Beauty Pill’s Immersive Ideal

Beauty Pill is a band I really like from Washington, DC. They have released two EPs (The Cigarette Girl From the Future and You Are Right to be Afraid) and their last album, The Unsustainable Lifestyle, came out in 2004.

In the interim, the singer/guitarist/producer for Beauty Pill, Chad Clark, got very sick and nearly died. That can be enough to make anyone stop making music, but in Clark’s case, he continued to make music, but he just never felt the need to release a record or play live. His music was just for him and his friends, and that was okay.

But a strange confluence of opportunity, desire, and architecture knocked Beauty Pill out of their unforced exile. The curators at a new multimedia art center called Artisphere invited Chad Clark to come in and do something musical in the space. While they were showing him around, he saw the angled, 2nd floor window overlooking the Black Box Theater and it reminded him of the window in Abbey Road Studio 2, made famous by The Beatles. Months later, the Black Box Theater was transformed into a very public recording studio, capturing the sounds and energy of the band, onlookers, and guests over the course of a couple weeks.

They called the project Immersive Ideal.

The fully immersed Beauty Pill. Photo credit: Nestor Diaz

WORLD WIDE WEB PREMIERE! Beauty Pill was gracious enough to let us post one of the finished songs from the Immersive Ideal session. The first sound you hear in “Afrikaner Barista” is a metal dog bowl spinning on Chad’s kitchen floor. This is a recurring texture in the new music. The dog bowl appears in many different forms, often digitally treated to be unrecognizable. “I’m kind of proud of this,” says Chad.

Beauty Pill finished their experiment in hyper-public music-making last summer. Now, they’re putting their entire process—and final product—on display in the very same space where they made their new album. Through Sunday, Jan 22, the Artisphere’s Black Box Theatre is full of images, sounds, and other multimedia wonders in a user-controlled environment. It might very well be the most thoroughly documented presentation of a band’s creative process, ever.

Sam’s note:

  • As a former DC resident, I know that Washingtonians can be loath to hang out outside the city proper—especially if it’s to go somewhere in Northern Virginia. But think of it this way: Metro’ing down to Rosslyn takes less time than trying to find parking in Adams Morgan. And this is worth it.
The control room “window” brought in by Devin Ocampo. Photo credit: Nestor Diaz

Other Notes:

  • “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” You guys know this quote, right? There’s some debate in-house. (I contend the joy garnered by those who recognize offsets the mild confusion experienced by those who don’t.)
  • Beauty Pill member Devin Ocampo (also of the awesome Medications and Faraquet (R.I.P.)) provided one of the more talked about aspects of the Artisphere “studio” design. He constructed a wood-frame “window” in the lower theater space to separate the musicians from the engineer, referencing the control room glass window that would normally be there.
  • I almost named my first radio program “Smart Went Crazy,” which was the name of Chad Clark’s band before Beauty Pill.
Chad with guitar. Photo credit: Jon Pack

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