A long-tailed bat has won New Zealand’s 2021 Bird of the Year competition.
Sorry, let’s back up a bit.
On the Beths’ impressive live album “Auckland, New Zealand, 2020”, the band members take some time out during the show to publicly campaign for their pick in the 2020 New Zealand Bird of the Year contest. . The onstage banter is sweet and serious, which is a good description of the Beths sound if you add tons of arena rock riffs, power pop hooks and melancholy.
“The big controversy in 2021 is that the native bat won the bird of the year,” Beths chef Liz Stokes told the Herald.
Bats winning bird trophies. A rock band recording a live album at a time of international lockdowns. We are in strange territory.
As the Beths cross the States for a sold-out concert in Boston, it’s a good time to celebrate a weird band on a normal rock ‘n’ roll tour. Led by Stokes, the New Zealand quartet plays a lot of high-energy rock akin to early Weezers with Beach Boys harmonies and dark lyrics.
“When we play live it’s two guitars, bass and drums, so the next thing we have access to if we want to add another texture is vocals,” Stokes said. “It made sense to add harmonies, so almost immediately we started arranging really hard stuff, stuff that was hard to sing and play at the same time.”
On two albums – 2018’s “Future Me Hates Me” and 2020’s “Jump Rope Gazers” (both of which made my top 10 albums of the year lists) – harmonies backed songs of sadness and self-doubt full of sneakiness and self-doubt. self-aware lyrics and Stokes’ wonderfully candy-coated pain (sample lyrics: “Wish I could wish you well / Instead I hit my head / And back off to ‘You can’t go to hell’ “).
With album three started but far from complete, the Beths kicked off this tour (after numerous COVID-related delays) with the standalone single “A Real Thing.” As catchy and dark as anything they’ve done, “A Real Thing” seems to make personal lyrics universal.
“I don’t know if I’m that good at writing about bigger things, so for me it stays personal as much as it’s a song about fear of the weather or anxiety about the state of things,” said Stokes. “I guess it’s personal anxiety because I don’t have answers. The song is always just me trying to process the emotion.
And now we’re back to a bat that wins an annual bird award.
In “A Real Thing” she writes about how New Zealanders sometimes try (and often fail) to use tires and concrete to slow beach erosion – “Pick up tires on the side of the road /I’ll repel the coming tide /Arrange them in the harbor in symmetrical rows/Disappear when the water is high Part of the reason the bat won is that, like dozens of species of native birds, the long-tailed bat is also endangered.
So, once the third album is released, will we have a bright, catchy gem about climate terror and bats? Or maybe an angry song about creating a world where a damn bat can beat the kiwi, kea, and kākāpō in a bird contest?
“I’m still working on processing my feelings about it,” Stokes said with a laugh. “But I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for the idea.