History

Carpenter is equally drawn to the avant-garde as he is to the old, rural, and gothic. He has interests in free jazz and improvised music, film directing, and radio broadcasting, and seeks ways to connect these interests into a wide vision.
— Richard Elliot, PopMatters Best Albums of 2009
 
 
 Beat Circus in 2011 at Highline Ballroom, NYC (L-R, Andrew Stern, Ron Caswell, Gavin McCarthy, Brian Carpenter, Jordan Voelker, Paul Dilley, Mazz Swift)

Beat Circus in 2011 at Highline Ballroom, NYC (L-R, Andrew Stern, Ron Caswell, Gavin McCarthy, Brian Carpenter, Jordan Voelker, Paul Dilley, Mazz Swift)

 

Members

Brian Carpenter
Lead Vocals

Andrew Stern
Guitar

Paul Dilley
Bass

Gavin McCarthy
Drums

Alec Spiegelman
Tenor Saxophone / Bass Clarinet / Vocals

Abigale Reisman
Violin / Vocals

Emily Bookwalter
Viola / Vocals





Origins

2002-2004
Ringleaders

 Beat Circus in 2004. Standing L-R: Karen Langlie, Alec K. Redfearn, Brian Carpenter, Matt McLaren, Ron Caswell, Leigh Calabrese. Sitting: Jim Hobbs, Brandon Seabrook. Photo by Amanda Palmer.

Beat Circus in 2004. Standing L-R: Karen Langlie, Alec K. Redfearn, Brian Carpenter, Matt McLaren, Ron Caswell, Leigh Calabrese. Sitting: Jim Hobbs, Brandon Seabrook. Photo by Amanda Palmer.

The band started in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2002 shortly after Brian Carpenter moved from Florida to Boston and met banjoist/guitarist Brandon Seabrook. The two formed a free improvisation group called Beat Science with tubist Ron Caswell from NY, alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, drummer Jerome Deupree, saw player Leigh Calabrese, and Providence-based accordionist Alec K. Redfearn. After a summer-long residency at Lizard Lounge which brought in several special guests including trombonist Roswell Rudd and guitarist Marc Ribot, the band recorded their first record Ringleaders Revolt, a wildly improvisational instrumental record centered around circus music on the Innova label.



2005-2007
Dreamland

 Dreamland band in 2006 (L-R: Alec K. Redfearn, Matt McLaren, Brian Carpenter, Kaethe Hostetter, Curtis Hasselbring, Ron Caswell)

Dreamland band in 2006 (L-R: Alec K. Redfearn, Matt McLaren, Brian Carpenter, Kaethe Hostetter, Curtis Hasselbring, Ron Caswell)

In 2005 Carpenter began working on a “Weird American Gothic” trilogy of albums, a vehicle to explore the rich culture and fact-versus-fiction stories of three American mythologies: The American Circus, Southern Gothic literature and folk, and the Old American West. The trilogy would begin with the ambitious record Dreamland, a 150-page score for 12 musicians based loosely on the turn-of-the-century theme park which burned down in 1911. For this incarnation, Carpenter brought in an all-star lineup of drummer Matt McLaren (Eyesores bandmate of member Alec K. Redfearn), trombonist Curtis Hasselbring (Ghost Train Orchestra) and saxophonist Briggan Krauss (Sex Mob) from NYC, and violinist Kaethe Hostetter (Debo Band.)

In 2006, the band reached out to legendary NY producer/engineer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans, Dresden Dolls, Foetus) to record and mix the record. The band setup in the legendary B.C. Studios in Brooklyn to record over several days with a pantheon of NY musicians.

 Engineer/producer Martin Bisi arguing some fine points at B.C. Studios

Engineer/producer Martin Bisi arguing some fine points at B.C. Studios

Dreamland is a combination of narrative songs and experimental-tinged instrumentals with a long list of New York creative musicians, including circus composer and sonic sculptor Sxip Shirey, cellist Julia Kent (Antony & the Johnsons), thereminist Michael Hearst (One Ring Zero), harpist Jesse Sparhawk from Philadelphia, comic DJ Hazard, and ragtime pianist and Coney Island alum Todd Robbins. Artist and musician Brian Dewan performed on a huge electric zither with Humbucker pickups, and created the stunning cover artwork in vibrant watercolor. Dreamland was released on the Cuneiform label in 2008. The record received acclaim by notable record scholar Piero Scaruffi, who put it on his Best of 2008 list.

"By carefully orchestrating the styles of small-town Americana, Carpenter wove together a breathtaking journey into the psyche of a nation as it was beginning to craft an urban landscape of entertainment and desire." -- Piero Scaruffi, Scaruffi Best of 2008

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The band subsequently toured most of the Northeast with many bands of that era, including Barbez, Dresden Dolls, Gogol Bordello, World/Inferno Friendship Society, O’Death, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, leaving behind a stunning series of show posters designed by the great Lure Design based out of Orlando, Florida.

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Lure Design, 2005


2008-2011
Boy From Black Mountain

 Boy From Black Mountain band in 2010 (L-R): Doug LaRosa, Gavin McCarthy, Paul Dilley, Paran Amirinazari, Andrew Stern, Jordan Voelker, Brian Carpenter. Photo by Dave Bias.

Boy From Black Mountain band in 2010 (L-R): Doug LaRosa, Gavin McCarthy, Paul Dilley, Paran Amirinazari, Andrew Stern, Jordan Voelker, Brian Carpenter. Photo by Dave Bias.

