Beams is a psychedelic folk-rock band that formed in 2011 in Toronto, Canada. Their beguiling sound pairs the stunning harmonization of female voices with the shimmering textures of banjo and vibraphone, earning them comparisons to artists ranging from Wilco, Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush, to Big Thief, Waxahatchee, and Kevin Morby. The six-member group has toured across North America, and these restless, ambitious creatives are set to release their third full-length, Ego Death in early 2021.
Ego Death sees Beams moving in a bold new sonic direction – one that puts loud guitars centre-stage, but still makes room for the airy acoustic instrumentation that defined its sound until now. This evolution was the result of singer/songwriter Anna Mernieks-Duffield choosing to move from banjo to electric guitar and take a bigger role at centre stage — a move supported by the rest of the band. Anna and vocalist Heather Mazhar’s harmonies remain Beams’ calling card, while the psychedelic textures blend with irresistible melodies to transport listeners to a higher plane.
The lyrics also take you on a journey: Ego Death is a narrative song cycle inspired by the concept of the “hero’s journey” or monomyth. The archetypal heroic adventure, in which the protagonist goes on a journey from which they come back forever changed, resonated with Anna as she set off on her own quest. Ongoing mental health challenges had previously threatened her partnership with Beams drummer, Mike Mernieks-Duffield.
“I had a rough childhood. My trust issues made me break off our first engagement,” says Anna. “And then in the aftermath, I decided to start getting therapy. Ego Death is a collection of songs about working through different stages of my life.” Happily, the couple were married in the fall of 2019. In the end, Ego Death is about shedding past ideas of self and embracing the joy of transformation.
Tracked at Union Sound Company in Toronto by Alex Gamble (Fucked Up, Alvvays), Ego Death was recorded mostly live off the floor. Anna’s newfound centrality as frontwoman brings the band full circle, back to the start of its origin story. Beams began in 2011, when she sent out an open invitation to fellow musicians to help her perform her songs. They honed their sound through residencies at Toronto’s iconic roots-rock venues like the Dakota Tavern, as well as DIY shows in garages, basements, front porches, and living rooms.
The band connected with acclaimed producer Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies) for their debut album, 2013’s Just Rivers. The success of that record helped the band break out of Canada and into the US market, where they have become an audience favourite. That led to a connection with Chicago post-rock pioneer John McEntire (Tortoise, Broken Social Scene), who tracked their 2015 single, “The Gutters and the Glass.” For their second album, Teach Me to Love (2018), Beams decamped to Toronto studio Union Sound Company (METZ, Weaves). While that record was the product of crisis and trauma, Ego Death is the joyful sound of recovery.
Look for Ego Death everywhere on March 26th 2021.