Somewhere along the way, it became uncool to play alternative music that people could dance to as well. Somewhere in between Joy Division/Erasure and grunge and shoe-gazing, it became not cool to have fun while at the same time be outside the mainstream.
Enter Beautiful Bodies, a Kansas City, Missouri-based trio that pumps out a combo of industrial-sounding guitars, drums and melodic hooks and a backbeat you can’t lose. Their Epitaph Records-released debut, Battles, is all that and more, combining the frenetic fretwork of Thomas Becker, the steady balance of bassist Luis Arana and extreme energy from vocalist Alicia Solombrino. Beautiful Bodies isn’t just Hot Topic background noise, though. Their lyrics sway along through typical themes of love lost, betrayal, and emotional stability, but they also may be the only band on this year’s Warped Tour singing about the past injustices of the regime of former dictator Augusto Pinochet (find an Encyclopedia Britannica, folks).
Becker recently exchanged emails back and forth with Folio Weekly to discuss their upcoming slot on Warped Tour, their lyrics and conducting high-stakes legal maneuvering (Becker moonlights as a human rights lawyer) across continents while heavy metal blares in the background.
Folio Weekly: Your debut, Battles, is a nice mix of sharp, grinding guitars and danceable pop. Do these influences intertwine for you?
Thomas Becker: Alicia and I are from slightly different musical backgrounds. I grew up listening to punk bands like Black Flag and Fugazi, and she grew up with dance music like Michael Jackson and James Brown. We figured we’d try to combine these things we loved and see what came out of it. The result was Beautiful Bodies.
How important is something like The Warped Tour for a band supporting a debut album? Do you prefer a festival or a more intimate setting?
The Warped Tour is a perfect place for a newer band like ours, because people at the show are genuinely excited to explore new music. Of course, fans want to see specific bands, but most people attending want an opportunity to check out something new. So far we have been really fortunate to make some rad new fans.
In general, we prefer intimate settings but, honestly, you can make any show intimate. The best way to do this is to interact closely with the crowd. I spend quite a bit of time playing in [or on] the crowd, while Alicia pulls fans on stage or grabs their phones and performs to someone on the other line. Though it isn’t quite as small as a basement or club show, The Warped Tour can really capture an intimate vibe.
“September 1973” seems to be a song about the establishment of the U.S.-endorsed Pinochet coup in Chile in ’73, and the controversy therein. Also, it has a nice bounce and driving melody — but it’s not a folk song. Is it important to you to balance relevant themes and lyrics with an arrangement kids will still move to?
One of my favorite anarchists, Emma Goldman, once said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” To us, social change should be fun and upbeat. We want to discuss important issues and hopefully make some change in the world, but we want to do this with a hook and some energetic music.
Your band’s Wikipedia page says you were living in Bolivia, suing a former politician. True?
For several years, I lived in Bolivia working with the victims of “Black October,” a series of government-led massacres of indigenous Bolivians. I currently represent some of the victims in a lawsuit here in Florida against the ex-president and defense minister of Bolivia (the latter lives in Florida) for their role in the killings. It definitely has been an interesting ride. On the one hand, I’ve had to deal with annoyances like death threats and phone tapping, and I’ve had a cocktail of tropical diseases. On the other hand, though, I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the most dedicated, courageous activists on Earth. I am genuinely inspired every day by their commitment to social change.
Juggling music and human rights law has been interesting. It definitely has been strange taking calls on Warped Tour from South America. I’m not sure who is more confused: Kids at Warped who see me running around blurting Spanish into my phone or the Bolivians on the other line who have to listen to me talk about legal issues while I Killed the Prom Queen is blasting metal riffs in the background.
Is world domination part of your plans as a band?
I’m down if you’re down.