Interview with Brian Sulpizio of Health & Beauty
In anticipation for Friday’s Songwriter Showcase at Elastic Arts Homeroom sat down with Brian Sulpizio of Health & Beauty to talk about his music. After reading make sure to come to our Songwriter Showcase and Open Mic this Friday, February 10th to check Brian out!
Read on below
1. First off, what do you play in Health & Beauty and how long have you all been together?
I’ve played with various groups as Health&Beauty since 2002 or 3. For a couple years in there it was just me. It’s really different now and much more of a group, in the sense that I bring less to the table with a song than I did once, not only in terms of what people should play but sometimes in terms of what sort of mood it should inhabit. When Ben Boye and I started playing together a few years ago I had some songs I was excited about that were pretty different from the sorts of things I’d been working on prior to that, and Ben made me like them even more. Toby joined us a little later and Quin started playing with us a year ago, and I’ve been really excited about what we’re capable of together and it’s just getting better and better. That’s what I would call the core quartet. The coretet. I used to think of Health&Beauty as a name I used for anything that was totally of my own doing, compositionally, but now there is a coretet which heavily influences the musical direction. I’m also fortunate to have good friends like Angie Ma, Andrew Young, Ryley Walker and Marc Riordan who play with us sometimes. We try to get interesting contributions on record but also to have a manageable-sized but at least somewhat intemperate-sounding live group. I sing and play guitar.
2. In the interest of our Songwriting Showcase coming up, where do you find inspiration when writing a song?
I don’t really find inspiration that I’m capable of acknowledging; I never know what’s happening. I just roll with ideas and find myself suddenly working. We just finished a recording of a song called “Princess Harley” that will be on this EP we’re working up. That was some crap that I sang to the dog first thing in the morning, but it stuck with me. I guess I find inspiration in the dog. Ben wrote a line in it too: “Where are the mouths to feed?” That sounds dog-inspired.
3. When writing, is it ever a collaborative effort with the whole band or do you always do the writing?
Most of the time I end up bringing the whole song form, and then most of the time someone else ends up changing it for one reason or another, once we work up a way to play it as a group. Sometimes I’ll bring something and say, “It just needs this one thing that maybe we can come up with together.” I enjoy this way of working. It used to bother me that I’ve rarely been in bands where we wrote everything together. I’d always wanted to be in this wonderful collaborative group where everybody wrote the entire song together, but it was always very short-lived and not usually very interesting. I do like playing other people’s songs with them, but trying to write with other people feels really tedious to me.
4. What (and where) has been one of your most memorable Chicago shows?
Gosh. A long time ago with a different incarnation of this group we organized this big night at Metro where we had four bands, each of which had to bring a film created to accompany their set. Ours was done by Alex MacKenzie and my friend Ryan Sigg, both of whom did a great job. We had a grant from the University of Chicago in order to put the show on. Maybe it was memorable mostly for how much work it was. More recently a trio version of Health&Beauty was on the bill for Lechuguillas’ last show in Chicago at Mortville. I think it was 13 bands, and it started at 10:30 at night. Jason from Lechuguillas had invited all his friends to play the show, and we all said yes, because we love him, even though he’s an idiot. My friend Sam Henry was playing as Plastic Boner Band. A different Health&Beauty group had played with him a bit and done a weekend tour together. Well he ended up joining our set and it was magical, even though my electric cord kept falling out of the socket.
5. What’s up next for you and/or Health & Beauty? Shows? Album release?
We’re booking some shows for the spring but probably not as many as we did in the fall. We finished recording a 40-min collection of songs called WINTERMAGIC last year and nobody wants to put it out so I will likely throw it on Bandcamp at some point. We recorded a cover of “Copperline” by James Taylor for Ryley Walker’s upcoming cassette label debut, which is a collection of bands covering James Taylor songs. We’re also working on a 7" that will come with an album’s worth of bonus material in download form. That will be really cool, because records are cool but so are downloads.
6. What song or songs do you want played at your funeral?
That is a neat question. Summer before last I was a staff recording engineer at the Harold Arts Residency, and we recorded a version of “Farewell Party,” by Lawton Williams, famously sung by Gene Watson, for and with a friend of one of the organizers named Milton. He wanted to record himself singing it so his family could play it at his funeral. Sometimes I have nightmares that the CD I burned for him won’t work. Here’s a video that Ben Fain made of the recording session: http://vimeo.com/13530188
Personally, I’d go with “Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?”
Don’t miss out on Brian in action this Friday! See our events page for more details.