The Animal Beat
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The Animal Beat

Richmond, Virginia, United States

Richmond, Virginia, United States
Band Rock Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Brick Weekly"

"...we have my personal favorites: The Animal Beat. Their whimsical yet solid alt.folk-flavored indie rock should be, in my not-so-humble opinion, the highlight of the evening. If they play 'Ordinary,' I may just bust my buttons (I'm a sucker for whistling, doot-doo-doots, and woah-ohs. Give me a song with all three, and I'm in love)."

-Sarah Shay
Brick Weekly
April 22-28 issue, page 4 - Brick Weekly

"All Music Guide Review"

*** 1/2 (out of 5)

"Ambient Jungle Noise is remarkably well-crafted, with polished and melodic songs, tight and flavorful arrangements, solid instrumental chops, and production that's clean and professional without scrubbing all the life from the music."

"...if they're hoping to persuade people that they're smart, talented, and have a future ahead of them, then Ambient Jungle Noise does the job with flying colors." - All Music Guide

"Best Richmond Music of 2009"

"The guys in The Animal Beat have only been playing together for little under a year, but that doesn't stop them from proving their legitimacy as musicians with a lot to offer. With the release of their EP Ambient Jungle Noise, the guys start off with a bang and take you on a rock-filled ride." -

" Mash Up Session Interview"


"Style Weekly: That One Song"

From 1/13/10 issue (page 25)
Also availalbe at:

That One Song

The Animal Beat, “Spectacled Caiman”
Interviewed by Mike Rutz

Download a free copy of "Spectacled Caiman" at the end of the article.

Although the musicians in the Animal Beat knew each other in high school, it took a few years before everyone made it back to Richmond. Then, former band mates Jeff Linka and Travis Tucker met up to write some songs, with no intentions to form another band. “I think it happened when we started to think of band names just for fun,” Tucker says. The Animal Beat, which was the initial title for the song “A Drum to Pound,” sounded more like the name of a band.

“Once we had a band name, it just seemed logical that we just make a full band of it.” Tucker says. The two guitarists filled out their lush pop-rock melodies by adding fellow Godwin alumni David Graham and Paul Howard on keys and drums. Andrew Saunders, who had performed in bands alongside them over the years, was asked to play bass. One year and one six-song EP later (“Ambient Jungle Noise”), the Animal Beat reveals who inspired the song that inspired the band’s name.

Style: What is the true origin of “The Animal Beat?”

David Graham: It's a lyric from the song “A Drum to Pound.”

Jeff Linka: I had the guitar part and a few of the other lines (of the song), but I hadn’t written lyrics. I was with my family in Alaska and we were walking in Denali on this long road and there were bears and all sorts of animals. It was really cool. The line in the song goes “with the bears in the city streets, howling and growling to the animal beat.” I thought of that because we stayed with my uncle who lives in Juneau. Juneau’s a very small town, like one neighborhood, and he lives catty-cornered to this really big house. One night, we saw a bear walking around the streets. Usually, everyone has their trash cans bolted down (to keep bears away), but that big house didn’t have its trash super-secure. As it turns out, it was Sarah Palin’s house. I didn’t know it was the governor’s mansion! So, that song is partially inspired by Sarah Palin, although it’s not a political statement.

Style: Tell us about that one song...

Travis Tucker: Jeff had the verse-chorus-verse to “Spectacled Caiman” and then he brought it to me and it organically came together on guitar. But, we didn’t know what was going to happen with this song once we got a full band together.

Paul Howard: The song has matured so much.

Graham: It ended up showcasing a lot of everybody and I think that’s where we get a lot more adventurous with the harmonies.

Tucker: There’s a lot of pop harmonies, but it’s not the quintessential pop-structured song. We get a lot of weirdness in this one. Plus, the song has robot voices. I have an old drum machine that's only ever been used for this song.

Graham: It’s like a 1980's kids drum kit before there were actual drum kits. The only thing it has that’s meaningful is four different buttons that count off “1,2,3,4.” There’s a count off in the song and for some weird reason that just worked really well.

