Wembley Gets Ready To Dance To The BeaTR
An upbeat version of Viva la Vida emerges from behind the door of one of the studios in The Joint in King’s Cross. Inside, two guitarists jam together, while a singer punches the air and a photographer perches on the back of a battered couch searching for the perfect shot of musical history being made. But this isn’t a rehearsal for the next Coldplay tour. It is much better than that.
On 5 June Bisnow’s Build To Rent Annual Conference returns to Wembley for the second year running. And this year the event will feature a performance that will no doubt be talked about in the same breath as the famous concerts of the stadium next door. Live Aid. Queen. Beyoncé. Muse. And now BeaTR.
BeaTR is a unique band made up of property pros who are all involved in different ways in the build-to-rent sector. The name refers to the beats that they are producing, and the way they are beating the drum for a new sector that is growing fast in the UK. They will be playing a set to round off the all-day conference.
The band was born at a BTR dinner hosted annually by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner partner Andrew Yates. He has played lead guitar in bands for several years with developer Antringham Managing Director Tim Blairs, the band’s singer, and talk at the dinner turned to putting together a BTR band. Oxford Properties Associate Director Leia de Guzman mentioned she played keyboard, and the nucleus of the group was there.
It is rounded out by Yates’ BCLP colleague, consultant and bassist David Battiscombe (who has quite the rock 'n' roll past); Colliers Associate Director Gunnar Larsson, who plays guitar and provides vocals; and London Legacy Development Corporation Head of Development Tony Westbrook on drums.
Some of them have worked together on specific real estate projects, and all are involved in BTR in various forms, which has some surprising parallels with the world of rock 'n' roll: “Both are about knowing what your audience wants and giving it to them,” Battiscombe said.
The band invited Bisnow to watch them rehearse a few weeks ahead of their debut gig, and they are brilliant: Renditions of All Along The Watchtower and Dakota sound great after only a few sessions together.
The energy is fantastic. Blairs bounces around with the energy you want from a frontman; Larsson strikes cool guitar poses; de Guzman, Westbrook and Battiscombe set a perfect tempo and hold everything together; and Yates’ work shirt has that one crucial extra button undone that says rock god rather than corporate lawyer.
Here’s a musical biography of the member of a band like no other.
David Battiscombe, bass, BCLP
How did you get into music? I started playing violin aged 5 and quit at 14 when I realised girls preferred guitarists. I played bass in bands in my teens and turned pro after leaving university. I changed career in my late 20s and became a real estate lawyer. I’ve never stopped playing and am lucky enough to have played with some notable musicians — Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), Andy Mackay (Roxy Music), Andy Gill (Gang of Four), Max Middleton (Jeff Beck), PP Arnold (sang on Phil Spector’s original recording of 'River Deep Mountain High'); supported Thin Lizzy; hung out with Elliot Randall (he played the iconic guitar solo on Steely Dan’s 'Reelin in the Years').
Describe your music style. Funk rock.
What’s the most rock 'n' roll thing you’ve ever done? I was evicted at 2 a.m. at gunpoint from a German hotel, while on a European tour, when the irate owner discovered the band’s manager couldn’t pay the bill.
What’s your greatest musical moment (so far)? Playing in front of 10,000 people at a festival in the late '70s.
Favourite musician? Toss up between Prince and Marcus Miller with Andrew Yates a close third…
Favourite album? Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. Ultimate cool.
Favourite song? Prince’s Purple Rain or anything by early James Brown.
Tim Blairs, lead vocals, Antringham
How did you get into music? How can anyone not be into music?! I have a much older brother who had a mobile disco in the '70s/'80s so there was always lots of genres to listen to when he was out. I settled on rock and set about learning guitar. However, this was difficult as I lived in the middle of nowhere and the only lessons I could find were for Spanish guitar (which wasn’t cool at the time) and I soon realised that I didn’t have to learn to sing — I could even make the words up; as Andrew will testify, I still do. Early bands were Stallion and Smokin' Flange which didn’t really take off for whatever reason. Thankfully it was the days before video cameras.
Most rock 'n' roll thing you’ve done? No comment!
Greatest rock 'n' roll moment? I’ve fallen off stage drunk (again heavily censored), and being asked to perform in the South of France at MIPIM.
Favourite musician? He’s not really a musician but I grew up wanting to be David Coverdale (for obvious reasons).
