Beauty Pill is a DC-based band led by producer, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Chad Clark. The band’s current lineup is a uniquely diverse collective that includes Basla Andolun, Jean Cook, Drew Doucette and Devin Ocampo. After over a decade releasing critically acclaimed recordings (The New York Times and The Washington Post have raved, and Pitchfork gave their debut EP a 9/10), Beauty Pill amicably parted ways with Dischord Records in 2014 in pursuit of their evolving artistic interests. Their new work, as well as some expanded re-issues, will now be released by Butterscotch Records.
The excitement surrounding the return of Beauty Pill is not simply because of the densely constructed and deeply felt music found on their second full-length Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are (BSR012, 2015). Some of that enthusiasm is being reserved for the plain fact that the band’s leader Chad Clark — who has worked in the studio with artists like The Dismemberment Plan, Fugazi and Mary Timony — is healthy and able to continue creating his own deeply personal and political music.
In 2007, Clark fell ill from a viral disease that caused his heart valves to stop connecting, thereby making the muscle enlarge. It was as harrowing an experience as you could imagine. And now that he’s made it through two surgeries, he’s ready to throw everything into his music and his band.
“I really don’t have any particular insights to share about coming that close to death that aren’t already available in lots of literature and boardwalk t-shirts and, y’know, It’s A Wonderful Life,” Clark says. “There weren’t any special revelations that I had to bestow on people in a song.”
To that end, Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are isn’t an album of wallowing or worrying. Clark’s experience is certainly threaded throughout the album (the opening lyric is “I want more life, fucker,” a quote from Blade Runner), but what concerns Beauty Pill most, though, is locked right in the title of this LP. These ten original compositions and two cover tunes are musical reportage, capturing what they’re seeing and hearing around them.
Clark also notes that he wants listeners to feel like they are “inside the songs,” a quality that was born out of the unusual environment that Beauty Pill chose to record the bulk of this album. For two weeks, they participated in “Immersive Ideal,” a special commissioned project for Artisphere, a Washington, DC arts center that allowed visitors to observe the band at work creating the album. People were able to watch the band through a pane of glass. The band’s recording process became an art exhibit unto itself (an idea now being explored by PJ Harvey, coincidentally an artist Clark admires greatly). It was an exercise in radical transparency; a way to pull back the curtain on a process that can seem mysterious to your average listener.
While Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are has been a long time coming, its arrival on Butterscotch Records signals new directions as the band amicably draws its long tenure with Dischord Records to a close and gears up for their first live dates in many years. And with Clark’s return to health comes a return to prolificness: in addition to Describes Things, the band will re-issue its classic debut EP The Cigarette Girl From The Future is on the way, as a score for a DC theater production of Hamlet and more.