How loud does a band have to be to get cut off during the first song? Mount Pleasant two-piece Beast in the Field found out last year when, before barely getting past the first fuzzy note at the New Way in Ferndale, the soundman put a stop to the entire show.
Drummer Jamie Jahr picks up the story. "The problem is that we go beyond what most PAs put out, just our own stage volume. We understand it too. We actually do sound on the side when we're not with the band. We understand what a solid mix is. But that's not what Beast in the Field is. With Beast in the Field, you can't hear the drums because they won't go louder in the mix because the PA can't handle it. There was a time where we were carrying around our own PA and we'd set it up, but it becomes such hard work. At the New Way, I think we had actually left one of the cabs in the trailer. We only turned on one of the amps, and Jordan [Pries, guitars] usually plays 4. The sound guy goes, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Beast in the Field.' We started playing, and he said, 'Wait, you're not going to turn it down?' through the monitors. So we turned it off and he said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, that was Beast in the Field.' We're gonna make that a live album."
Beast in the Field began in 2007 after Jahr and Pries had previously played together in a band called And the Sky Went Red. That came to an end when the pair could no longer deal with the complexities of getting five people, all with their own lives and relationships, together to record, rehearse and gig.
"That's what led us to want to be in a two-piece," Jahr says. "We wanted to be in a band together, but we didn't want to deal with all the other guys. Plus, we'd practice and Jordan would come up with a riff. He played bass back then, even though he's a guitar player. Basically, it just ended up that we'd write these riffs, and I loved stoner and the bands Cathedral and Sleep. The other guys just weren't into it. If they wouldn't show up to a practice, we'd play that stuff and we always joked around, 'Man, if this ever ends, we'll start another band.' That's basically what happened. I think that the real reason people do two-pieces is that it's just easier to coordinate everything. It does challenge you so you have to think a little more, and it does have its limitations, but the ease of being able to get together and do stuff is a lot of everything."
You have to wonder why two adult men [Jahr, 42, runs a print store, while Pries, 28, is a guitar tech] are still messing around with such tricks as fuzzy volume. "The volume comes from the love of tube amps," Jahr says. "Tube amps don't have gain. Three sounds clean. That's how Black Sabbath got distortion. They turned it to 10 and got that sound. That's why the volume. It just became us. It's kind of a gimmick, I guess, but we're known for it now."
That's all fair enough, but surely an insistence on that kind of volume necessitates checking that the venues are equipped to deal with such a barrage of sound.
"We did a little tour with some friends from Seattle, and we kind of dropped the ball on booking a proper show," Jahr says. "When I book, I try to remind venues that we're loud and go through the whole e-mail thing and it ends up being, 'How loud are you?' — and then I'll put out a decibel amount that we've been read at. People will usually then either stop the e-mailing or it's not a problem. This one happened to be where we decided to play first."
Beast in the Field already has four full-length albums available and is expecting a fifth in the fall. All highlight the band's hard-hitting stoner metal. "I grew up with my dad letting me play drums in the garage and he would stay if I was playing some country stuff," Jahr says. "I'd always try to play country so that he'd at least drink a beer and listen to it. Once I turned on Sleep or Kyuss, that was it. My parents would probably describe us as 'noise.' This is a cool thing — we have some piano, like a soft melody thing, on the records, and my mom likes that. I'm not playing the piano, but Jordan's dad is. He played on the first three albums. His dad and mom are huge supporters. His grandma came out sometimes."
Jahr says he's looking forward to the band's appearance at Blowout. "It's an area that we've come to love," he says. "Until last August, our label boss Mark [Coughlin at Saw Her Ghost Records] was living in Hamtramck and I know he's trying to move back. We've gotten to love Hamtramck. We've always had a tough time in Detroit, but our shows, especially this year at the Berkley Front and Small's, have been great. It seems like Detroit's kind of awesome again."
So what can we expect from the Blowout show? "If you've seen us, it'll be the same-old, but not necessarily because we'll do some new songs," Jahr says. "If you haven't seen us, definitely come see us, because it's an experience live. People tell us the records don't compare to the live set. We're two guys and we don't put on a Kiss show, but we get into it and rock out. We do a sonic baptism, and we'll definitely do that at Blowout. People either love it or they get scared."
Beast in the Field is definitely worth checking out. There are few angrier bands on the bill, and that anger is channeled into a musical hammer-thwack to the face. So where does that anger come from?
"What doesn't piss me off?" Jahr says. "I've got a lot of stuff that I'm pissed at: the world, rich people, corruption. Jordan just became vegan, he told me, because, besides wanting to feel better, the way corporations [produce food] is disgusting. Oil prices piss me off. I can't do the thing that I love, which is go play shows. Nobody has any money to offer me because they don't make any money at their job. $100 to bring my huge load of equipment is too much because I can't afford to drive. It costs me $90 to drive to Detroit."
OK, then, sir. What floats your boat? "My daughter and music. That's everything."
Beast in the Field plays the Blowout on Thursday, March 1, 12:20, at the New Dodge.