For Beta Radio—as for so many of us—spring 2020 didn’t really feel like spring. Naturally, the North Carolina indie folk duo wrote a song about it.
“‘It Doesn’t Really Feel Like Spring’ was written and recorded in March and April of 2020,” says Beta Radio’s Ben Mabry of the track, which premieres below. “At that time, there was such a strong vibe in the air. It was this sudden unsettledness. Everything was closed, everybody was at home, and Brent [Holloman] and I were beginning our shelter in place.”
“When [COVID-19] hit, it felt like I had just been jarred awake from a deep, numbed sleep of perceived safety,” says Mabry, invoking one of the song’s most visceral lines. “It felt like I couldn’t get my footing anywhere. But, simultaneously, I also felt this strange and quiet peace. The world as I knew it effectively stopped and all the noise of my life immediately halted.”
The resulting track is tranquil and layered, opening with a meditative synth part around which Mabry and Holloman built the rest of the arrangement.
“We approached the writing process in a different way than we ever had before,” Mabry tells American Songwriter. “On the first day of recording, this song had no lyrics, no structure, no end in mind. All we had was an improvised 30-minute-long synth part on an old Roland Juno 60. That’s what you hear in the beginning and throughout the whole song. There was also no particular time signature, and we liked that, because we felt like it was a reflection of the disjointedness and unpredictability of the age that we’re currently in.”
Mabry and Holloman set out to pair that sense of disjointedness with lilting vocals, strings, and percussion in addition to the core synth part: “It was important to us to juxtapose that with other, more familiar sounds and instruments, so as to speak to the other part of the experience we were having—the ‘quiet peace.’ Or rather, the brief halting of the ancillary parts of our lives,” says Mabry. “All the rushing around to get things done was over. And there was some strange beauty to that, and we wanted to capture that.”
“We worked hard to find beautiful ways to stitch that disjointedness together—all the instruments of the song working together to hide the chaos of the underlying structure of the song,” Mabry continues. “If you go back and try to count the measures and changes of the song, it won’t really make sense. But, if you sit back and listen, and let the music wash over you, hopefully it won’t even matter.”
“It Doesn’t Really Feel Like Spring” follows the band’s latest single, “Destined to Pretend.” Both tracks will appear on the duo’s forthcoming EP, Way of Love, which comes after their acoustic All Remains EP.
“It feels forced to try to fit in some words about all that’s happening right now into a ‘blurb’ about a song, but we want to say that we are heartbroken by the racial inequality that is and has been so apparent in our country for far too long,” adds Mabry, reflecting on the protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers in May. “We stand with the Black community and all people of color, and will be a part of the movement towards true equality for all.”