with Vampire Weekend,
the Very Best
8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11
Hard Rock Live,
Like most people, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand of Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House needed a vacation. And like many of those people, they found their way to the visitor-friendly confines of Orlando. Unlike the vast majority of people, though, the two members of Beach House ended up at Will’s Pub to catch a Jesus and Mary Chain tribute show.
“We were writing, just hanging out,” says Legrand about why she and Scally were in Central Florida. “We were trying to take a break from our lives for a little bit, and a friend of ours’ family has a house there, so we stayed there. It was a cheap vacation.”
They were pointed toward Will’s through a fortuitous encounter with Travis Reed of the group Bananafish, who were on the bill that night.
“We had met randomly on the street before that, so we came to see the show,” says Legrand. “We had a good night.”
That January visit came just a couple of weeks before Beach House’s third full-length album, Teen Dream, was released on Sub Pop. It may be somewhat odd to think that a band would be looking to simultaneously “take a break” and write new music just days before the release of what was shaping up to be their breakout album. But despite the breathlessly gauzy sounds Scally and Legrand create as a duo, their music requires and receives an intense amount of focus and consideration.
“It’s a process. It’s organic. Trial and error,” says Legrand about Beach House’s creation process. “As you’re writing, you get three or four songs, and then you realize the sort of direction they’re taking. You start to know about the world and the intensity of the music that you’re making. As you’re writing, things become apparent; shapes become apparent, progressions become apparent, the world becomes apparent. It’s like anything you build or grow in life: You can feel the beginning, you can feel the middle and you can feel the end. Birth, life, death.”
That kind of forethought is apparent on Teen Dream. Beach House’s first two albums (a 2006 self-titled disc and 2008’s Devotion) were sublimely crafted and remarkably cohesive albums that, although toiling in a style that emphasizes slow-burn moods and gentle, ethereal progressions, were nonetheless wrapped around a tightly packed emotional core. With their latest disc, however, the band’s swooning, organic approach to instrumentation and arrangement takes on a more direct and front-facing demeanor, providing a more tangible link between Scally’s tranquil vocal style and dense clouds of piano, vintage keyboards, percussion and harmonies.
“It wasn’t intentional to be more direct. It’s not like we decided to be in anyone’s faces or anything,” says Legrand. “I think that happened more because of things we did in the recording, the place where we recorded and how we recorded certain things. It was all technical things, and they made things feel more physical. But it wasn’t just how we recorded it; there are certain rhythms, certain dynamics, certain shapes and sounds … all those things make it feel like it’s more direct.
“I think the intensity of the emotions [is] something that’s always been in Beach House, and there’s always been a depth, but maybe on the previous records you couldn’t feel it as much. When you’ve got a little more money to spend on the studio or whatever, it’s going to alter the way certain things sound.”
Having that bit of financial freedom was a boon to Beach House’s production process, giving the duo more than twice the amount of time in the studio this time around than on their previous album. Amazingly, none of the warm and fragile heart of Beach House’s music was tempered by this extended recording session.
“Alex and I have always been in complete control, and we’ve never gone into the studio without a very clear idea about how we want things to sound,” says Legrand. “Every song on the record was demoed and arranged and set in place before we went in to record. We don’t leave questions to be answered in the studio, but we do discover certain things.
“Still, I think too much time in the studio can destroy a record, but too little time can affect you having your vision fully realized. Of course, there are still things that we wish we could have done differently, but I think that’s great. Being satisfied is a terrible thing.”