In the summer of 2008, a new Mary Washington musical act was born. After an inspiring late night show, Ryan Payne and Kyle Meagher, known professionally as The Beetkeepers, developed an enduring love for spinning. And not what your mom does with her friends on Saturday mornings, but what DJs do in dark clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, all across Europe, and now, in Fredericksburg, VA.
After seeing MSTRKRFT, an electric music duo at Bonnaroo Music Festival last June, Payne immediately borrowed a set of turntables from a friend and Meagher spent $300 on a used set. The pair began practicing nonstop for the rest of the summer. Between the two, Meagher estimated they practiced close to six hours a day. “ We went at it full force,” Meagher recalled. “If you want something to be good, you have to work hard at it.”
Over the fall semester, Meagher and Payne tried to play at house parties almost every weekend. At first, gathering a substantial fan base proved difficult. Payne explained that their style of music can be difficult for some people to embrace. “It’s not techno, it’s electro” Payne explained. “Electro with punk and rap influences,” says Payne. “But the whole point to get bodies moving.”
Meagher describes the parties they play at as different from any other type of college party. “Instead of doing the same thing every weekend and having the same conversations, we decided to have a new kind of party.” Payne continued, “And that’s why we’re different from a regular band. It’s just like we’re part of the party.”
Because electro is considered by some a fringe music genre, especially at Mary Washington and in Fredericksburg, Meagher and Payne have had to concentrate on making their music accessible to the casual dancer that attends their shows or parties. Payne explained that in order to keep people comfortable, you have to mix in parts of songs that most people recognize, such as popular rap or hip-hop songs.
This spring, Payne and Meagher have made some large strides. They’ve started going by the name The Beetkeepers and have began playing a few fundraiser shows in Great Hall. Their first Great Hall show, Ruck and Roll, was a men’s rugby fundraiser in January and was a big success. Their followup show, The Romance Rave, was a Valentine’ Day themed fundraiser for Invisible Children. The Beetkeepers were able to raise close to $1000 for the non-profit organization.
“The thing I like about [playing in Great Hall] is the fact that they’re a really safe alternative to off-campus parties,” explained Meagher. While most of the house parties The Beetkeepers play at end up being ended by the Fredericksburg Fuzz because of noise complaints, playing at Great Hall provides a safe, controlled environment .
Meagher and Payne have plans of breaking into the downtown bar scene over the coming months and the fall semester including at the Bourbon Room and the soon to be opened University Cafe. Payne also cited the newly renovated Underground in Lee Hall as a perfect, intimate setting for their shows in the future.
“[Our style] is something new and fun,” says Meagher. “You have to be open minded, and if you give it a chance, you’ll probably like it.”