Award-winning British human machine, or rather the musician and beatboxer known as THePETEBOX, is touring the U.S. for the first time, producing sounds and rhythms using only his mouth, lips, tongue and voice.
“It’s important for people to understand the process,” PETEBOX tells EW. YouTube is full of clips from the musician, but PETEBOX feels beatboxing is best experienced live. “There’s some detachment from the process on record,” he says.
Central to PETEBOX’s repertoire are several covers like “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies and “Kids” by MGMT. “I don’t really listen to a song and think ‘I could do that,’” he says. “Those covers are just really poignant songs. All the songs I do have inspired me.”
PETEBOX explains that it was Rahzel, formerly of hip-hop heavyweights The Roots, who initially got him into beatboxing. “It was when I heard Rahzel — when he sings and beatboxes at the same time — that’s when I heard beatboxing in a really musical way.”
His performances have been described as a “magic trick,” and there’s certainly a mystifying element to what PETEBOX does. When watching him layer the elements of originals and covers, what’s most impressive is how he keeps his loops and beatboxing — two things that could easily become gimmicks and crutches for an artist — subservient to the songs and genuine emotional expression.
“If I fuck up the loop, it keeps playing ’round,” PETEBOX jokes, adding, “I play all the elements. I am the front man. I like it that way.”
THePETEBOX plays with third seven 9:30 pm Friday, Nov. 21, at Sam Bond’s; $6, 21-plus.