It’s a biting cold afternoon in Brooklyn when I meet Betsy in a cafe that reeks of Williamsburg charm. We both order cappuccinos, discuss weekend plans and talk about Betsy – the singer and songwriter known as BETS – and her move from sunny Los Angeles to the streets of New York. The glowing indie songstress has been hustling non-stop ever since she arrived in the city.
BETS takes dreamy pop music to the next level with an electronically infused edge. She retains the intimacy of a bedroom pop, lo-fi artist but pulls off a polished sound that is more readily suited for the “Broad City” soundtrack rather than your best friend’s garage. Her latest album, Days Hours Nights, has a sound that can simply be described as mesmerizing. Tracks like “Daydream” have Mazzy Star-esque composition, which compliments the minimal structure she often uses, especially on songs like “Ruins.”
After diving into her music and chatting with her about her career, it’s clear that BETS has big things coming.
How does the indie music scene compare from NYC to LA?
I love both scenes, what I love about these two cities is that they are both filled with creative people who are trying to make it happen and there is nothing more exciting than that. In LA there’s so much space and room to dream and get creative and there are so many people dreaming big, whereas in New York the struggle is real. The people who are actually doing music here are hustling constantly because that’s the only way to do it. In LA it’s more common to do pay-to-play, which I think is terrible and I haven’t really come across that here. Pay-to-play is such a sad reality that makes me sad about the world.
What do you wish were different about the current music scene NYC?
I think in general our overall society is not valuing art. People I know who are artists in Sweden are really supporting them as artists. I just want to see society turn toward supporting art again and realize how valuable it is, especially with all the problems we have today. If we had kids making music or art it gives them something better to do than some of the bad shit. People are such haters who are out there full of anger and hate, and I think about those people. Sure this country is a mess, but what if you had something else to do with your time? What if instead of hating on people who are different than you, you were a painter or played guitar?
What is your songwriting process like?
My process is consistently inconsistent. I don’t have like a little songwriting nook I go to. it can be anything from getting obsessed with a song and listening to it on repeat for weeks, ten hours a day, and then be inspired by that. Or it could be like the other night I woke up at 4 a.m. with a chorus in my head.
What is your personal favorite song out of your body of work?
That changes on a daily basis! I think today it’s “Free Tonight” from my most recent album. I wrote this song about the criminal justice system in this country. I was inspired by a tragic story about the death penalty and we just finished a music video for this song so I’m obsessing about it right now. I also like that other people can hear the song and just think it’s about dancing. That’s what I like about art, it doesn’t have to mean one thing to everybody. One of the first songs I wrote off my first EP “Rooftop Lover” is really fun, I think I’ll always perform that live I don’t know why.
What is your advice for girls in bands?
If you really want to do this, keep doing it and never stop. Keep doing it and never stop. The people I know who have been successful are the ones who just never stopped. its an interesting way to think about things; everybody has critics and self doubts. Good and the bad happens to everybody no matter how successful but the people who make it long term never give up.
If you could live in one period of time which would you pick?
I would live now. I feel like I can connect to so many people right now that I never could have before. I just got an email from a guy in Vietnam telling him how the music has been meaningful to him. We get those messages all the time from all over the world which is so amazing because there is no way I could be in all of those places at once. That’s the plus side of the Internet: You can reach everyone.
What do you want your listener to take away from your work?
I would like to leave it very open. Like with my song “Free Tonight” I want people to take from that what they will. Overall I am just looking for connection through my music. Whatever way I connect with others is what I want to get out of it, or I guess put into it.
Alessandra Licul is a singer from NYC. Her hobbies include singing, photography, writing and fanatically obsessing over the local music scene. She is the proud owner of an adorable dog and is currently studying music business and music history. She likes coffee that has so much sugar it doesn’t taste like coffee and vodka with so much cranberry juice it doesn’t taste like vodka. She also never says no to a plate of tacos.