EXTRA: Who the Hell’s the Beta Band?

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 7, 2000 – They haven’t come close to cracking the Billboard Top 100, but the Beta Band are suddenly enjoying the perks of membership in a much cooler list: Top Five Bands. According to John Cusack, anyway. If you haven’t heard of the Beta Band, you’re not alone – either that, or you just haven’t seen “High Fidelity,” in which Cusack plays the owner of a super-hip, indie-minded Chicago record store. In a scene that’s as close to free advertising as you can get, Cusack turns to one of his employees and says, “I am now going to sell five copies of ‘The 3 Ep’s’ by The Beta Band.” As he plays the cut “Dry the Rain” on the store’s in-house stereo system, customers start bobbing their heads in approval, and then make their way to the counter to buy the CD.

The Beta Band So, a couple of questions: (1) Who the hell’s the Beta Band; and, (2) What did they do to earn such a coveted spot in the movie?

A couple of answers: (1) They are a critically lauded alt-rock band with members from Scotland and England; and (2) They are one of Cusack‘s fave groups at the moment.

“The 3 Ep’s” CD was their first U.S. release, a 1998 compilation of (what else?) three EP’s they had released overseas. Last year, they released “Beta Band,” their first full-length CD in the United States.

The folks at Astralwerks, the group’s record label on this side of the Atlantic, claim sales of “The 3 Ep’s” have risen on the Billboard album charts since “High Fidelity” opened last weekend, but they couldn’t provide facts and figures.

The Beta Band is one of those smarty-pants groups who make sonic art, not music. Their songs contain direct and indirect references to everything from the Beach Boys to Jimi Hendrix to Beck to KRS-One to Bonnie Tyler, and in interviews, the band members mention non-musical influences like Jack Nicholson, Jackson Pollock and Stanley Kubrick.

So, are these the kind of guys who’d really give a hoot about being mentioned in a movie about thirtysomething, post-slacker Generation X-ers?

“We haven’t heard anything about it from them,” an Astralwerks rep said. “I don’t think it will affect them, one way or another.”