Jeff Beam is a bit of an autodidact, which is a rather fancy term for someone who is self-taught. The Portland-based musician, songwriter, producer and generally thoughtful dude learned most of his considerable skills on his own, and through playing with an array of bands and artists, like the Milkman’s Union, the Soft Bullets and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper.
That ability to absorb and reinvent sounds and ideas is reflected in his most recent album, the psychedelic indie rock collection “Be Your Own Mirror,” which came out in April 2012. He also released “You’ll Find That It’s Stranger Than Known,” an odds-and-sods collection from Oct. 2012, and he’s gearing up for a new album, “Jeff’s Beam’s Loudspeaker Wallpaper,” which comes out next month and features live, gently reworked versions of his songs with a newly assembled band of the same name as the album. It will officially be released on Friday, Aug. 23 at Port City Music Hall in Portland, in a double album release with ShaShaSha, the solo project of Dominic Lavoie, with guests the Toughcats and the Amarantos Quartet.
Beam, an Androscoggin County native, can trace his fascination with music back to early childhood. He grew up in a supportive, though not particularly musical, family.
“The earliest musical memory is riding around Greene, Maine with my dad in his big red truck while we listened to The Beatles’ White Album on cassette, when I was 4 years old,” said Beam, now 25. “I think hearing those melodies so often while my brain was in early development left some sort of impression.”
In the ensuing 20 years, Beam has established himself as a vital part of the Portland music scene, lending his talents as a multi-instrumentalist to the aforementioned bands, and recording and performing as a solo artist. Beam and his former bandmates in the Milkman’s Union were the backing band for Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s acclaimed album “Ripely Pine.” He lists influences like Elliott Smith, the Olivia Tremor Control, Radiohead, the Kinks, Grizzly Bear and Neil Young, spanning the gamut from Beatles-esque songwriting to barn-burning noise to psychedelic knob-twiddling. Psychedelic is a term useful for describing Beam’s music – though it’s a tough term to actually define.
“To me, the word ‘psychedelic’ has evolved to mean anything that has the ability to change your mind, or change the way you think about something,” said Beam. “I have no idea if this is indeed the case, but, I hope my music gets people thinking differently, with more meaning, whether consciously or subconsciously.”
Beam is also an avid proponent of home recording. He’s amassed his own studio, which was the setting for “Live Beam,” which was recorded live, in one-take bursts, with a band assembled just for the album, giving all the songs a fresh new sound. Beam is more interested in getting a really cool, really unique sound than in getting it to sound perfect.
“I tend to stray towards the home recording sound because I think it sounds more interesting. Perfection has a limit, whereas being weird is seemingly limitless. I like trying to make new sounds instead of getting things to sound as clear and clean as possible,” said Beam. “It’s all about blending the aesthetic of home recording with the listenability of a professional studio recording.”
In addition to his Aug. 23 record release in Portland, Beam is set to perform on Friday, July 26 at the Lompoc Cafe in Bar Harbor, and on Thursday, Aug. 8 for the Alive at Five concert series in Monument Square in Portland, with Sara Hallie Richardson and Arc of Sky. For more information, like him on Facebook.