The Beauty Shop are a three piece band from Champaign, Illinois. They play gritty country flavoured punk/rock and roll, all acoustic. Since I heard their album, ‘Crisis Helpline’ I have found it hard to stop playing it. The songs are well written and memorable. They have their heels in the mud of classic country but also have the directness and honesty of punk. Basically, they rock. It isn’t very complicated.

The Beauty Shop have two albums, and ‘Crisis Helpline’ is the latter of the two. Both have been released on Shoeshine Records. I prefer the songs on ‘Crisis Helpline’ because there is slightly more variety, although the ballads on their debut, ‘Yr. Money or Yr. Life’ are beautiful. This is a band that resonate strong in these times when the music scene is so obsessed by the ‘cool’ factor. The Beauty Shop have the ‘quality’ factor.

I strolled round the streets of Exeter, talking to singer/songwriter/guitarist John Hoeffleur about the band’s history, before they played a great show at the Cavern Club. The live show showed off all their talents; the quality of the songs, the richness of John’s deep voice and the power of the drums, but most off all the difference between them and much of the ‘indie’ scene. They have the potential to make some really great music.

Q. How did the band get together and start playing?

A . Well, I started working on some songs with this guy named Casey Smith in 1999 or 2000. He played drums and I played guitar and sand. We worked them out together, and were going to just play as a two piece, but we put out ads around campus for a bass player and Ariane (Peralta) answered, and she has been with us since then. Casey left the band, and we’ve had a few drummers since. It’s been hard holding on to them, but Brett has been playing with us for a few months now, and he’s very committed. He’s in another band as well though.

Q. How did you get in contact with Shoeshine Records and sign the deal?

A. Well, they’re a Scottish label, so we have a different label in the States, Parasol, and they sent a copy of our first CD, ‘Yr. Money Or Yr. Life’ to Francis MacDonald at Shoeshine, thinking that it would be something that he would want to pick up here. He listened to it, and decided it was something he wanted to put out, and it seems that he’s more willing to put resources behind it than our American label, so that’s why we’re here.

Q. So is this your first UK tour?

A. This is my fourth, personally. We toured after ‘Yr. Money Or Yr. Life’, all around the UK, and then I did a solo thing all around the UK. I can do it on my own, I don’t like to, but the songs stand up pretty well. Then I went back home, and we recorded the new album and we came back in August, just to do a show in London, to try and impress the Yahoos there, you know whoever the big shots are! But I guess this is the band’s second real UK tour.

Q. So long have you been here?

A. Since about ten yesterday morning! We played a show last night, and then we drove here this morning, and so far so good!

Q. How long are you staying?

A. We have ten shows in ten days.

Q. Talking about the new record, do you think that’s it is better than the first, and was there any conscious attempt to make it better or different?

A. Well, I don’t really have a set style that I work in. When I do an album, I just throw out the best songs that I have and that’s the record. I would say the new record is probably rockier, is probably not as overwhelmingly sad as the first record was, but all the same it’s not hugely different

Q. How long did it take you to record?

A. We recorded it with a guy from Champaign called Adam Schmitt. He’s an excellent guy. We recorded it real quick, but it took a long time to mix and master. I wasn’t living in Champaign so I was commuting in and there were times that it felt that we were Def Leppard or something, it was taking so long, but we got it done. Then, of course, the label has got to do its pre-plan. It can’t just stick it straight on the streets.

Q. There are a couple of tracks you picked off as singles. Was this you choosing them, or was that the label?

A. I think the label and I pretty much agreed about what tracks would work best, but I deferred to Francis' opinion, because I don’t know this market. I like loads of shit that other people just hate, so I don’t know. So we had to agree, but I followed his lead!

Q. Do you think that this is the best you can do, or is there anything that you want to improve, or think you can improve on later records?

A. Anyone who’s been around us knows that we always think there are things we can improve. There’s always room for improvement. The thing is, some bands when they record will spend the whole night getting a couple of lines down, and I feel like it is what is, and we do it a couple of times and pick the best one. I don’t mind the whole warts and all thing, you know?

