from there it flowed naturally. I’m still learning how to craft my lyrics and music. I’ve been trying to read books on songwriting to educate myself.
Sylvie: For me, a song always starts with an experience or feelings that I want to express. The lyrics come first. I write the lyrics as a scratch poem and focus to the rhythmical flow of the words. After I have several verses and a chorus, I pick up my guitar and start strumming keys until I find a key that matches the mood of the poem. From there, I experiment with different time signatures. The melodies come after I've established a key and the time signature. The last part I write is usually the bridge. The beginning, writing the lyrics, takes up the most time. For the most part, the music comes very quickly for me. The song seems to already know it's melody and it just states it to me.
Phred: I call my creative process "taking dictation from God," because my best creations arise from those moments when something hits me upside the head in nearly fully-finished form, and my job is just to write it down or record it as quickly as possible before it flies out of my brain. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be? Phred: I see the biggest challenge as financial. Thank goodness there are cheap and even free ways to broadcast your music these days, rather than relying on some record company to do it for you, because financial compensation for most musicians—particularly in the indie genre—seems to be at an all-time low. That's a shame, given how much music adds to the human experience. OK, doctors and plumbers are important——but so are musicians. If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Sylvie: When I think of sharing the stage, I think more of songwriting then performing. I love to write songs for other artists because I'm not a singer and a great singer can truly bring a song to life. I'd love to write songs for Pink or Adele (sweet dreams). What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show? Phred: Our rehearsals are like being in a musical laboratory. We're constantly tinkering with different sounds, and we're always sharing ideas with one another about harmonies and instrumentation, and seeing what works and what doesn't. Sometimes we'll try a song five times, with different types of instrumentation each time. A lot of fine-tuning goes on. Also, we laugh a lot. Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! Sylvie: 'Yellow Flashing Lights' was a tough song to write as it touches on the cycle of emotional abuse. It is a song about seeing all the warning signs in a toxic relationship and regretting that you didn't act upon those warnings sooner and leave. Below if a video of the song "Indecision:"
What's coming up in the future? The BeeKeepers have many exciting shows and festivals coming up which are all listed on our website. We are booked through 2017. We will also be recording a second EP in January, 2018 and are currently working on adding 6 new originals to add to our set-list as well as some fun new covers. We have a CD release show in August in Putnam, CT at the Victorian Station Cafe Listening Room.
How can folks access your music?