Beach House rides musical chemistry
Thu., Aug. 4, 2016
Last August, the Baltimore-based electronic duo Beach House released its fifth studio album, “Depression Cherry.” Only two months later, another Beach House LP, titled “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” dropped unexpectedly.
It was an admittedly unusual strategy, and music journalists that had propelled the band to the upper echelons of indie rock began speculating about the short gap between records. Were the two albums companion pieces, or was the second album merely a collection of B-sides or outtakes?
“We were aware that people might think that,” said Victoria Legrand, Beach House’s singer and keyboard player. “When people suddenly release something, sometimes it smells like a marketing scheme. … But we didn’t care, because if you listen to them it’s evident. The timing is the only thing that makes it seem that way.”
Legrand is adamant that the two albums are “separate entities,” and part of the reason for the out-of-the-blue release of “Thank Your Lucky Stars” was the band’s desire to sidestep the typically long waiting period between records.
“I felt like when I was a teenager, an album would just come out. It was this innocent thing,” Legrand said. “Fans got it at the same time the magazines would get it, and people could listen to it without hearing someone else’s blurb.
“ ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ didn’t feel like it needed a roll out, which is a term that managers or anyone in the quote-unquote industry uses. It’s like rolling out a long carpet for your album to be introduced to the world. And we just felt we made two albums, and we weren’t going to wait to (put out) the second one.”
Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally are the musical masterminds behind Beach House, which performs at the Knitting Factory on Tuesday. The two started playing music together after meeting in 2004, recording their 2006 self-titled debut over the course of two days in Scally’s basement. Beach House’s 2010 album “Teen Dream” was the band’s critical breakthrough, topping many year-end top 10 lists and later being named one of the best albums of the decade so far by Pitchfork.
“So much of this group is based on the friendship and musical chemistry Alex and I had from the moment we met each other,” Legrand said. “When we started, we were so obsessed with what was happening that this world was immediately created. We weren’t really paying attention to where it came from. It was something that just felt special to us, and we’ve been chasing it now for over 10 years.”
Over the course of six albums, Beach House has developed a sound that’s unmistakably its own. It’s dreamy and gauzy, haunting and melodic, with Legrand’s vocals floating along on a breathy reverie. Listening to the two latest albums back-to-back, Legrand’s assertion that they’re distinct statements becomes apparent: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” is noticeably sparer than “Depression Cherry,” which is stacked high with Scally’s swirling guitars.
But both records came about at the same time, during the three years of writing and touring that followed the release of the band’s 2012 album “Bloom.” It was a process that Legrand describes as a flurry of bits and pieces, with individual lyrics, song titles, keyboard lines and guitar riffs gradually coming together.
“Once we’re aware of the fact that we have a bunch of songs that feel related or feel like they could become a collection, once that bait is put on the hook, that’s when the intense writing begins,” she says. “It takes over your life, basically, and we’ve done that many times now. It’s a real wave that hits you.
“But I think there’s always writing going on, to be honest. There are always ideas. There’s an idea at sound check, there’s an idea in your sleep. There’s an idea when you get home. That part of our brain doesn’t really get destroyed from touring.”
Beach House has been on the road since “Depression Cherry” was released in August, and once the tour wraps up at the end of this month, Legrand says she’s looking forward to retreating back into the great unknown.
“You get that feeling like nothing lasts forever and that that’s OK. I think a lot of people get terrified by that, but I think it’s something to really be excited about,” Legrand said. “It’s good to have dreams and it’s good to have ideals, and it’s very important that we always cultivate our imaginations. But having expectations isn’t necessarily the best thing. For us, it’s about listening to our intuitions and going with our instincts. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
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