It's been over 12 months since Michael Beach was forced to leave Australia and return to the United States. In the months prior to his departure, Beach had exerted considerable time and effort endeavouring to find a lawful way of staying in Australia, having moved here originally to study around five years ago.
After beginning his tenure back in the States with a 40 day tour with Electric Jellyfish, the band Beach formed after moving to Australia, Beach has since settled back in California, dividing his time between teaching music and playing solo shows in San Francisco and elsewhere on the west coast of California. "It hasn't been too bad, but it hasn't be easy, either," Beach says. "The whole thing is going out and trying to get a show, without looking like you're trying to get a show - being ambitious without trying to be ambitious."
A few months ago Beach headed north up Highway One to Portland, Oregon, to record half a dozen of his solo songs, two of which were subsequently released on a 7" single. "I didn't really know where to record," he says. "I really liked the early Elliot Smith records, just for the recording sound he got - they're recorded in a bedroom, but they sound really professional. I got hold of this guy Sam Coombs, who had played with Elliot Smith, and he recommended this friend of his who had this whole old home studio that looks like a 50s bomb shelter," Beach says. "We recorded over four days. We didn't get enough for a whole album, but I'll use it for the first half of an album later this year."
Since arriving back in Australia a couple of weeks ago, Beach has found time to play a solo show at the Old Bar, and a warm-up gig with Electric Jellyfish at a house party in Thornbury. With the three members of Electric Jellyfish in the same city for the first time since the early part of last year, it's an opportunity to revisit music the band hasn't played for a long time. "I didn't know if I'd remember the songs," Beach says. "But we'd played them 40 days in a row last year, so they came back pretty quickly. We've had three jams and I feel we're pretty well back where we were," he says.
Despite what bass player Adam Camilleri refers to as Electric Jellyfish's "ten month hiatus", the band hasn't been completely idle, exchanging MP3s over the Internet in an effort to develop more songs. "Me and Camo are still jamming over here," Warden says, "so we work up some bass lines and drum beats, and send them over to Mike, who puts a guitar part over the top and sends it back," he says. "I've got no musical training, so it's really hard to describe the music in an email," Warden laughs. "That was a lot of fun, but nowhere near as fun as sitting down and jamming," Beach adds.
Beach, Camilleri and Warden hope to record while Beach is in Australia, though logistics - and finances - remain a practical hurdle. "We don't have money, and not much time," Camilleri says. "If we do it, it'll be pretty DIY," muses Warden. "That's the way to do it," Beach adds. "You get more hype by doing it shoddily than doing it professionally," Beach laughs. "It needs to be one or the other - a massive event or a cassette!"
MICHAEL BEACH is playing at the Empress on Thursday March 31 with Houlette and Full Ugly. See michaelbeach.org for more information.