Ed Schrader’s Music Beat will be taking its latest record, Riddles, across the pond in May to Europe, where it’s got a longtime stronghold of fans. That’s not to say the duo (plus guest member Dan Deacon, who worked with Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice to produce the latest catalog of songs) hasn’t got its own arsenal of US fans, but American audiences seem to have caught on a little slower than those in places like the UK and Germany. “I don’t mean that to sound pretentious,” Schrader explains to me over the phone after I’ve asked him how he thinks European concertgoers will react to these latest tracks. He likens the phenomenon to a time he made spaghetti and meatballs for the band’s UK tour manager. It wasn’t that the recipe was necessarily groundbreaking, but the Italian-American style recipe wasn’t especially common in the UK, and the manager couldn’t stop raving about it. “It just seems like they recognized early on that our sound was something that could have only come from a place like Baltimore, and that was part of the appeal.”
Schrader credits Charm City, his home base, as the first place he really felt comfortable leaning into his inner weirdo; one of seven kids from upstate New York, he says he spent a lot of his adolescence trying to fly under the radar and “stay out of the way.” His stepfather, who’s been elevated to an almost mythical status in this latest record, also seems to have had a big influence on the way he tried to carry himself. “I think he wanted me to be macho,” Schrader says, which is certainly not atypical for the American father figure archetype, but it perhaps held him back a bit from exploring parts of his creative persona that didn’t fit into the traditionally masculine mold. Whether or not his stepfather’s passing (which, in addition to the passing of Schrader’s dad and Rice’s brother, happened around the same time of making Riddles) had to do with it, this third record feels decidedly freer in both narrative and sound.
We can definitely cite Dan Deacon’s involvement as being partially responsible for the way this batch of songs turned out. While Schrader says working with Deacon, a friend, in a professional capacity took some getting used to, he felt like he was pushed in all the right ways from the experience. Deacon is “kind of like a maternal figure,” he says, and while he admits that he often doesn’t let people in past a certain point (“I tend not to go too deep with friendships,” he says), he was willing to let down some of those walls for Deacon, who encouraged him to be more open. You can certainly hear the result on Riddles, which ironically feels more emotionally transparent than previous records.
“I think this one was more about looking inward,” says Schrader. The duo’s body of work often feels politically-charged, but Schrader says they made an effort to take a break from pointing fingers this go-round. It makes for a refreshing addition to the Ed Schrader’s Music Beat archive, and it’ll be interesting to see how this newfound openness influences the band’s sound from here on out.
Riddles is available now via Carpark Records.