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Ink KC features story about Electric Needle Room, the nerdy side of Matt is revealed

Posted by Electric Needle Room on May 11, 2011 at 5:40 PM



American history has a musical champion

{ special to ink } brianne pfannenstiel

Most musicians sing about relationships, raging parties, love, life. But not Matt Beat.


Matt Beat sings about dead presidents.


Actual dead presidents. Like George Washington and Millard Fillmore.


His one-man band, Electric Needle Room (bonus points if you can name the “Simpsons” reference), recently released its album “The Presidents of the United States of America, Volume 1,” which recounts the lives of the first 15 U.S. presidents in order of their service.


With a poppy, synth sound matched to quirky lyrics, the songs are catchy — and educational.


The album starts with a rousing song called “George Washington”: “He never liked politics, never liked to play that game, but the new country needed a president, so they just forced him in.”


“It’s pretty dorky,” Beat said. “But it’s fun.”


The album mirrors Beat’s passion for history. When he’s not moonlighting as a musician, Beat teaches history at Blue Valley High School. He said he likes to keep his life as a rocker separate from his role as a teacher, but the two tend to intersect.


Like most teachers, Beat hoped his students wouldn’t Google his name. But like most students, they did and asked about his music in class. “You can’t hide,” he said. “They found my Twitter, too.”


During last period on a recent Friday, Beat tried to teach his world history class about the timeline of events in World War II through a Jeopardy-style trivia game. He read from Winston Churchill’s famous speech before the commons, hoping to rally his own troops. Of course, most of his students don’t find history as exciting as he does, especially on a Friday afternoon. One girl threw a pen at another’s head while a boy in the back closed his eyes in apparent weariness.


Unimpeded, Beat pushed through the lesson. At 29, he’s been teaching only about a year and half. The presidents project started long before, he said, when indie pop musician Sufjan Stevens announced his intent to write albums dedicated to each of the 50 U.S. states. “I saw that and I thought, ‘This is so cool. I want to do something like this,’ ” Beat said.


An obvious fit: Beat’s longstanding fascination with the presidents. He memorized them in order while in grade school.


“I was just fascinated that one person that was just kind of thrust into that position wasn’t necessarily that significant before,” he said.


Beat’s musical forays aren’t limited to analyzing commanders-in-chief. He has been writing music about all kinds of topics — the perils of high school, the necessity of dental hygiene — since middle school. A few years ago he teamed up with Paul Santos, creator of the Felt Show in Lawrence, to help write for Santos’ popular adult puppet show.


“His lyrics really just kind of stuck out and he seemed like somebody who has a good sense of humor,” Santos said.


Beat’s songs start as melodies recorded on his phone. He adds lyrics and instrumentation later with his laptop. Beat doesn’t perform much, but when he does, Santos said he’s good at engaging the audience.


“He’s a very lively performer,” Santos said. “I could see him performing in a room with five people and have the same energy as if he were playing in front of 500. He’s doing it because he believes in it.”


Quiz: Better know a president


Match the song lyrics to the president. (Answers in the box at right)


1. He died his second year in office / Of not poison but stomach flu. / He was too non-political. / Hey, isn’t that a good thing?

2. A military hero of the War of 1812 / Defied the odds in the Battle of New Orleans. / Invaded Spanish Florida, captured Pensacola / Was the first “common man” to win the presidency.

3. Who helped write the Declaration of Independence? Who negotiated a peace treaty with Britain? Who spent eight years behind Washington to learn the ropes? Who would someday get his own HBO TV show?

4. He was Virginia’s governor. / Built a mansion called Monticello. / He was a Renaissance man. / There wasn’t much he could not do.

5. Another dough face. Only President to never marry. / Elected five times to the House of Representatives. / Minister to Russia, a decade in the Senate. / and Secretary of State / in politics too long.

6. From Tennessee and a lawyer, he smelled just like Jackson. / Speaker of the House and governor, he hated taxes. / A dark horse candidate, his campaign stood for expansion. / He wanted Texas, Oregon, California — yeah all of it!

7. The Fox of Kinderhook / Played things by the book. / Opportunities, he took / And yes, he had the look.


 1. Zachary Taylor. 2. Andrew Jackson. 3. John Adams. 4. Thomas Jefferson. 5. James Buchanan. 6. James Polk. 7. Martin Van Buren.



Read more: http://inkkc.com/content/talkers-american-history-has-a-musical-champion/#ixzz1M5B976wR

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