Interview with Muscle Beach | By Kayla Greet
In June of 2013, three friends got together and formed Muscle Beach. There may not be very many muscle beaches near Denver, but these powerhouse musicians certainly help fill that void. The band is comprised of drummer Roy Jones, vocalist and guitarist Justin Sanderson, and back-up vocalist and bassist Derek Arrieta. Much like working out on the sandy shores of a landmass—a mix of sweat and grit and shortness of breath—Muscle Beach rip through songs like a terror.
The band released their first EP, Pipe Dreams, in the November following their formation, and put out two singles the next year. Both of those tracks we were rerecorded when they entered the studio for their first full-length, a self-titled that came out on Sailor Records at the tail end of 2015. This release is jam packed with 11 brutal tracks that are face-melting fast and fierce.
For a trio, the group’s sound is intensely full, though there was a time early on when they wanted to add a fourth member. As Sanderson shares, “We wanted a vocalist so I could just play guitar and maybe do backup vocals, but that didn’t really pan out.” Instead, they trudged through with Sanderson on main vocals and Arrieta chiming in for backup, and it’s worked out ever since. Arrieta says that, at the end of the day, “organizing practices and whatnot is a lot easier with three people.”
As far as their writing process, Arrieta says that “all the songs on both the EP and the full-length were written musically first with no real focus on lyrics.” He adds that they would keep in mind vocal patterns and cadence, but wouldn’t nail down the words until the song was structured. “We’d tweak and fine-tune them all a bit so there would be some consistency,” he continues. “They just had to be dark and/or brutal.” Topics range from zombies to getting rid of a dead body to alien invasions, and more. Needless to say, Muscle Beach write those feel-good, posi jams.
This latest LP marks the first time they’ve worked with a producer, and it was none other than Dave Otero. Otero has played in metal bands such as Serberus and Dethroned, but has also taken the helm of many, many heavy records from bands like Cattle Decapitation, Nightbringer, and Satan’s Host. Arrieta says, “Recording with Dave was great; he’s a professional for sure. We were one of the first non-metal bands he’s produced, so he said it was a refreshing change for him.” Overall, Muscle Beach say it was a smooth process during which Otero was super focused and technical. Arrieta says Otero would often take “whatever inconsistency or wonkiness we had in a song and suggest something to make that part heavier.”
Jones adds that “we wanted to hear Muscle Beach on the record how we hear it, and he did great at pushing us and coaching us to get it right.”
The band claim that the process of building a full-length really helped to reinforce—or just officially establish—a clear Muscle Beach sound. Arrieta describes that sound as “consistent, charging, drive-y energy behind it; we like getting people pumped,” but he clarifies the “exercise pun” is not intended.
A lot of reviews of Muscle Beach tend to gravitate toward a Fugazi comparison, though they’re also reminiscent of bands like Refused, Retox, and The Blood Brothers, all of whom have instrument-free vocalists. Sanderson says that singing while playing “can, for sure, be hard at times, [especially] when guitars are doing one thing and the vocal cadence is completely different,” but says they’re figuring it out.
Arrieta proclaims that they “just wanna keep pushing the envelope with every new song we write. Heavier, more textures, more intricate. More, more, more!” People in Denver are certainly taking note, as the band were invited to join Sailor Records after playing one show with label head Oscar Ross’s band Lords Of Fuzz. “Shortly after the show, he emailed us, asking if we would be interested in joining,” Sanderson recounts. “After partying and getting to know him, we decided [it] was the right move for us.”
The band are planning a West Coast tour for March that starts in Pueblo, Colo., and ends in Laramie, Wyo., meanwhile hitting SoCal, the Bay Area, Oregon, and Seattle. They’re also working on touring the East Coast at the end of summer. Keep an eye out for them on the road this year!