Beekeeper plays the Cates Park Concert Series on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. following Hooves at 4 p.m. and Little Wild at 5 p.m. Free admission. Visit musart.ca for information.
IT was not a shared passion for music that brought bandmates Devon Lougheed and Luke Cyca together, but rather a mutual interest in honeybees.
Lougheed and Cyca first met at an urban beekeeping seminar in Vancouver, both planning to pursue the hobby. But they set their apiarian ambitions aside once they started jamming together and discovered a musical chemistry based on dissonant harmonies, odd time signatures and catchy pop hooks.
"He and I really gelled and simultaneously decided to make it more than just a weekend messaround project," says Lougheed, 29.
In 2009, with Lougheed on guitar and Cyca on drums, the pair formed a band, aptly named beekeeper, a nod to their serendipitous first encounter. They released their debut album BE KEPT in 2010. In 2011 their duo became a trio with the addition of bass player and opera singer Brandi Sidoryk, with whom they released a seveninch single Take Me Back (To The Place).
The post-pop threesome produces a quirky brand of music with a hard-to-classify sound.
"We find ourselves torn between two types of music that are pretty hard to bring together," Lougheed explains.
The first type is avant-garde, experimental, noisy, arty and somewhat inaccessible.
"On the other side, we also just really like pop music, kind of Aqua's Aquarium or Katy Perry. There's just something about that slick, danceable music," he says. "What we endeavour to do, if we're successful I hope, is use the tools of pop and rock music to make something kind of past pop, a futuristic kind of pop."
Take, for example, "Bees," the first track on the band's most recent EP Shout at People. The song is at once frenetic, operatic and lyrically bizarre - and it's all over in 40 seconds.
If beekeeper's recorded music seems unconventional, their live show is "a spectacle to behold," Lougheed says. A former stand-up comedian, he is inspired by classic bandleaders like Louis Armstrong and draws on his improv background when onstage. It's not unusual for him to go off on a comic tangent in the middle of a set.
"The real irony is I'm way funnier in beekeeper than I ever was as a stand-up," he laughs.
"Shows get participatory," he adds, "often with crowd involvement, but never in a way that's very alienating. People don't feel forced to come along."
He describes beekeeper live as a children's show for adults.
"Kids will enjoy it, and hopefully their parents will allow themselves to feel like kids for 45 minutes."
In fact, after the band wraps up their next fulllength album, which is set for release in the new year, they plan to record their first kids' album.
"The rules of writing for children are so much different than the rules of writing for adults," Lougheed explains. "Kids like fast tempos and they like lots of stylistic changes and they like goofy nonsense words and sing-alongs. And that's kind of what we write now anyways."
In 2012, beekeeper made it into the top 20 in the Peak Performance Project, an annual artist development program and battle-of-the-bands style competition hosted by 102.7 The Peak. Although they didn't win the $102,700 grand prize, they did expand their social network and gain mainstream exposure.
"We definitely got our tunes into the ears of people that do turn to The Peak or turn to other commercial radio stations as their main source of music. A lot of them were able to say 'Oh, I like that song, I'll check out the record,'" Lougheed says.
In addition to fronting beekeeper, Lougheed also plays with local bands Sidney York, Hey, Ocean! and Fine Times.
"I'm pretty addicted to the stage so I look for those opportunities wherever they might present themselves," he says.
When he's not on stage, he is working on his PhD in political science at UBC. It was actually the pursuit of his master's degree that first drew him to Vancouver from his hometown of Brantford, Ont.
"It was school that brought me out here," he says, "but it's music that's keeping me here. And the weather's pretty good too."
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