There aren’t many bands like Be Water in the area, and once the rest of the world catches wind of them, they might not stick around the area for much longer.
Drawing their influence from such post-prog legends as Tortoise, along with newer acts This Will Destroy You and Japan’s Mono, Be Water — whose name comes from a Zen-like Bruce Lee reference — have been forging their own local brew of instrumental, ambient music which stands out distinctly from the majority of the local scene.
Foregoing vocals can be seen as a risky endeavor, one which may actively alienate Be Water from a certain percentage of the population right off the bat.
“For people outside of the music scene, it can get a little confusing when I say I’m in an ‘instrumental band’,” says Colin McHugh, who plays guitar for the Galloway-based act.
Those willing to enter their world will be richly rewarded, as the quartet’s sound is extremely sophisticated and seems much fuller than one would expect from a traditional four-piece lineup.
“Our music involves a lot of soundscapes,” McHugh explains, referring to the layers of texture and nuances which permeate their sound, which is a blend of lush, melodic phrases paired with harsher, more aggressive moments.
McHugh’s fascination with ambient music dates back to his school days.
“I love the feeling of it,” he reveals. There’s just so many things going on; you can just listen to it and hear new things every time.”
The group has also been recording and self-distributing their music, first with two EPs, to be followed by a full length, due toward the end of summer.
“We pretty much did everything ourselves,” McHugh says.
The music was all self-recorded, and the physical packaging was also assembled by hand.
So far, the roots are digging in far away from their native South Jersey homes: “We are getting much more interest from Europe and Russia,” McHugh says. “Domestically, not as much.” The EPs were released on the popular music streaming site Bandcamp.com, with a “pay whatever you like’ price set for the downloads.
Future plans include an upcoming tour of the Northeast. The band members are also considering possibly utilizing voice within their songs, but not in the traditional manner.
“They will be deeper within the mix,” says McHugh, adding that lyrics won’t be in the forefront.
“It’s just like any other instrument,” he says.
The members of Be Water have also formed an alliance with other like-minded acts under the sobriquet of the Swamp Youth Collective. The group includes several other philosophically similar, locally-based acts. The objective is to spread the word about original music through common bookings and other activities.
“We’re just supporting each other any way we can,” McHugh adds. “We play out together and help each other with the artwork.”
The collective has been gaining steam, culminating in an original music festival.
“Last year we had Swampfest,” McHugh says.
The Cape May-based festival, held last August, included several acts and drew upwards of 300 attendees. It may return this upcoming summer, bringing along with it another round of original local music. McHugh summarizes the experience as “pretty awesome,” and says, “They basically sawed a trailer in half for the stage. It was great.”