Interview: Max DeGroot on 'The Beach Bears'
A new art form is being developed in the furry fandom. It is like a soap opera in that a central cast of characters tells story arcs in chapters within a larger consistent setting. When one story arc is over, another begins. But unlike a soap opera, at the end of each chapter or episode is a covered song or parody song that relates to the chapter or episode. Each chapter averages eight minutes long. The production is titled The Beach Bears.
After listening to the a few chapters, I wanted to know more of the story, and more about how this exciting work came to exist. The Beach Bears was created and is produced by Max DeGroot. Mr. DeGroot was kind enough to grant me an interview to satisfy my curiosity.
TG: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
MDG: Well I have been active in the Furry Fandom for many years as a furry convention chair, a puppeteer, and a musician. One of my current labors of love is an audio drama series titled The Beach Bears.
TG: I have listened to The Beach Bears and I must say it is a very unique and entertaining format that has me hooked. How did you come up with the concept?
MDG: It all started when I created Dipper as a minor character for a single comic strip. But the Dipper character refused to be a minor character and developed into a major character in my song work. In 2011 I was covering a series of academy award nominated songs and I had Dipper sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. It was a big hit. Then Dipper covered the Beatles song “I Feel Fine” with Dipper singing all three parts. This was also very popular. People had also heard several songs I recorded using the voice of StarGazer (another character I created) and my own voice. Some one suggested a song using all three of these voices would be great. So I recorded “Sloop John B” using all three voices (Dipper, Stargazer, and myself). I dubbed the group of three singers The Beach Bears after The Beach Boys who had a big hit with “Sloop John B” and because the three characters are bears. But that meant I had to create a character for my own voice in the group. I sought the help of WolfTeller (adtuna1192 on Fur Affinity) to create the look and the name for the third voice. WolfTeller created Birch, but Birch still did not have a defined personality. As the group recorded more songs, I developed Birch’s personality. The Beach Bears covered a number of other songs. When I posted "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", I also posted a short story explaining why Dipper was singing it. Later I recorded this short story and included it before the song. People really liked this. So the Beach Bears did "Early Morning Rain" and other songs with small stories recorded with the songs. And the story/song format was born as part of The Beach Bears.
TG: I have listened to The Beach Bears story and it is so much more than covered songs with explanation stories for each song. How did the story arcs get started?
MDG: That developed as the project grew. After a number of The Beach Bears songs and stories, I realized I could not start the larger story of the group in the middle and needed a beginning for The Beach Bears. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” became chapter 20 of The Beach Bears story and chapters 1 though 19 became the back story explaining how the group formed and giving some background for each member. For each chapter sometimes the song dictates the story, sometimes the story dictates the song covered. With each song the story and the characters’ personalities grew. The story has now grown to include many story arcs and over 14 hours of material. Birch is the musical professional with a passion for music; Dipper is the kid with the great voice, but a little emotional; and StarGazer is the voice of reason in the group.
TG: Do you have a favorite song or chapter in the story?
MDG: There are all special in their own way. But if I had to choose, I am really proud of “Sloop John B” for all the polyphonic elements it incorporates. But the story arc where StarGazer rediscovers how to love is one of my favorites.
TG: While listening to The Beach Bears I heard more than three characters. Do you do all the voices?
MDG: In the beginning I did them all. But there were only three – Dipper, StarGazer, and Birch. I still do these three characters. As the story expanded, other supporting characters where introduced and other furs came on board to help with voice talents as needed. The Beach Bears now has a cast of seven main characters and numerous minor characters. I am very fortunate to have many talented voices contributing to the production.
TG: And all the content is free for the listening?
MDG: Yes. I do accept donations to help defray the cost of song purchases and replacement recording equipment. If you feel The Beach Bears is worthwhile, I would be much obliged if you would send a donation my way, via PayPal, degroot.max[at]gmail.com. Any amount is gladly accepted.
TG: Do you see an end to the project?
MDG: Not at this time. As long as there are Beach Bear fans requesting more songs and stories, and there are more songs I want to cover; we will keep producing The Beach Bears chapters.
TG: Thank you for talking with us today and thank you for The Beach Bears. Where can the listeners hear The Beach Bears?
MDG: The Beach Bears can only be heard online. The entire story, all 14 hours so far, has been archived , or listeners can go to The Beach Bears Introduction and follow the NEXT navigation links to subsequent chapters. [They're also collected in a pool on Inkbunny.]
So there you have it, folks. A brand new art form being developing in the furry fandom. Having listened myself, I definitely recommend listening to The Beach Bears story. It will grab you emotionally and entertain you at a level I have not seen in some time.