It’s like this: New Beat Fund is more than just a band.
Yeah, the four sun-bleached, good time boys from LA with the colorful hair and the funky clothes play music, travel the country, have a new album called Sponge Fingerz, and are best friends and brothers as well (half of them by blood), but this thing they ride with is way deeper than any of that. It’s who they are, what they think, how they dress; it’s where they come from, and how they live their lives. And, even if you didn’t already know it, New Beat Fund is who you are, and how you live your life, too. But we’ll get to that part.
New Beat Fund birthed when a piggy bank with the words "New Beat Fund" encrypted on it was catapulted into the facade of a corporate building. No joke. Jeff Laliberte, his brother Paul, Shelby and Michael have been at it for a couple years now, releasing an EP Coinz, and touring with the likes of blink-182 and 3OH!3, but they go way deeper than that. They trust each other on a supreme level, and even though their business is that of getting you hyped up, helping you chill, setting the mood to lay back with your girl or guy, or just letting you be you, they take that business seriously. “That’s the whole point and the reason that we’re in this,” says Paul, “to grow with a culture. And to also influence that culture rather than just hit at a surface level.”
“When people meet us, they say, ‘You guys are weird, but it’s fun!’” says Michael. “We want people to be cool with being weird, and thinking about things differently. The name of our record is Sponge Fingerz. What the fuck is that? It’s what we are as a band, there’s no definition—we’re able to be free. We wrote the record in Topanga Canyon—the freest place ever—we live in Southern California...that’s the whole vibe of our band. Just being weird and free.”
That freedom is the first thing you notice when listening to Sponge Fingerz, which was co-produced by Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Maroon 5) at LA’s legendary Sound City Studios and mixed by Tony Hoffer (Foster the People, Beck.) The band finds inspiration across the musical spectrum, shoving it all in a blender to cook up a colorful mash-up they call “G-Punk.” The vibe jumps from track to track—sometimes within the same song, or even the same verse—covering all the band’s favorite bases, like if you drew a huge baseball diamond over SoCal and swung for the fences. First base might be the surf-rock and dub-heavy vibes of the coastline, while rounding second brings up the hip-hop beats of South Central. Sprint over to third and pick up on the arty, indie hip and punk stuff from the city’s downtown heart. Finally, slide headfirst into the garage pop and heartfelt jams of Ventura County and the Valley, the band’s true home. “It’s not just punk rock, or indie, or weird ass psychedelic art. We were all exposed to different things growing up, so we didn’t choose to only go in one direction,” says Shelby.
“We don’t claim any certain scene,” adds Michael, “and that’s kind of what we represent as a band, especially for kids who are figuring out who they are and where they fit in this weird ass world. We can hang with all of it and show people that’s OK to do. Let’s play how we play as individual musicians, and let’s write about our lives and go in that direction and not think about it too much. And this is what came out.”
The album blasts off with “Any Day,” a funky breakup anthem about finding your footing. The song itself was an early demo that was cast aside, but finally found its own groove at the last minute during pre-production when the band bought some dancehall albums for 50 cents at a nearby head shop. “The dancehall groove just laid the song out in front of us,” says Jeff. “It’s about when you’re right at that post-breakup thick of it, that moment where you look back and you finally see what it is. That switch when you’re done, you’re not lingering.”
In contrast, “It’s Cool” came together quickly. The song’s creation serves as a blueprint for how the band works best. “At the time, we were in a bedroom so we didn’t have the opportunity to jam it out, and we were fucking around with sampling and just had this mood and started writing to it,” says Jeff. “We all usually come together and build tracks like that. We start pretty simple, lyrics or melodies or beat, and we all color in the picture. If you had a sketch or a pencil drawing, we all come in with colors or additives and finish the painting, and then there’s the song.”
“Sikka Taking the Hard Way” shines, too, with its with its funky dub breakdown and noodling electric guitars, and its celebration of overcoming whatever obstacles life can throw at you: “I tell myself that it’s alright/it’s OK/there’s no way/I’m stumbling back now/I’ll figure it out.”
Then there’s “Halloween Birthdaze,” with its Red Hot Chili Peppers-worthy chorus, and the catchy, stoner shrugs of “Friends in High Places,” which showcases the band’s love of hip-hop. “It paints a picture of someone who is less fortunate but has the support system that they can find happiness in,” says Paul, before his brother finishes his thought: “When you got nothing but you have everything.”
Jeff sums it up like this: “We want everyone to be into our music. The word ‘pretentious’ is the worst fucking word I have ever heard. We want people to feel at home when they come to our shows, like they can do whatever they want at a New Beat Fund show. We want to be an unpretentious band that makes people feel honest emotions. Come to our show and join an experience and let you just be you. Have a good time and relate to our music.”
Yeah, it’s like that.