Filed under: Issue 21, Issue 21 Q&A | Tags: alex scally, baltimore, Beach House, Beyonce, Coachella, Fleet Foxes, Jimmy Ruffin, pavement, teen dream, Victoria legrand
Part of Issue 21 coverage!
Alex Scally is one-half of dream pop duo Beach House. He and bandmate Victoria Legrand released their acclaimed third record Teen Dream in late January. The Baltimore natives are currently on tour in Europe and will be coming back to the United States in time to play Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival the day before Pavement.
Already one of the dreamiest acts of 2010, we expect awesome things from Beach House in the future.
20 Watts: You two have just released your latest album Teen Dream. How is it constructed compared to your earlier stuff?
Alex Scally: We usually start off with one very simple and exciting idea and then try to let it grow into something more substantial. We’ve been touring for years now with hundreds and hundreds of shows, so we have a lot of experience to rest on. We had seven or eight months away from touring to just work and let things really grow. Then we had, for the first time, the ability to go into the studio and record. We recorded for three weeks, which, for us, is an insane luxury. It’s just like the other albums. The songs grew the same way, but we had a lot more time, and the luxury of more money to record, too.
20W: There’s a lot of emotion on the record, especially in songs like “10 Mile Stereo” and “Take Care.” Was there any logic in placing these songs later on the record?
AS: We sequenced the record very intentionally. I think that we wanted to tell some kind of story or narrative. (“10 Mile Stereo”) is almost like a weird song from beyond the grave or something and it felt right at that point on the album. It felt like something to take you into the end, which is how we positioned it, right before a really intense ballad and then a kind of outro song.
20W: With this album you guys were definitely trying to put out a bigger package, going across media. You released a DVD with it too. What were you trying to achieve with that?
AS: It’s really fun to just have a set idea and then just do it … There are two things I think we really wanted to accomplish. I think we’ve been a bit pigeon-holed in our first few records. We would get this ethereal, autumnal idea of girls with bangs in fields with flowers or something. We’ve never felt our music is really that one-dimensional. I understand how people would see it like that … For us, it was awesome to make these songs that mean something to us, give them to someone, and then see this whole response twist the narrative or twist the feelings. I think we just wanted to stimulate an open world of response, a very multi-faceted interpretation. I really like the idea of sitting in one place when I listen to music. One fantasy we have is that someone will just sit down on the couch and literally just watch the entire album and have an experience. We’re trying to stimulate a real experience for somebody and not have it be this transient thing that music is often pushed into these days.
20W: What were your biggest influences making the record? What were you two listening to at the time?
AS: I don’t think there was any single thing. I listen to a ton of music and none of it is really similar. The thing that unifies the music I love is just songs. It’s not often that I get into a whole album. I get really into songs. I really like that song “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin because it’s really sad but really ecstatic too, and has this kind of triumphant sound, almost like pride. I really like that song “Halo” by Beyonce, too. Tons of music. You can just write under influences: “everything.”
20W: Where do you see things going for Beach House with this new album out?
AS: We feel lucky, we feel like we have a lot of work to do. People have bought the album and they’re expecting a lot, and we feel pressured to live up to it and really put on an amazing show. We’re about to go on tour for forever … There’s no way you can ever predict how you’ll feel after that tour but you know you’ll always feel really different. We’ll come back after the summer and we’ll have some new goal. Maybe it will be, “Alright, this band’s over. We’re sick of that shit,” and that’s it or maybe we’ll know exactly how we want the next record to sound and we start working on it or maybe it’ll be like, “Oh, we really want to do a soundtrack.”
20W: You guys are still Baltimore-based. Do you think that with this new, well-known record you’ll feel separated from the Baltimore scene?
AS: No I don’t think that would happen just because the Baltimore scene is so disconnected from the national scene [laughs]. I feel like we might, for some reason, go to New York and seem like everyone would have heard our record but in Baltimore people would say “Hey what’s up man?” I don’t think Baltimore is really influenced by the national scene as much as most places. And also we have so many good friends so it’s not like they’re not going to be our friends just because we’ve sold, 10,000 records or something.
20W: You guys are definitely blowing up this year. I’m excited to see where you go.
AS: We’re blowing up but I really don’t think it’s that “blow up-able”, you know? We’re getting really lucky with our press right now but I also don’t think it’s going to get like Fleet Foxes or something like that, you know what I’m saying? It’s not that powerful of a music yet. Maybe that’ll be the next record [laughs].
— Interview by Eric Vilas-Boas