Baltimore-based Dream pop duo Beach House is singer and keys/organ player Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally.
They’ve been releasing records for a decade and their fifth one, “Depression Cherry” drops next week on the Sub Pop label. The band kicks off their tour TONIGHT at The State Theatre in Portland. There are still tix left but I wouldn’t dilly dally for too long.
Beach House is band that’s been on my “listen to them, silly Aimsel” list for a while now and I FINALLY got wise and by way of “Depression Cherry” and am working my back backwards through their catalog. Their sound is heavenly, lush, mesmerizing and entirely up my alley with Legrand’s gorgeous vocals.
The first single from the new record is called “Sparks.” Take a listen!
Victoria Legrand and I had an entirely lovely telephone conversation a few days ago and it with immense pleasure I share it with you.
We’re thrilled that you’re starting your tour here although rumor has it that Portland, Maine is sometimes considered to be a little bit of a rehearsal stop for bands but we’re comfortable being in that role.
I’m gonna change that. It’s our first show. There are so many phases of the touring cycle but I really think for me, I have a history with Portland, Maine. My grandmother lived in Cape Elizabeth for thirty years. We used to go to Cape Elizabeth every summer from my childhood through high school.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from many places; I’ve lived all up and down the whole east coast so I can’t really say exactly where. (note from Aim, Victoria fun fact for you: she was born in Paris. As in the one in France)
I’ve been telling my friends and anyone else who will listen to me that I’m obsessed with Beach House although I’m a little bit late to the party. So now I’m making up for lost time and I’m obsessed with “Depression Cherry.” Congrats on that record. Why is it called that?
We didn’t really have a choice. The title kind of chased the album in the sense that we…the words depression cherry emerged in 2014 at some point. They came together and they were these strange; playful words that were side by side. We didn’t strain hours and hours to put them side by side, they kind of came that way. As were writing the record and as we were recording the record we were still sort of searching for a title but we had depression cherry. We would try other things. It just became the record, it wouldn’t go away. And it just seemed to fit. It made a few people uncomfortable here and there and other people liked it but we thought it was interesting and unique and that’s why it’s the album title. You kind of can’t question things when they gravitate towards one another.
Over what period of time were the songs written and what is your songwriting process?
Alex and I write together. We have our similarities and our differences but the songs don’t become songs without the other person. It’s been almost a decade of doing that from the very first song we ever wrote, which was “Salt Water.” I’m predominantly the lyricist. I definitely have written a lot of words over the last decade and the songwriting process is different for every song. But the way that we work, each song takes its own unique period of time. Some songs take a couple of years, some song take a couple of weeks, some songs can take a couple of hours. We find that most songs can sort of shape-shift over a span of a couple of months to a couple of years and that’s the truth about the last new albums. Some go slow and some go fast. When we’re working together, we’re shaping things; we’re crafting things and do a lot of repetition. We play parts over and over again until we find of they work or not then we find new sections. We’re always trying things and moving things. But we’re not doing a whole lot of talking; it’s definitely a lot of playing music which is what we do. This album specifically, I think “Sparks” was born in 2011, the keyboard part was born then and it wasn’t fully developed until 2014. So there’s a range. But most of the songs between 2011 and 14. Most of the songs were finished in 2014.
I find myself a little bit fixated at the moment on the song “Wild Flower.” Is there a song on the new record that you’re particularly excited about?
It’s funny, I have something with each one of them honestly. It’s like not saying which one of your children is your favorite as mother or something “Space Song” is really fun to play live so is “Sparks.” “Levitation” has always been a very special song, “Wildflower” has been a special song. They all truly have had their moments and then I think when we tour them we’re gonna find new things about the songs. It’ll be another learning process and that’s really how we treat touring. We’re not really mechanical about touring. We won’t be playing the same sets every night. We’re gonna be trying new things every single night.
How long have you been soliciting fan requests via social media and your website?
The Setlist Generator is brand new. That is a new idea and that is something that we’ve never done before and I think that you kind of can’t do that unless you have multiple records. It’s an interesting way of subverting the single. Singles have always traditionally been the way that the record labels and everybody gets to kind of…it’s like the coming out party of the artist and their new work and all that stuff. I understand why that exists but in reality I think every person is going to have a particular song that they like more than the single even. This is just us opening that parameter and engaging our fan base. Our fans are very important to us and I think that we wouldn’t be where we are now if we didn’t have these fans who are very loyal people. This is our way of sort of opening the conversation as to what the single is in kind of a fun way. We also get to see each city and see what songs are liked in each city and so far it’s been interesting but it’s so new that it’s just beginning, the results are coming in.
What will the stage show be like for this tour?
We’re always evolving ‘cause we’re still alive and we’re still engaged in our art. I think that if there’s ever a day where we’re no longer engaged it’ll be very apparent. I don’t want to give away anything but we the music is the most important thing at this stage. Whatever we do, we’ll be interacting with the songs and I would like it feel extremely natural, whatever that means. We’ve done set pieces in the past and things like that but I think you won’t see any big wooden fans on stage or sparkling revolving balls like we did on “Teen Dreams.” There won’t be things like that but there will be other things that are much more organic.
In general, does all the phone nonsense during shows bother you are you able to detach and not let it get to you?
There is a point where it bothers me if it’s everybody doing it, it’s very distracting. I can block certain things out but I have had to say things just because, it’s more for the person experiencing it. I’d like people to be in the moment and give that to themselves. It’s the era we’re living in. It’s the anti-natural era. It’s very hard for anyone to just be because there’s always a camera somewhere. So I think it’s a very self-conscious era we’re in and I’m not about to go after it because it’s such a big thing, it’s huge. It’s bigger than we ever realize. It has bothered me in the past and we’ll see how this goes. Maybe I’ll have to be saying something every night.