On a Sunday night, in the basement of the University Records house, surrounded by an assortment of instruments, amps and colorful tapestries, fledgling band Beezin practices their new original songs. The group is preparing for several upcoming gigs this March.
Indeed, the band has a jam-packed schedule with a gig at Crozet on March 17, as well as a show at a WXTJ event and a planned performance in the philanthropic Battle of the Bands March 19. As they set up instruments and talk, their laughs reverberate around the dark room, creating a warm atmosphere on a particularly cold winter night.
The band was initially brought together by guitarist and occasional singer Reza Mirzaiee, fourth-year College student. Mirzaiee was neighbors with independent artist Kimball Roberts, the band’s pianist, when they discovered they were both “band hungry,” as Mirzaiee described it.
Eventually, Mirzaiee decided to contact guitarist and fourth-year College student Caleb Barnes, whom he knew from a previous band venture. Together, they found bassist and lead singer Julia Ball, third-year College student, through a University Records group chat.
Charlottesville native Alex Szeptycki, the band’s drummer, was the last to join Beezin — they met him on the first weekend of “Groovin’ on Grady, '' a two part house show put on by Indieheads — a music-focused club on Grounds — in early September of last year. Despite their vastly different interests, this eclectic quintet came together early last semester to form Beezin, aiming to perform “niche pop, funk and rock stuff.”
Beezin performed its first gig at the University Records house on Grady on a warm summer evening at the beginning of fall semester. At the time, they were going by a different name, evidently so embarrassing that the band requested to strike it from the record. As the band began to set up their instruments in the front of the house, they noticed a bees’ nest in one of the cracks underneath the makeshift stage.
Unbothered, they continued to set up. Barnes, who was setting some of the amps, suddenly became surrounded by bees that had flowed out from under the crack in the stage. He was stung twice on the hand. As Barnes described it, he felt “like Nicholas Cage in that one movie” — referring to a scene in “The Wicker Man” wherein someone pours a container full of bees on actor Nicholas Cage’s head as he shouts with fear. Through this experience, the band finally found a suitable name — “Beezin” — even though it was temporarily at the expense of Barnes’ hand.
Not only did he inspire the band name, but Barnes also writes the bulk of the band’s original songs. Barnes often starts this process by reading a line or a concept in a book that gets him thinking.
“I will then start to play with that in my head, and then I get a melody from it,” Barnes said. “After that, I just grab my guitar and work out the chords.”
Roberts and Mirzaiee, who also write some of the band’s songs, depicted their songwriting process quite differently. The two of them have occasional jam sessions in which a particular melody sticks out, usually from Roberts’ piano playing. Then, one of them will start mumbling into the mic in order to create the illusion that it is already a finished song in order to invite inspiration for the rest of it. Ball also described how they occasionally write songs as a band.
“Often, somebody will play something in a jam session that we all like and then we just layer things over it,” Ball said.
Aside from original songs, the band also covers a wide variety of different music, from funky songs like Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” to classic soul like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” The members of the band have quite distinct music tastes, which they cite as the reason for their wide range of covers.
Roberts enjoys classic R&B artists like D’Angelo, Ball leans towards alternative indie music vibes, as seen in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Barnes appreciates country and folk musicians like Jason Isbell. The band, they say, cannot be pigeonholed into any particular genre of music. They are indefinable, and wish to remain that way.
The group’s favorite gig was a late summer show at the local bar Coupe’s — jokingly adding “R.I.P. Coupe’s,” as it has since closed for repairs after a kitchen fire.
Between shouts of laughter, they recounted their most memorable gig at a Reverend’s birthday party in Culpeper, V.a. They talked of being forced to join a prayer circle and being asked to perform a Spanish song that they had never practiced. But the redeeming quality, according to Ball — “we still had good eats for dinner.”
Charlottesville’s Beezin feels poised for their band’s next chapter, which guitarist Mirzaiee believes is getting their sound on Spotify, and pianist Roberts argues is “world domination.” Whichever ends up being the band’s ultimate end, they look forward to their next slew of gigs, and hope that other members of the University community do too.