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Beam’s Musical Journey through Higganum

Written by John Bongiovanni.

In 2007, Shawn LaRochelle, known by his stage name “Beam,” moved to Higganum, CT from Middletown. He had previously lived in an apartment yet wanted his own place to work on his music and host his infamous “get-togethers.” The laid back “village” lifestyle of Higganum appealed to him, not being right on top of your neighbors was another plus. On move-in day, he was met by his parents with congratulations and beers. Being a man who loves to share his joy with friends, he decided to call a few and invite them to his new place. That night nearly two hundred people came through to congratulate Beam’s home ownership.

musician-beamBeam is a down-to-earth, intelligent guy with a Master’s Degree in Business. He currently holds a job as an Aeronautical Engineer. To most, he seems like the normal, white collar guy who has worked hard to get where he is. Everything about that is true, except for the word: normal.

Beam was exposed to music from an early age, his whole family being a very artistic group. Since age 11, when he started beat boxing, music has been the reason for Beam to wake up. At 14 he would sit in his parent’s basement and record himself playing the bass guitar repetitively. This quickly led him to form bands, starting with No Fish Today in high school. The most well-known of these is a little band called Straddle Daddy.

Though little does not describe what Straddle Daddy became, it had humble beginnings. In 2006, Beam joined the band which already had a small following and an album. In 2009, the band blew up. “We got in to play at the Strange Creek music festival in Massachusetts,” Beam reminisced, “that kicked us up a notch because that took us from playing bars in Connecticut to playing in front of a couple thousand people.”

Soon Straddle Daddy was finding its way into venues in New York and Boston along with recording numerous albums. The band was developing and Beam loved every minute of it. As things got bigger, labels and managers began to take notice. By 2012 the band was busy, but began to slow down as many of the members started creating families. Currently, Straddle Daddy plays a show or two a year and the fans still comes out to watch. As Beam explained, “Straddle Daddy is not dead… look at [the band] Deep Banana Blackout. They don’t play too many shows, but they’re always sold out. Straddle Daddy is the same way… the fans are really good.”

Since 2015, Beam has been active in the American Metal band Naja. He still plays the bass, but this band brings out his heavier side, allowing him to revisit his original musical influences like Iron Maiden. When you listen to their songs, like Through the Grey, you are assaulted with heavy guitar riffs, quick double bass, and precision that is necessary to make the music more than just thrashing noise. Though they have only been active for nearly two years, the band is gaining momentum and is recording an album that will be out in late 2017. Currently, Naja is gigging and working on growing its footprint as a metal giant with their heavyweight sound.

Recently, Beam has been working on his own music project entitled 5EX7HEAN1MAL. Being impressed by two man bands at festivals, he joined forces with DJ Icculus to mix traditional analog with digital madness. Songs like Doors of Evolution combine elements of EDM with rap lyrics in front of hip saxophone underlays, accompanied by a recording of Jim Morrison speaking about the future of music. Other tunes like Lake Muzic bring a smooth, jazzier feel that would be at home in any bohemian hangout, even with the addition of the occasional, tasteful laser sound. With this new musical incarnation, Beam is breaking into new ground and evolving his music.

In 2017, Beam will be taking 5EX7HEAN1MAL on the road alongside Lotus, an act well known across the nationwide festival circuit. He is hoping this will open up more avenues for him as a performer and curator of music. Always being able to throw a party and supply the entertainment, Beam plans eventually create a festival in Connecticut. “I want to do something that is community based,” he said when speaking about the camp he’d like to create to throw these festivals. “I don’t want to have outrageous amounts of people. I want to get the community involved. I want to be self-sufficient with solar power, even supply the town with power and give back to the community.”
With this move to national touring, Beam will unfortunately be selling his house and leaving the Higganum area. But when asked if he would return, he nodded enthusiastically and said, “Absolutely.” One of the greatest things Beam loves about the area is the appreciation for art. Never once did he find anyone bothered by his bands practicing, and he even mentioned some of the neighbors would crack open a bottle of wine and listen in their driveway. “The area is real friendly when it comes to art,” he said. “There is a big scene of people who all have their own art.”

Though he will be gone, those who have fond memories of Beam will always remember the eccentric musician, host with the most, and someone who always knew their place on this earth. As people tend to leave their mark on a town, the town also leaves a mark on those who have lived in it. In Beam’s case, he has left a legacy of music, good vibrations, and the spiritual essence of love; and the town has left the impression of a small place with a big heart for art.

If you would like to learn more about Beam and his music, check out one of the links: Naja Band or 5ex7heAn1mal.

Photo credit: Rob Kennedy

Edited 12/30/16 to correct employment.