Tucker: Jeff put it up on a blog and said, “Hey, check out this song.” One of the key things people were saying was, “I love the robot voice.” The robot voice has one-upped all of us.

Linka: I was worried at first too, because there’s that and then conveniently going into the second verse, there’s a lyric that goes, “I woke up the next day” and right before that there’s a pause where we put the sound of an alarm clock. We had had these ideas and I was horrified. I thought one of them was cool, but before I heard (the finished song), I thought there were going to be stupid effects everywhere.

Graham: It’s a quirky song anyway. There’s a part in there that I play on the synthesizer that Andrew was trying to fill in (on bass) and it’s the part that sticks. I can’t hear the song now without hearing that part in my head. That was something that wasn’t in the song for a awhile. Andrew was like “Can you do something here, almost like a Bach, fugue type thing?” And it just worked. We get suggestions like that a lot of times where we try it out and it works and we go with it. Our songs are in a constant state of change until we get them where we’re happy with them.

Tucker: There's one part where it all opens up and David does a piano solo and then it closes up and goes back to Jeff singing. I think initially we thought that’s where we’d let it end, but Jeff kept playing one time and for some reason I played a different chord than we’d been playing over top. It seemed to go well and it changed the whole vibe of the song at the end.

Linka: The song is called “Spectacled Caiman” because I was in Peru and we saw this spectacled caiman, which is small crocodile. I equated that trip with this song, because it was on that trip when I decided I was going to quit my job.

Tucker: Jeff has to go to a different part of the world to write each song. It’s really expensive songwriting.

Linka: I had been at this job where I was really unhappy. I was at a point where I worked there long enough to realize I didn’t hate working, I hated the job. I remember getting to the Washington, D.C. airport and thinking “Oh god, I have to go back to work.” It was kind of depressing. So on the surface, this song sounds like it’s about somebody quitting their job. But, I also look at it as a little bit more. If everything everywhere is going so badly, the economy is bad, everyone’s at war, we might blow ourselves up, we might as well be doing what we enjoy.

There’s a line where the protagonist has just quit his job and the boss basically says, “you can’t play music, you have to make money.” And I say, “Go take all your favorite songs, but you can’t just listen, you gotta sing along.” That lyric says I don’t want to just bang around on guitar, I want to really mean it, and put an honest effort towards it, and have some conviction behind it.

Graham: Lyrically, it encompasses the band as a whole, if you’re going to draw some global conclusion about it. We’re all in a transitional phase in our lives and I don’t think any of us are doing something we want to do for the next thirty years. At the same time, we’re all carving out time to do what we really love and that’s play music together.

Linka: I think David saying that is right. The interesting thing about it, about all of our songs lyrically, is that it’s not something you can sit down and say, “I want to write a song about where we are or where I am.” Then, all of sudden, you sit down and do it and it couldn’t possibly have any other meaning. It’s very unintentional and you don’t really realize how you feel about something until you’ve written the song.

Tucker: My cousin says he loves “Spectacled Caiman” because he’s in that same transitional period and is kind of scared of what’s coming next. He doesn’t want to let go of what was, but we all understand life is continuing on and we have to grow with it.

Linka: He went on to say the song saved his life. (all laugh)

Tucker: The song is about doing what you want to do, not what you have to do. And doing what you want to do for the right reasons, what feels right. Even my mom said this song speaks to her, because she was in a job recently that she hated. She was in a job that wasn’t exactly where she wanted to be anymore, but she was too nervous to walk out the door, too nervous to quit. Because once you leave, even though it feels right, where do you go from there?

The song is constantly building and at the end it gets to the point where we’re chanting “walk out!” and it never gets resolved. It leaves you on the cliff, and to me, it’s sort of a handing off to the listener. Now it’s up to you to decide. Even when we’re playing it, it feels unresolved. You're left with a feeling of, “what now?”

Graham: At that point, Paul is hitting as hard as he can and you think he’s going to break into a beat and then he just stops. That was the hardest part early on for him, not to break into a beat. I’d look over at him to make sure he’s not going to do it, and he called it the death stare.

Tucker: James Brown had it. In James Brown’s band, if he gave you a certain look, then that means you’re fired and after the show just don’t talk to him. I think we gave Paul that stare.

Style: Tell us about your PBS special...

Graham: Andrew had a good friend who worked for VCU TV. They profile local bands and shoot some of their songs. He’d wanted to do something with Andrew for awhile, but every time they would try, his band would break up.

It came together nicely, but we had to rearrange a lot of our songs. They wanted to shoot us outside, so we had to figure out ways to do things acoustically. We shot around Richmond to get a lot of noticeable landmarks. We shot “Ordinary” in the back of a truck driving through Richmond and they did a good job of catching the Diamond. We shot in Main Street Train Station, we shot on Belle Isle with the sun coming up, we shot in Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park, and we shot walking down Cary Street past the Byrd Theatre. If you know Richmond, you can catch a lot of landmarks while you’re listening.

Tucker: Probably my favorite was “Dogs Along the Way,” which we’d never played before. The sun was setting, it the last shot of the day in Jefferson Park. Jeff was like, “I have this song, want to play it?”

Howard: There were 14 songs we did on the PBS special and a lot of songs we learned on the fly.

Graham: We had the six songs from our EP, because we were getting them ready to record. Travis and Jeff had a lot of stuff on the back burner they had written, but we hadn’t tried together. Not only were we taking our old songs and trying to covert them acoustically, but we learned new songs and figured out the instruments for them, too. I got a melodica and a xylophone, stuff you can carry around and play outside.

Tucker: One thing about the melodica (a tiny keyboard with a mouthpiece you blow into), we didn’t realize the more fingers you put on it, the harder you have to blow. David was using all ten fingers on it all the time and so in all the shots his cheeks are so puffed out.

Graham: After awhile, I was like, “I need to dumb this thing down a bit, just play the melody line here.”.

Tucker: It runs once a month, but you can find it on YouTube and our myspace ( When they profile the bands, they usually film a live show and interview the band afterward. They really wanted to try something different and thought we were the right band to do it. We had only been a band for about a month. It really showed us what we are as a band, and where we want to go.

The Animal Beat will perform live January 16th at The Camel, along with Marionette. Show time is 8pm and the cover is $5. - Style Weekly

"RVA Playlist Review"

"If you haven’t seen these guys perform, do yourself a favor... They have a distinct sound that’s reminicient of contemporary rock with a little bit of pop thrown in for good measure. Well-crafted hooks and incredible catchy lyrics are a breeze for this young band... "

Link to full review: - RVA Playlist

"The Animal Beat Music Video for "Ordinary""

Okay, so this isn't a review, but here is a link to our DIY music video for "Ordinary": - The Animal Beat

"Ambient Jungle Noise promo"

"This lovely, shimmering gem of power-pop brilliance was first unleashed in summer 2009. But just so we can let the world know quite how good this record is, the band have now added some great acoustic tracks (think Beach Boys' Party) and we're unleashing it again today! It's a record guaranteed to brighten your day, so please download a copy, fill your ears with its implausible brilliance and help us spread the word about this fantastic band!" - Rainboot (UK)

"The Animal Beat- Something Extraordinary"

By Claudia
June 24, 2010

In November 2008 Travis Tucker and Jeff Linka started to write songs in their hometown Richmond, Virginia. Shortly after Andrew Saunders, David Graham and Paul Howard joined the band and they became The Animal Beat. The band will release their first EP “Ambient Jungle Noise” in August and told me about whistling techniques, pepperoni stalagmites and of course a lot about their music.

The Animal Beat originally started as a duo with Travis and Jeff. How come you decided to enlarge your little “zoo”?

Travis: While Jeff and I were working on the first batch of songs in “the cave”, we started to feel like each song could be so much more than two acoustic guitars would allow them to be. We wanted to open the songs up a little bit and really see where they could go. Plus practice time was getting a little lonely with just the two of us.

Jeff: Finding other band members really was the goal all along. We were just lucky that everyone got together so quickly.

In what way did Andrew, David and Paul change or affect the Animal Beat sound?

Travis: Andrew, David and Paul basically made The Animal Beat what it is. Few people can match David at piano, and his classical background allows him the opportunity to write intricate and tasteful parts that we would have never come up with otherwise. I have always considered Andrew to be the music teacher of the group. He knows more about music theory and songwriting than I can fathom, and can pretty much play any instrument under the sun…except drums. Paul is amazing at hitting the drums really hard and brings a little bit of the bang it out rock n’ roll to the table. Basically Andrew, David and Paul all brought their own personal styles to the band, and because we are so open minded about the music, we can all freely bounce ideas off each other to create a song that always comes out much stronger than the original idea.

David: Having five guys together really changed the way we approach new songs. With the first songs we were playing, there was more or less a decent idea of what we wanted to do with the song before we started practicing it as a full band. We approach our new songs differently- we often just start with a basic idea and/or structure, and then play with it as a full band, bouncing ideas off each other and using everyone’s ideas and talents to create the song. By the time we are done with a new song, it’s usually miles away from what we started with.

Andrew: I think that David (on Piano) brings a sense of fullness and musical legitimacy: the kid has some serious chops.

Paul: I brought the flave.

The first Animal Beat songs were written in a cave in Richmond, Virginia. That’s quite an extraordinary rehearsal room, isn’t it? How did that happen and why?

Travis: I wish we could say we wrote all of our songs in a cave, so don’t tell anyone that we just threw that into our online biography. Part of me thinks we should keep that mystery alive, but the fact is we started off rehearsing at my apartment in the fan (an area in Richmond). I suppose I could call my apartment “the cave”, but I don’t. Maybe we can make a point of it to write our next batch of songs in a cave…or call our next album “the cave”…now I’m just rambling.

Jeff: That apartment is often times more cave-like than non-cave-like: Pepperoni stalagmites.

Your first EP “Ambient Jungle Noise” will be released in August. Is there anything ambient, jungle or noisy about it? What can we expect?

Jeff: More “jungle” than “ambient” or “noisy.” In fact, according to Terry Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution, there are anywhere between 20 and 40 billion species of animals living in the Amazon rainforest alone. The number of influences on this record is probably close to 1/8th of that number.

The most exciting aspect of working on the songs and eventually recording them was that we really had no idea how we would sound as a band. We hadn’t played together for very long and some of the songs ended up sounding completely different than they had when we first worked on them. “Spectacled Caiman,” especially, was the real wild card. We worked on a lot of different ideas for how to put that one together, and as much as we tried to meticulously work it out, in the end all we really needed to do was stop thinking and let everyone play their part the way they “heard” it. That song, out of all of them, is probably the ultimate “melting pot” of our individual influences and tastes.

Travis: You could definitely call our music noisy, it certainly isn’t silent. I’m not going to touch the “Ambient” part of that question. Truth be told, Jeff and a non-band friend were sitting in a waiting room and looked at the muted television. There was a commercial picturing a jungle, and the closed captioning said “ambient jungle noise.” They had no idea what that would actually sound like – just like we didn’t really know what our music was going to sound like.

Your single “Ordinary” which can also be found on the EP is the predestined summer hit. And I love the whistle-intro. Who’s whistling?

Andrew: Travis is whistling on the recording, though Paul is probably the most talented whistler in the band. He (Paul) also played trumpet on the recording.

David: I consider myself a borderline-professional whistler and actually volunteered to do the part, but then Travis explained that you had to whistle while sucking in so it doesn’t mess with the sound on the microphone. After realizing that, I conceded the part to Travis.

Travis: I am probably the worst whistler in the band. Every time we practice the song, some one else whistles effortlessly behind me while I struggle to make any sound at all. I also slightly lied to David about having to whistle while sucking in in order to be able to record it. Actually I just really wanted to do the part on the record (David will be pissed when he reads this). Whistling live is no easy feat either; let’s just say that Andrew Bird has a leg up.

Jeff: The most ironic thing about the song is that it was almost never recorded. We had worked on all of the other songs and booked studio time, but “Ordinary” really came down to the wire. Travis had “Ordinary” fully-written, but we hadn’t worked on it much as a band, and it really didn’t come into its own until a night or two before we went into the studio.

Are you already working on your debut album?

Jeff: I think we have been working on it all along. I think the first song Travis and I really fleshed out was one called “X-Ray Machine,” and it will probably be on the next one. We are only now starting to give it the “full band” treatment. If people look hard enough (i.e. search “the animal beat” on google or youtube), we did an acoustic documentary with a film maker/friend named Nick Schapiro. Included are a litany of tracks that we might end up recording.

David: We are at a point now where we have to start paring down our material- we have a ton of songs written (at least in a basic form), but we need to spend time together playing with them to see what new ideas we can come up with and what our best-sounding full band songs will ultimately be.

Travis: We are in such a fortunate position in this band in that we have so much unreleased material to choose from for our next album. We can be extremely selective with our song choices. It has made it difficult to decide which song to work on next, but that is a good problem to have.

Is there any chance to see you live in Europe this year?

David: Europe rules.

Travis: If the opportunity came along, it would be unbelievable to do a tour in Europe. Let’s see how the album does, and then we will go from there.

Last but not least I’d like to play a little game with you called “Guess that tune”.I prepared a special animal edition for you.Listen to the songs and just tell me what you think about it…

Dear Reader – “Great White Bear”

This is a good one. Towards the beginning, a lot of the music and – to a slightly lesser extent – lyrics are fairly reminiscent of The National. Ending is good too – might actually check more out from this band.

The Miserable Rich – “The Mouth of the Wolf”

Wolves are fairly well-utilized in music. Band names – Wolf Parade, Sea Wolf. We have a song with the word “wolf” in the lyrics.

Additionally, wolf t-shirts (preferably sleeveless) are where it’s at.

Owl City – whatever it’s called (it’s called Fireflies)

Fits in nicely after Ke$ha on the morning drive to work. Turning it off before someone hears it coming from my headphones.

Jamie Lidell – “Coma Chameleon”

Opening drum beat sounds like an army coming to rescue the city from an oppressive Owl City occupation. Awesome track. Never understood why this guy hasn’t made it bigger in America. I guess there’s not enough irony or fluorescent colors

Neneh Cherry – “Buffalo Stance”

This is a fun track, but just what exactly is a “buffalo stance?” Is it a physical way of standing/sitting, or is it a political plank? One thing is for sure – buffalos have historically gotten the raw end of the deal in North America. Long ago, they were chased off cliffs so that hunters didn’t even have to waste wayward ammunition. Can you believe that? Imagine the sheer carnage. If buffalos had done that to humans, The Animal Beat surely would have a political song called “Human Stance.” - Music Is Okay


"Ambient Jungle Noise" EP - 2009
"Ambient Jungle Noise" (Expanded Edition) EP - 2010
"Ordinary" SINGLE - 2010
"11" DOUBLE A-SIDE - 2011



During the winter time, wild beasts know to hibernate by nature. Thus, the beginnings of Richmond, Virginia-based The Animal Beat are not unlike the annual cycles of the great black bear or the North American gila monster. In November of 2008, Travis Tucker and Jeff Linka began writing and practicing songs in a suitable cave overlooking one of Richmond's most populas floras. The following March, after weeks of living off of only gathered and stored acoustic guitars and pianos, it was finally time to emerge and set out on a path with others who shared only one distinct uniformity: nonuniformity.

Bassist Andrew Saunders, pianist David Graham, and drummer Paul Howard soon joined the pack, adding their own howls and claw prints to a set of songs that would eventually make up The Animal Beat's debut EP, "Ambient Jungle Noise."