Los Angeles-based band Near Beer is the new project of Joey Siara of Henry Clay People. Near Beer also includes Brent Stranathan (drums) and Jeremy Levy (bass, backup vocals) and oddly enough, there’s a bit of California pop punk sunshine included in their doomy-titled tune “Dead Drummers.” You might be asking yourself, isn’t sunshine the same everywhere? If you must ask what makes California sunshine special, then you don’t need to know. “Dead Drummers” was taken from their new self-titled full length which is due on July 15th via Double Helix Records.
Speaking on their newest single, the band wrote:
“The song was recorded soon after a friend’s memorial service as a tribute to him and a few other good friends we lost during the pandemic. We wanted to capture the reckless spirit of buddies who find a surrogate family in the music scene. The song ends up being a snapshot of the mixed bag of emotions that go into grief–anger, longing, but ultimately the hope that being in a silly rock band can actually provide some kind of healthy cathartic release. It’s become a centerpiece of our live set.”
Near Beer Bio:
“I don’t recall the specifics, but there were margaritas, tacos, a pool, and a bunch of our friends talking about babies,” says guitarist/singer Joey Siara, when asked about the benign house party beginnings of his new band Near Beer. “We had a conversation about Teenage Fanclub I think — songs that make you want to drive into the sunset.”
He pauses to punctuate his point: “You know, aging indie rockers pining for the glory of a perfect power-pop tune while the rest of their friends become responsible, child-rearing adults.”
And that, dear reader, is the je ne sais quoi of Near Beer’s self-titled debut — a relentless last call record that doesn’t know the meaning of moderation 95-percent of the time. Not when the night’s long and life’s so… damn… short.
Or as Siara puts it, “Our music’s often a push-pull between keeping stuff loose and succumbing to our maximalist tendencies. There are days where I want to channel Bee Thousand and days where I want to do Born to Run.”
Near Beer’s capable of either, believe it or not. That’s what happens when you’ve logged past lives in LA bands like The Henry Clay People, Fakers, and I Make This Sound, and spent the past 10 years slaying everything from grad school (Siara accumulated a couple master’s degrees) to R.E.M. songs (Near Beer bassist/cover song crusher Jeremy Levy does a mean Michael Stipe).
And that’s just the two longtime friends who co-founded the group. On-again off-again guitarist Dan Long (who insisted upon naming the band) is a reputable producer/engineer (Film School, Spiral Stairs) responsible for founding one of Brooklyn’s most storied mixing boards (Headgear Studio), drummer/auxiliary-everything Brent Stranathan is a chaotic neutral beat conductor who met Siara in a softball league and bonded over the idea that a 12-string can “sound cool when distorted.”
All to say – this isn’t Near Beer’s first rodeo. More like a second chance to make things right and leave a mark in the spirit of such north stars as The Replacements, Pavement, and The Clash. From the venom-tipped vibes and tongue-in-cheek takedowns of “Yelling at a Dog” to the sucker punch percussion and careening power chords of “Dead Drummers,” Near Beer is all about songs that strive for transcendence. The magic of making things. Flaws that feel like blessings. And the fleeting release of a fist-in-the-air rock anthem.
“A lot of my favorite artists were punk bands who didn’t seem satisfied being punk bands,” explains Siara, “so you see them pushing at the edges of their limited abilities…. That’s where I think a lot of my favorite music exists — where ambition exceeds talent, but the bands still go for it anyways.”
He continues, “It’s a sort of slacker restlessness. You can be lazy as shit — you can love beer, and a good nap — but still want more out of life.”
If that sounds mildly philosophical, consider this: Siara is a big Moby Dick fan, mostly because “it feels like it’s written with such manic energy – poignant, hilarious, and tragic.” Which makes sense once you realize just how intense Near Beer’s album is lyrically. Aside from all that aforementioned talk of growing old gracelessly, there’s a fair amount of death on the record. In the span of recording the album, Siara lost a couple of friends, including a former band-mate from his short-lived outlet The Dog Creeps, and his actual dog Edna.
“Edna was my best bud,” says Siara, “and was with me the last 13 years, which was easily the strangest era of my life so far…. Anyhow, we put Edna on the cover.”