Favourite album? I can’t mention one. Strangers in the Night (UFO) – I blew up my mum’s car to this. Live & Dangerous (Thin Lizzy), Tokyo Tapes (Scorpions), In the Heart of the City (Whitesnake). The theme running through all of these is they are all live albums.
Favourite song? I have a top 100!
Leia de Guzman, keyboards, Oxford Properties
How did you get into music? I was surrounded by music growing up. Most members of my family play an instrument or two — my dad plays piano, guitar, violin and harmonica.
Describe your music style. Everything from Beethoven to Kygo.
What’s the most rock 'n' roll thing you’ve ever done? Played clarinet in my grade 6 band — pretty cool.
What’s your greatest musical moment (so far)? Playing a song I composed on TV.
Favourite musician? The Lumineers.
Favourite album? X – the xx.
Favourite song? Changes every day!
Tony Westbrook, drums, London Legacy Development Corporation
How did you get into music? I started playing drums in a band at school, which started as a “prog rock” band in the early 1970s but by 1977 was a more of a punk band, playing covers of The Ramones, etc. During that period we managed to empty more venues than the Sex Pistols, but to rather less effect … so I went to university to become a surveyor.
Describe your music style. Everything from rock 'n' roll to bluegrass, with blues and pop thrown in. I grew up listening to the Beatles, the Stones and The Who, and obviously I followed in Ringo’s footsteps. I usually play with a pair of Zac Starkey’s drum sticks (Ringo’s drummer son) which I acquired when he played drums with the Who a few years ago at the O2. It was great concert — almost as good as when the Stones played at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park last year (notice the subtle plug for the Park and London Legacy Development Corporation there … probably the best regeneration scheme in Europe … with the best BTR properties, with more to come …)
What’s the most rock 'n' roll thing you’ve ever done? As a teenager, I used to work as an (unpaid) roadie in Cambridge for bands like Cockney Rebel, Wishbone Ash and Golden Earring. The deal was you helped bring the gear in and set up, then you sat quietly in a corner to watch the sound test — by then you were already in the venue when the gig started … but you didn’t get to meet that many girls unfortunately.
What’s your greatest musical moment (so far)? I once played the drums in front of 2,000 people in Bali — but that’s another story.
Favourite musician? It has to be Nick Lowe, formerly in the ‘70s band Brinsley Schwarz, but now famous for writing songs for the likes of Elvis Costello. He is a fantastic performer, too — I must have seen him play 15 or 20 times and will be seeing him play in London later this month. I once met him at a record signing and couldn’t think of anything sensible to say. I should have asked if he needed a drummer …
Favourite album? It’s a close call but it’s between Moontan by Golden Earring (which includes Radar Love which is regularly voted the best driving song ever) and The Doors’ greatest hits album called 13 with the full length version of Light My Fire — surely one of the greatest rock songs ever written.
Favourite song? I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll) by Nick Lowe — it may be a bit obscure, but it is a brilliant song, both lyrically and musically. Go find it.
Gunnar Larsson, guitar and vocals, Colliers
How did you get into music? At about 11 I figured guitar was a great way of getting by in life and was taught the basics by some older friends and eventually took lessons.
Describe your music style. Blues and rock — primarily from the '60s and '70s.
What’s the most rock 'n' roll thing you’ve ever done? Being announced playing Wembley with BeaTR.
What’s your greatest musical moment (so far)? Forming Fotbollsbandet (check us out on Spotify or see us live in Sweden), performing for an ever cheering crowd and fan club who always sings along.
In terms of great gigs — seeing The Rolling Stones from the front row at Glastonbury was fantastic!
Favourite musician? Bob Dylan.
Favourite album? Dark Side of the Moon — Pink Floyd.
Favourite song? Little Wing — Jimi Hendrix.
Andrew Yates, guitar, BCLP
How did you get into music? I have played guitar since a child.
Describe your music style. I like rock!
What’s the most rock 'n' roll thing you’ve ever done? Sleeping on a bale of hay in a field after playing a gig in Devon.
What’s your greatest musical moment (so far)? Performing with our band Hot Property at MIPIM, Cannes, in France. Tim and I have been in Hot Property for 20 years playing charity gigs across the Midlands and places as far apart as Cornwall and Cumbria.
Favourite musicians? The Edge - U2, and Mark Knopfler.
Favourite album? Telegraph Road, Dire Straits.
Favourite song? The Eagles, Hotel California.
To hear BeaTR, and every major player in the BTR sector, come to BTRAC at Wembley on 5 June.