|Origin||Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A|
Jared van Fleet
Beirut is an American band which was originally the solo musical project of Santa Fe native Zach Condon. Beirut's music combines elements of indie-rock and world music. The band's first performances were in New York, in May 2006, to support the release of their debut album, Gulag Orkestar. Despite their name, Beirut had never performed in Lebanon until the Byblos International Festival in August 2014.
Condon said of the band's name, "One of the reasons I named the band after that city was the fact that it's seen a lot of conflict. It's not a political position. I worried about that from the beginning. But it was such a catchy name. I mean, if things go down that are truly horrible, I'll change it. But not now. It's still a good analogy for my music. I haven't been to Beirut, but I imagine it as this chic urban city surrounded by the ancient Christian and Muslim worlds. The place where things collide".
Zach Condon was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 13, 1986. He grew up partly in Newport News, Virginia, and partly in Santa Fe. Condon played trumpet in a jazz band as a teenager and cites jazz as a major influence.
Condon attended Santa Fe High School, where he was a student until he dropped out at the age of 17. According to a 2011 interview with David Dye on NPR, growing up in Santa Fe meant that Condon was exposed to Mexican music such as mariachi. He also worked at a cinema showing international films and this piqued his interest in Fellini arias and Sicilian funeral brass as well as providing his first experience of Balkan music.
He later enrolled in community college, but only attended for a short period before traveling to Europe at the age of 17 with his older brother, Ryan. This discovery and Condon's subsequent exploration of world music proved to be instrumental in the development of Beirut's melodic sound. Zach's younger brother Ross Condon has also made a name in music, having played in the Brooklyn-based band Total Slacker.
On his return from Europe, Condon enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where he studied Portuguese and photography. Condon recorded the bulk of the material used for Gulag Orkestar by himself in his bedroom, going into the studio to finish the album with the assistance of Jeremy Barnes (Neutral Milk Hotel, A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw), who became early contributors to the band.
On the strength of the recordings, Condon was signed under the name of Beirut to Ba Da Bing! records, and Gulag Orkestar was given a May 2006 release. Condon recruited some friends to play the music live for the first shows in New York, and Beirut was born.
Beirut's first official music video was for the song "Elephant Gun". The second video, which was for the song "Postcards from Italy", was directed by Alma Har'el, and was released later. 2007 saw the first release of the full band with the Lon Gisland EP.
Beirut's second album, The Flying Club Cup, was recorded largely at a makeshift studio in Albuquerque and completed at Arcade Fire's studio in Quebec. The music on the album has a French influence due to Condon's interest in French chanson during its recording. Condon has cited Francophone singers Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg and Yves Montand as influences. He also expressed interest in French film and culture, claiming this was his original reason for travelling to Europe. The Flying Club Cup was officially released in October 2007. In September 2007 they did a Take-Away Show acoustic video session shot by Vincent Moon. A DVD, Cheap Magic Inside, was shot but quickly sold out; in December 2010, Beirut, BaDaBing, and La Blogothque authorized its dissemination via digital download.
On April 3, 2008, Beirut canceled a previously announced summer European tour. The band had already been touring and had completed the U.S. leg of the tour, but before the European leg, Condon stated that after two months of touring, he was suffering from exhaustion. Zach Condon explained the cancellations in a post on the official Beirut website, stating that he wanted to put the effort into ensuring that any shows would be "as good as humanly possible". In January 2009 the double EP March of the Zapotec/Holland EP was released, containing an official Beirut release based on Condon's recent trip to Oaxaca (March of the Zapotec), and electronic music under the "Realpeople" name (Holland). On February 6, 2009 Beirut made their debut television performance in the United States on the Late Show with David Letterman, performing "A Sunday Smile".
In early June 2011, amidst touring the US, Beirut announced that their newest album, The Rip Tide, which had been recorded the previous winter in upstate New York, was to be released on August 30. The band simultaneously released a single from the album, "East Harlem" (which was first recorded on Live at the Music Hall of Williamsburg), with the B-side "Goshen". The album was recorded, managed, and released under Condon's own Pompeii Records. Reviewers and fellow musicians have noted that, unlike the prior albums which drew heavily on foreign music from Mexico, France, the Balkans, etc., this one has shown Beirut with its own, more pop-oriented sound; saying, "what emerges [on The Rip Tide] is a style that belongs uniquely and distinctly to Beirut, one that has actually been there all along." One reviewer noted that "the Euro influences [of Beirut's previous albums] are still there, but the presiding spirit is old-fashioned American pop." This album also differs from Beirut's previous albums in that the music was recorded as a band playing together rather than laying down individual tracks one at a time, though the lyrics were only added by Condon after all the music had been recorded.
On June 1, 2015, Beirut announced their fourth album, No No No, which was released on September 11, 2015. On the same day, the title track "No No No" was released for streaming. The album was recorded following a period of turmoil in Condon's life, facing a divorce and having been admitted into a hospital in Australia for exhaustion following extensive touring. However, Condon recovered fully thanks to a new relationship and his return to New York. Beirut also announced a tour for the new album.
Condon plays a rotary valve flugelhorn and the ukulele as his main instruments. He bought the ukulele as a joke stage prop, but found he liked the sound and was able to play it despite a wrist injury that inhibited him from playing guitar. Condon also plays the trumpet, euphonium, mandolin, accordion, various keyboard instruments, and a modified conch shell that appears on The Flying Club Cup.
Live, Beirut's roster generally consists of:
Past members include:
The majority of the members of Beirut have performed live as well as appeared on recorded material.
Realpeople is Zach Condon's electronic side-project. It was under this name that Condon made his first (unreleased) album, The Joys of Losing Weight, and the name to which the Holland EP is credited. The Joys of Losing Weight, which was made when Condon was fifteen, has never been released officially, but has been leaked on the internet.
Condon has also released an EP, Small-Time American Bats, under the name 1971. This was recorded with his friend Alex Gaziano on guitar and vocals, when they were both around 16 years old (2002). Gaziano is a founding member of Kidcrash, another band originating from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Soft Landing was a project started by Beirut members Paul Collins (bass) and Perrin Cloutier (accordion) and Mike Lawless. Their eponymous debut album was released on October 12, 2010 on Ba Da Bing records, and has been described as "a pop version of Beirut" and freak-folk, with a heavy emphasis on dance beats and sheer energy.
Pompeii Records is the record label founded in 2011 by Zach Condon in order to give the band and himself full control over their music. The first recordings released on the label were the band's third album, The Rip Tide, and the preceding single, "East Harlem".
Condon plays mandolin, trumpet and ukulele on A Hawk and a Hacksaw's album A Hawk and a Hacksaw and the Hun Hangr Ensemble, and trumpet and ukulele on Alaska in Winter's album Dance Party in the Balkans. He appears on Get Him Eat Him's album Arms Down, on the song "22".
Condon also contributed to 4 songs on Mouse On Mars' 2018 album, Dimensional People.
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions||Sales|
|The Flying Club Cup||
|The Rip Tide||
|No No No||
|"--" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
Again in 2011, they contributed a cover of Caetano Veloso's song "O Leozinho" to the Red Hot Organization's most recent charitable album Red Hot Rio 2. The album is a follow-up to the 1996 Red Hot Rio. Proceeds from the sales will be donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues.