BETS is an ethereal, dreamy pop artist whose all female, South Williamsburg-based band will make you dance and dream at the same time. Her song “Jenny,” about a Parisian girl with whom she had a passionate fling, was covered on Noisey and Culture Collide. She doesn’t just do sexy, flirty love songs, though: the latest BETS song, “Free Tonight,” has this rad video dedicated to “prisoners of conscience, human rights activists, and other people who have been detained or exiled because of their beliefs or affiliations.” For this week’s Musicians Talk Making It, she tells us about not letting a good idea slip by you and how to get your music around the world without being signed.
BETS is a person (real name Betsy Haley Hershey) and BETS is also the name of her band. It’s an all female band.
“The line up changes, but I’m always there — and it’s always fun,” Hershey said. Though she started writing songs as an angsty teenager as so many of us do, most of that angst has faded but her songs have grown into the backbone for her first musical project.
Though Hershey grew up on both the East and West Coasts, and the band was bicoastal for a while, she now lives in South Williamsburg. She met most of her band through music friends: she says the best way to meet bandmates and make connections is by going to local shows, and that the music friends she’s met this way are the best kind. Hershey even met her boyfriend while playing a show.
The first BETS show was at one of Williamsburg’s longest-running free music venues, and home of one of the city’s longest running and most exciting open mics, Pete’s Candy Store. I once saw a woman strip down to a neon leopard print thong and sneakers screaming — er, reciting — experimental “poetry.” Pretty sure that’s not what happened at BETS’ first gig, but it’s a very welcoming venue:
“I wrote them asking for a gig, and it happened,” she said. “It didn’t cost anything. They pass around a tip jar before your last song, which is adorable and never hurts.”
She says she did once fall victim to one of the city’s pay-to-play scams, but only once. It didn’t feel right, at all. Her favorite place to play in Brooklyn, she says, is Bushwick’s Palisades: the venue always brings a good crowd of folks who are there for the music, and they have their own following, so new people can be exposed to your music.
We like to ask artists what they think a musician needs to get started. Hershey said you just need some songs to play and a rehearsal space.
“Rehearsal spaces can cost a bit of money, but you can find them for cheap or split them with other musicians.”
BETS most recent album, Days Hours Nights, came out last July, and you can listen to it above. She’s received a lot of great press about her songs “Jenny” (see the Noisey and Culture Collide pieces above) and “Don’t Give A F#ck,” among others.
“I write my songs with a close friend of mine,” she said. “She’s like a sister. I used to just write poems and then working together we turned them into songs. The first full song I wrote was on my EP, it’s called ‘Rooftop Lover,’ and it’s about climbing up onto a rooftop in Hollywood and writing and dreaming of what was to come.”
She also has solid advice to new musicians on writing original material:
“If an idea comes to you, regardless of what you’re doing, write it down or record it,” she said. “Like if you’re driving, pull over, and if you’re sleeping, wake up.”
Though she’s not yet signed, BETS’ music is available online through multiple formats. You can do that too without being signed!
“I put my album on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and all that. It’s pretty easy,” she said. “That’s what’s cool about making music right now. You can get your own songs to people all over the world by yourself.”
And it seems this has worked so far, if the growing buzz around BETS is any indication. Check out her Facebook page for news and show dates, plus listen to her music via all of the above sources. Then, go out and make some of your own music friends, then write about some real stuff.
For more on local artists and weird open mic stories, follow Lilly on Twitter. To pitch her for Musicians Talk Making it, email Lilly [at] brokelyn.com.