Q. It comes across on the record. It sounds, not quite like a live recording, but it sounds like a performance. Not like some record that sound stale…

A. Well, Adam had a lot to do with the way the record sounds. He doesn’t like it to sound sterile. He’s kind of a perfectionist. We’d be like, “it’s fine, it’s fine”. And he’d be like, “no, do you want it this way or this way?” and I couldn’t tell a goddamn difference. I’m not really live on the record, I did overdubs. But the bass and drum tracks were laid down live, and it gives it a live feel. I appreciate you saying that. It’s a good thing.

Q. When you play live now, is there anything you do differently to how you did it on the record?

A. Yeah, there’s a couple of things. We’ve changed a couple of parts up because we had a different drummer for the recordings and now we have more strength than the other guy did, and also there’s a few little things we’ve changed. Nothings ever written in stone, so we’re free to change little things. But, the albums’ still pretty new, and most things have stayed the same.

Q. Do you have any plans to do a big American tour?

A. Nope! The idea was to put the record out over here, and build up an audience, and then see if we could use that to give us a springboard in the States. We have friends back home that want the record and we have to explain that this is the way we’re going to do it. They’ll have to wait. We do have a few rabid, mad fans from Champaign that have imported the record, and it cost them a lot of money.

Q. That’s pretty cool!

A. Yeah, its great. I wish they didn’t have to, but that’s the way we are going to do it.

Q. Are you someone who would say that you enjoy touring, or is it something that you would say that you endure?

A. No, I love the opportunity to travel. Travel is a luxury. I was saying to the other band back in the club, you can’t buy your way into this. It’s fun. Not ‘ha-ha’ fun, because if you have a couple of beers, someone has to drive the car back to the hotel at the end of the night, so it’s not party time. But it’s definitely not work!

Q. Are you a full time touring band or do you have other jobs as well?

A. Not really. As I say, Brett has another band as well, so that takes up some of his time. We could fight tooth and nail for shows here, but at the moment we don’t really have anything to sell, and we don’t have anybody there that can help us get to gigs. I’d have to do all the promo and the organising myself and that is something I hate. I love the music, but one thing I’m not interested in doing is busting my nuts to get a $50 dollar gig at some club. I play guitar and I stick with that, and if it works out that’s great. We play Champaign and we get to Chicago when we can. Here is a lot easier, here six hours is a long drive, and we’re like, “that’s not, that’s standard issue drive time!” The US is just so big.

Q. Did Shoeshine book all the shows this time?

A. We actually managed to convince an agent to do it. It’s kind of a rung up from where we were last time. We can’t do it! If you gave me a number, I couldn’t even call the UK. I’d have to try it a couple of times.

Q. What kinds of bands would you say are your favourite. Are your influences?

A. I love all kinds of stuff. I really love old country music, from the 50s and 70s. I love old school punk from the 70s and 80s.I love Motown. I love rap. I love metal! I don’t really want to name any specific bands. I don’t try and sound like anyone. I don’t know if anyone really cares what I listen to.

Q. I guess I’d call the band alt.country, but I guess I could also play it to a Nirvana fan that hated alt.country and expect them to enjoy it.

A. Well, alt.country can be twangier than mainstream country. Some of the country on the radio now in America sounds just like pop music. I can’t f**king stand it. It’s commercial bullshit! But I don’t worry about whether it’s alt.country. The music press can worry about that too much, and pick it apart till there’s nothing left. I just say, it’s kind of country and kind of rock and leave it at that.

Q. At the moment, its an acoustic band mainly, with a hint of electric guitars occasionally but not much. Would you change and go electric, and throw keyboards and stuff on if you wanted?

A. Yeah, certainly, if I wanted to do it I wouldn’t hesitate. I bought an electric a couple of years ago, and I use it for demos because its easier to get the sound. But I’ve thought about another project that is more electric, more different to this.

Q. If you wanted to change the style, you’d do that in a new group?

A. I probably would, because I think it would throw a lot of people. We don’t have a huge audience, so there’s not that many people to confuse, but I guess if you’re to make a big turn, its best to put it out in a different name.

Q. Finally, what are your immediate plans for the end of this year and the next?

A. Ha ha. Christmas. Christmas with the folks. Oh, God… We don’t have any. We’ll do this tour, see what happens, see what comes from it and then plan next year when we’ve been to London and we know a little bit more!











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