While Beth Bombara so far has largely focused on Beth Orton/Bon Iver-esque, downtempo, melodious folk-pop, her recent project, Beth Bombara and the Robotic Foundation, pulls her into the orbit of the Breeders and, at times, Bettie Serveert. Her clear and warm alto makes her confessions believable, while the rhythmic instincts of her band are always sharp. Bombara's recent songs come tailor-made for a long, late-night drive through a dense forest, where shadows emerge, shiver and linger in the memory. Here, she steps out of the coffee house, into rock and roll’s clangorous realm. Her backing band, the Robotic Foundation, is comprised of Theodore (multi-instrumentalist), JJ Hamon on bass, and his brother Kit on drums. The trio emits a well-tempered slurry of electric energy, trigger-happy percussion and echoing atmospherics.
Beth currently lives in St. Louis, MO. In addition to playing with the Robotic Foundation, Beth makes up one half of the band Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, and also performs solo.
How do you describe your music to people, Beth?
What I do musically is so varied, depending if I'm playing by myself or with a full band. By myself, it's more folk/pop/blues. I've been told my voice sounds like Beth Orton, Norah Jones, and Natalie Merchant (among others). When I play with a band, it's been compared to the Breeders, Modest Mouse, Denali, and Bettie Serveert; definitely more indie rock oriented.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
Maybe technically it was because of my mom. She encouraged me to take piano lessons in grade school. I took them for about 6 years, but when I turned 13, mom's acoustic guitar sitting in the corner seemed more exciting. So I started plunking away on that. She showed me a few chords, gave me a book, and I began to teach myself. When I was 14, I wrote my first song. I also was big into playing soccer, but an ACL injury put me on crutches for 2 high school summers in a row. That's when I really got into playing the guitar more. If I hadn't messed my knees up, I'm not certain I'd be so involved with music now.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Playing music with the love of my life, Kit Hamon. (We were married on Oct. 24th)
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Separating the business from the art, and keeping a balance. If I could, I would just play music all day. But that's not realistic when you're a DIY independent musician. It's a lot of work to maintain artistic integrity and ingenuity while making sure the organizational things get taken care of. I'm not a very organized person, but I'm learning. It's also really hard to shift into business mode to promote or "sell" myself to get people interested in my work.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I always had crazy ideas about going to outerspace, or sailing on a ship. I liked pirates a lot.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I moved to St. Louis 2 years ago, and that has certainly guided my style. Most notably the blues influence, which I have started to pick up in the past 6 months. I never thought I would get into folk/alt/blues, since the first band I joined was a punk band. (That was in high school though.) St. Louis really does have a rich musical heritage. Fortunately for me, that has started to rub off. And there are a lot of great local musicians I've been able to play with, and see perform on a regular basis. In the past few years it seems like the art/music scene is growing, and I love it.
What other artists out there do you love?
Two of my favorite bands are Nada Surf and Radiohead.
What does your future hold?
I'd like to think my future holds a lot more music. I just moved into a cool old house, and we are hoping to build a decent home studio. I'd like to keep recording. I don't think I will ever be really famous, but that's not what I want either. I just like writing songs and recording them. And playing shows and seeing the audiences faces light up. I just hope I can keep on doing what I love.