Longtime fans of Daddy's Beemer, a trio of indie-rockers who made Charleston their home in 2019, will immediately recognize some of the sounds on their new album, Denmark. Singer and guitarist Brady Sklar's choppy riffs and nakedly emotional vocals are still a central part of the band's sound. And the tightly-wound rhythm section of Wesley Heaton (bass) and Dan Fetterolf (drums) still have a way with nervous-energy-infused propulsion.
In fact, the first couple of tracks on Denmark sound like they could've been on the band's 2018 EP, Pucker, a collection of blurry guitars, dreamlike melodies and insistent rhythms.
But there's a polish on this album that Daddy's Beemer has never had before, a warm glow around the songs that envelops the listener. And there are a lot more synths in the mix, as well. When Sklar sings swooning lines on "Flowers," the keyboards and guitars merge and lift his emotive croon skyward. "Let me breathe in your ear/ Let me die to live again," he sings.
As a whole, the album is a cohesive statement full of longing, uncertainty and exhilaration, which is fitting for a band that has spent much of the last three years on the move. Daddy's Beemer began at Clemson University, where the members ran a beloved house-show venue called Pablo. After graduating, they moved to Charlotte, looking for a new challenge.
"We had a tough time breaking into the Charlotte scene," Sklar said. "We initially moved to Charlotte to kind of expand our horizons because we already knew so much about the South Carolina scene. We wanted to see what we could do there."
The band knew a lot of musicians in Charleston from their days running house shows, so it seemed almost too easy to move to the Lowcountry.
"And then when we moved [to Charlotte], we realized that that was a good thing that we had all those connections. It felt more like home, and we had a good community [in Charleston] that we could grow in better than a place where we didn't know as many people."
Denmark is certainly a testament to that sentiment. Without the move to Charleston, Daddy's Beemer wouldn't have been able to bring in singer/songwriter Jamie Gray to sing on the soulful, synth-soaked ballad "Amethyst." And they wouldn't have been able to work as closely with producer/engineer Preston Dunnavant as they did. Dunnavant, a longtime friend of the band, was crucial in creating the album's core sound, no easy task since it was written and recorded over a two-year period.
"It was definitely a challenge to keep everything cohesive," Dunnavant said. "But since these guys are like some of my closest friends, I kind of feel like an extension of the band. My role was facilitating the flow of things, making sure we stayed on track and got things done, and tried to keep people focused while trying to help with the arrangements. And they give me a little bit of space for my creative ideas."
"We owe a lot of it to our producer," Heaton added. "Just having someone else to work with and someone to help us with software and mixing led us to be able to focus more on our own individual aspects of the band. It definitely led us to create a better product."
Lyrically, the album deals a lot with themes of change and growth, which is fitting for a group of recent college graduates who have lived in three different cities in the last few years.
"A lot of it was about transitioning, because we were all doing a lot of transitioning," Sklar says. "I was getting out of college, and we were moving to Charlotte, and then we were on the road for a long time, and then we were technically homeless for a minute, and then we were headed to Charleston. And I had a girlfriend of four years, and that was a weird transition going into a long-term relationship instead of a 'college fling' thing. So it's about specific perspectives on the different changes that were going on."
The album reaches a musical and lyrical resolution with the closing track, "Poisonous Mind," a finale that moves from a fuzz-bass and drums opening to a wide-screen, near-psychedelic epic. The song ends with a massive flourish: Drums, guitars and pianos crash triumphantly, creating a gorgeous cacophony to close Sklar's lament. "I've got a poisonous mind/ It's always wastin' my time," he sings.
The band knew "Poisonous Mind" was the perfect exclamation point for Denmark as soon as they wrote it.
"It just sounds like a final piece," Fetterolf said, "and when we worked out the arrangement for the harmonies on the last chorus, it just sounded like a very good ending. We weren't sure if we wanted to have that last chord resolved, or if we just wanted to leave it hanging on Brady's last note as the focal point, but we ended up just having it resolved and that actually loops around to the beginning of the album."