Tanya Akinola has a quarantine conversation with the artist behind some of the hottest percussive club music in recent years.
As he dashed between DJ bookings in Italy, France and Spain, the spreading pandemic raised alarm within his tight-knit family, who asked him to return home before the situation worsened. "I ended up in Serbia visiting a friend and then my grandmother called me and said, 'Get home before you die!'" Beeler said. "She guilted me. Then my mum called. Everyone was like, you better fucking get home because shit's about to close. So I just bought a ticket, got on a plane with only hand luggage and left all my stuff there."
We had planned to meet in person in Melbourne. But social-distancing regulations forced us inside, to the increasingly familiar glow of our laptops and smartphones. When we connected on Facetime he appeared relaxed, sinking into a grey sofa. It was late morning and there was a small wash of light seeping into his room, enough to make visible a keyboard leaning against a wall in the background. I asked him how it felt to be back home, with his plans for the foreseeable future on hold. "Well the fact that I'm doing this interview now is kind of hilarious in a way," he said. "Like a breaking through interview but in this time of shutting down: breaking through—but shutting down!"
Beeler is coming off the back of a packed year playing at venues like De School, Corsica Studios and Panorama Bar. "Ultimately I had only just sort of broken into this space of being able to feed myself from touring and playing shows," he said. "It's all relatively new to me so I can't really be too upset. It was all kind of a blessing in the first place and a fluke."
Music has been more of a fun side-project for Beeler over the past decade rather than something he has pursued, a way to hang out with mates. He was raised by a Swiss father and Lebanese mother in the suburban Western-facing parts of Sydney—he's hesitant to outright call it Western Sydney, because its weighted geographical meaning has become a "token in some regards." Growing up, he played guitar and was constantly listening to music.
Before DJ Plead and Poison (his side project with T.Morimoto), Beeler started making music in 2011 with Marcus Whale and Lavurn Lee under Black Vanilla, later BV. They crafted off-kilter R&B-inflected tracks, their sound harmonizing well within the experimental electronic music scenes in Melbourne and Sydney in the early to mid-'10s. Alongside acts like Habits and friendships, it was a period when genres would fuse seamlessly, bands and DJs occupied mutual spaces and daring experimentation was valued: the freakier, the better. Beeler remembers this as a formative time that shaped his "mishmash" approach to music.
It was BV's densely percussive 2016 track "Hunted" that set his solo project in motion. He was inspired to mix the Lebanese pop and wedding music from his childhood with the UK bass and house sounds Lee had been playing around him. As Beeler explored the intersection of his heritage and club music, the results resonated with fans. He felt self-conscious competing with other producers as his knowledge of dance music at that time was limited, so he created a space that he felt only he could command.
"This is gonna sound really cocky—but there aren't that many people banging out the rhythms that I know," he said. "It's deeply personal and I feel like that's why I'm confident in my productions now, because..." he paused. It's honest? I offer. "Yeah. I don't need to compete. I don't need to make house music and try to figure out where I stand in making house music, whatever that is. I just make stuff that has this motif and it makes sense to me and I feel secure."