In 2008, after Alec K. Redfearn and Matt McLaren left to focus on their band The Eyesores, Carpenter reformed the band for the second part in the Weird American Gothic trilogy, a Southern gothic opus entitled Boy From Black Mountain. The band featured virtuoso string players Paran Amirinazari and Jordan Voelker, drummer Gavin McCarthy (Karate), trombonist Doug LaRosa, guitarist and banjoist Andrew Stern, and bassist Paul Dilley (Girls, Guns, and Glory). The music of Boy From Black Mountain is fast and furious, much in the Southern Gothic and Southern Gospel vein with hellfire vocals evocative of dark country music. Two songs and various instrumentals on the record relate to Carpenter’s struggles to assist his son, diagnosed with autism a few years earlier.

 Beat Circus at a soundcheck at Union Pool in Brooklyn, 2010 (L-R): Brian Carpenter, Jordan Voelker, Gavin McCarthy, Paran Amirinazari, Paul Dilley

Beat Circus at a soundcheck at Union Pool in Brooklyn, 2010 (L-R): Brian Carpenter, Jordan Voelker, Gavin McCarthy, Paran Amirinazari, Paul Dilley

After touring the East Coast in 2008, the band recorded at Camp Street Studios with Sean Slade (Radiohead) and mixed with Bryce Goggin (Akron/Family, Angels of Light, Antony & the Johnsons) at Trout Recording in Brooklyn (at that time, one block over from Martin Bisi’s B.C. Studios in Gowanus.)

 Bryce Goggin mixing Boy From Black Mountain in 2008-09

Bryce Goggin mixing Boy From Black Mountain in 2008-09

Special guest vocalist Larkin Grimm (who toured with the band during this time) sang on several of the songs, and Caldecott-winning artist Carson Ellis created the beautiful cover for the record inspired by the title track.

Boy From Black Mountain was released in 2009 on the Cuneiform label. The record won the Independent Music Award in 2010 for Best Alt/Country Album and made the PopMatters Best of 2009 list.

"Carpenter has rediscovered his Southern heritage. What counts is that Boy From Black Mountain is the prettiest darn dark Americana record in recent memory." -- Barry Thompson, Boston Phoenix

"The world summoned up in these narratives is not just Greil Marcus's "invisible republic", but a wider world of uncanny magic as evoked by the Handsome Family or the television serial Carnivàle. There's no doubt that Beat Circus have provided one of the highs of the year.." -- Richard Elliot, PopMatters 

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2014-present
These Wicked Things

 These Wicked Things band in 2018 (L-R): Gavin McCarthy, Abigale Reisman, Brian Carpenter, Paul Dilley, Alec Spiegelman, Andrew Stern. Photo by Liz Linder.

These Wicked Things band in 2018 (L-R): Gavin McCarthy, Abigale Reisman, Brian Carpenter, Paul Dilley, Alec Spiegelman, Andrew Stern. Photo by Liz Linder.

In 2012 Carpenter was commissioned by the Berkeley Repertory Theater (Berkeley, California) to compose music for a new play based on the true crime book The Barbary Coast. The book, written by Gangs of New York writer Herbert Asbury, chronicles the violent rise of San Francisco in the Gold Rush era.

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The first song written for the play, with book by Dominic Orlando, was “Rosita”, a huapango or Mexican folk song sung by the historical figure Joaquin Murieta, who vows revenge for the murder of his wife Rosita by a gang of violent gold miners. The story is true and was sung by singer Tomas Cruz, who played a lead role in the Robert Wilson/Philip Glass play Einstein on the Beach. The song opened Act One of the play. Two years later, the band was flown out to San Francisco to work on the play with Dominic Orlando and a cast of Berkeley Rep alumni. The band played with a show at Amnesia in San Francisco. Act One was showcased in front of a live audience but the full play was never funded and staged.

 Reading The Barbary Coast at Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2014

Reading The Barbary Coast at Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2014

 Beat Circus at Amnesia, San Francisco CA in 2014 (L-R): Serena Eades, Paul Dilley, Andrew Stern, Quinn Carson, Emily Bookwalter, Gavin McCarthy, Alec Spiegelman, Brian Carpenter, Dominic Orlando

Beat Circus at Amnesia, San Francisco CA in 2014 (L-R): Serena Eades, Paul Dilley, Andrew Stern, Quinn Carson, Emily Bookwalter, Gavin McCarthy, Alec Spiegelman, Brian Carpenter, Dominic Orlando

Two years later the band went into the studio to record mostly new music for the final part of the Weird American Gothic trilogy named These Wicked Things. Included were a few songs and instrumental music from the play, including two versions of “Rosita”, an instrumental tango (the overture to the play) and the huapango featuring trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela of Calexico fame. These Wicked Things was recorded at Q Division Studios with engineer Rafi Sofer from 2016-17 and back at Trout Recordings in Brooklyn with engineer Bryce Goggin.

 Gavin McCarthy at Q Division Studios,  These Wicked Things  sessions 2016

Gavin McCarthy at Q Division Studios, These Wicked Things sessions 2016


In 2017, Carpenter flew out to Tucson, Arizona to mix the record with Craig Schumacher, known for his work with such acts as Calexico, Neko Case, and Giant Sand. Craig and assistant engineer Chris Schultz had worked with Carpenter previously on the Confessions record The Far End of the World. Calexico trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela and Big Lazy guitarist Stephen Ulrich recorded tracks while at Wavelab Studios (pictured below.)

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Chris Schultz and Craig Schumacher mixing These Wicked Things to tape at Wavelab Studios, Tucscon AZ

Acclaimed Croatian artist Danijel Zezelj was brought on board to create a 12-page black-and-white noir graphic novel to accompany the album and provide imagery behind the storylines. Zezelj is known for his work on American Vampire and Kevin Baker’s fantastic graphic novel Luna Park.

These Wicked Things will see a release date of March 22, 2019 on Innova Records.

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