The Beangrowers

Maltese band The BeangrowersThey are one of Malta’s first and biggest music exports and though it’s been three years since we last saw them play live on the island they remain firm favourites on the local scene. Now The Beangrowers are back with what promises to be a massive gig in October.

At the risk of having to put up with the obvious age-related jokes, I’ll confess that I first interviewed The Beangrowers some ten years ago. Since then, a lot has happened to the band, all of it positive and most of it highly exciting. Since their last gig at the MITP in Valletta in 2008, the band – Alison Galea (front woman, lead guitarist), Ian Schranz (drums, synths) and Mark Sansone (bass, synths) – has been constantly touring in Germany and Austria, which they describe as their strongest bases outside of Malta.

And now, much to the glee of the local indie crowd, they’re back with what is set to be another night for the books; a gig that is guaranteed to get the crowd into a frenzy with material from all the Beangrowers’ four albums: 48K, Beangrowers, Dance Dance Baby and Not in a Million Lovers. The band will also be playing some songs from older albums which have not been played in years. Mysteriously, I’m also told that “special guests” will be invited to play some songs along with the band on stage…. the plot thickens. I spoke with front lady Alison Galea to shed some light.

The Beangrowers How do you describe your music?

This is always the hardest question. I think it can be defined as a melting pot of varied influences from musicians and films and real life experiences that have always inspired me the most.

Which bands/musicians influence you?

The list is endless. I grew up loving the music my father loved and played – his extensive vinyl collection included great rock artists of the 60s and 70s (the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, T-Rex) as well as a fun collection of soul, funk and disco. Eighties new wave rock and pop followed (B-52s, The Cure, Duran Duran, The Cars, Gary Numan, Kate Bush) and of course, in my teens, the 90s kicked in and took over (Jeff Buckley, Belly, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, PJ Harvey, The Sundays, Radiohead, The Breeders, My Bloody Valentine, Björk) . It was mostly grunge rock that I loved but, at that time,  I also discovered jazz vocalists and film music. More recently, I have grown to understand and love jazz (especially Brazilian jazz) but I’m also into new releases of alternative bands of the moment.

 Your top three albums ever and why?

Grace” by Jeff Buckley because I feel I grew up while listening to it. It’s full of passion and the kind of passion that is contagious. “Star” by Belly because it inspired me to be in a band. “Lady in Satin” by Billie Holiday because of the most wonderful string arrangements and heart-breaking vocals.

 Do you sing in the shower?

Actually, not at all. I save my singing for rehearsals, the studio and stage.

 A song you hate and why?

There are quite a few but “My Heart will go on” by Celine Dion is my Number 1 hate song. Can’t stand her exaggerated vocals and  her persona makes me cringe.

Butterflies before performing?

Not usually. I get an adrenaline rush but I am rarely nervous, at least not anymore. Excited and enthusiastic would be my chosen adjectives.

A singer you’d like to duet with and why?

Nick Cave, so I can feel what it was like for PJ Harvey to sing on “Henry Lee” with him.Alison Galea

 Your go-to music when you’re happy?

Stevie Wonder. He’s so groovy and his music is so uplifting.

 And sad?

Billie Holiday’s “Lady in Satin”. The string arrangements and the sound of her voice on “I’m a Fool to Want You” help to bring out the sadness in anyone who cares to really listen and feel what she felt.

 Do you listen to the radio?

Yes. Very often it’s BBC 6 Music on digital radio – a great station for anyone in their 30s. And the great thing about it is that it has no adverts.

 Last good concert/gig you attended was…

Portishead and PJ Harvey at “Main Square Festival” in Arras, France. Both acts were phenomenal.

Which particular band would you like to see live and why?

I have not yet been lucky enough to see Björk live and it would be a teenage dream to see her perform. She’s a real, strong woman and an amazing musician.

What inspires you?

Music, love and vegetarianism.

What do we find on your MP3 player?

At the moment you’ll find Keren Ann, Leadbelly, Stevie Wonder, Melody Gardot and Beangrowers (only because I need to create a great songlist for the concert in October).

The music industry destroyed real music. True or false and why?

False. Real music is out there and stronger than ever, without the need for the music industry anymore.

A life without music would be?

What I imagine life on Jupiter to be. A deafening silence.

What do your family think about your music?

My family have been fans from the start and it is thanks to their love for music and their support that I have had such a rich, musical life.

Did you ever get the “music is not a real career” talk when younger?

Not really. I have been really lucky to be allowed to pursue my musical career when the time was right.  Nowadays I find that my life is perfectly balanced because I have both my work and musical careers to keep me fulfilled.

Which of your own compositions is your favourite and why?

Life’s a bitch then she sings in your band” because I saved it from being cast away with lots of other tracks that never made it to our albums. Another reason for this choice is the title, which I came up with to make fun of Ian and Mark who always say bad things about having girls in bands. It’s also such a positive song despite the heartbreak of a broken relationship and I’m a positive person so this song speaks for me in a lot of ways.

This interview appeared on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta).

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