With their fourth album “Bloom” just out, we talk to Alex Scally - one half of Beach House - to find out if they had expected their success, what they're looking for when writing music, what dream-pop means to them and how they feel about the album leaking onto the internet so fast.
Little over two years ago, if you talked to Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally (Beach House), they most likely would have told you the success of the acclaimed “Teen Dream” (Sub Pop, 2010) was beyond their wildest dreams. In fact, even today they don't understand it, nor do they really care. In a matter of months, the duo went from being part of the fine print on the festival bills to playing big stages in front of thousands of people with tissues in their hands to dry the tears. The Baltimore two's live show is all emotional intensity, it's very hard to keep your heart from turning upon hearing songs like “10 Mile Stereo” or “Gila”, no matter how tough you are. Their reputation is absolutely justified, which is why their new album, “Bloom” (due out on 14th May in Europe, on Bella Union, and a day later in North America, on Sub Pop), is one of the most anticipated albums of 2012.
And the truth is, Beach House have done it again, and better. As they themselves say, such beautiful music (I wouldn't be surprised if there are reports of people suffering Stendhal syndrome, to be honest), should just be experienced, in complete surrender. We talk to Alex Scally, a few weeks before the release of “Bloom” and their performance at the upcoming San Miguel Primavera Sound in Barcelona, to find out what they look for when writing their music, where they think their songs sound best, what internet means to them and how they feel about The Weeknd sampling two of their tracks.
I guess “Teen Dream” left you satisfied, proud of the work you did, but also with a huge responsibility due to the great acclaim it achieved. What feeling did you have once you finished producing “Bloom”?
I think we were incredibly happy because it was really hard. It took a really long time and it felt like it almost killed us. So we were really happy because it was kind of like keeping a sick infant or something, keeping them alive when they are about to die, and then finally it survives and becomes strong. Does that make sense?
"I think the sounds of
“Teen Dream” are kind of
small, you know? I like
them, I respect them for
what they are, but they
feel like small little songs.
They have this one feeling
in them, whereas “Bloom”
Totally. Do you think the success of “Teen Dream” can be repeated?
Any sixth sense?
We don’t think about that. We didn’t think “Teen Dream” was going to be like it was so, no idea. It’s all really natural for us, we just do what we want. We are driven by ourselves, not by whether something will do well or not.
The last time we interviewed you, you said that you associated “Teen Dream”’s sound with sex. What does this new album suggest you?
Maybe it sounds like that but maybe, then, it also sounds like after that when you have to break up and maybe when you get with somebody else. It may sound like this, the whole cycle repeated again and again and again into infinity.
Your album titles always hit the spot. Is “Bloom” a record to listen during spring?
Mmm… I think that’s for the listener. I don’t think any of our records are season dependant. But everyone is different. Everyone is so completely different. You know, when I talk about music that I like with other people I can’t believe how much my opinion is different from another’s. So I think music is utterly subjective. And I think if people like the record, they’ll like it for a lot of completely different reasons.
Essentially, the sound in “Bloom” is not that different from the one in “Teen Dream”. Was that something you were looking for?
Well, I honestly believe it’s quite different. I think the sounds of “Teen Dream” are kind of small, you know? I like them, I respect them for what they are, but they feel like small little songs. They have this one feeling in them, whereas “Bloom” is immense. If the songs in “Teen Dream” are like a planet, then these songs are like galaxies. They are not so simple, they have beginnings and ends, and they just don’t repeat and loop. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe but I feel the songs are the most imaginative and creative songs we’ve ever made in our entire lives. That’s how I feel about that. They might sound kind of similar, just superficially, if you don’t really listen to it, but it’s very, very different. Maybe you haven’t listened to it enough.
I have really, really listened to it a lot! I really feel the sound is bigger, more expansive. I was just about to tell you that I listened to “Wild” like a year ago at a festival. It was a great song, it had and uplifting and energetic mood. I do really think there are differences.
Yeah. So I guess what you meant when you said that they sounded pretty similar is that you are defining the sound of our band. Because there is something that is always the same in all our records. And that’s who we are. There are certain things about us that are always going to be there: Victoria’s voice, the drum machine, the instruments that we love… You know, we still love a lot of the same instruments so it’s not like we are using new instruments. The keyboards, the organs, and the guitars sounds… it’s just the kind of stuff that we like. So, yeah, from record to record there is a certain amount that is going to sound similar.
How will these bigger sounds you are describing fit in your live shows?
We’ve been practising a lot. It’s challenging because you have to play in a much more intense kind of way. Hopefully - and I hope we will, if we are able to do it - it’s going to be a lot better. We are going to enjoy it more, so people are going to enjoy it more. It’s going to be like a big explosion or something. I’m excited because I don’t know how it is it going to be, but I have a feeling it could be very beautiful.
Some people feared that due to your fast growth you would want this record to sound 100% epic. But it sounds both intimate and epic. How do you achieve this?
I don’t know. I think this is exactly what we want. We just make music that feels natural to us. And I think those are the things we love. We want music that takes you somewhere but also makes you feel. It’s very hard to describe. From inside of us, we don’t really think about it too much. This is just what we do. This is something that happens with every artist, when you grew older you don’t want to do something you’ve done before. I don’t think we would ever want to make a song that doesn’t have a lot of emotion and feeling in it. That’s always there, our desire to have that feeling. I don’t know… I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more! [Laughs]
How do you work in the composition and writing? Do you equally share this work?
It’s fun. We tend to do everything together, except Victoria is the lyricist and the singer, so she writes all of the words. Mostly, I write some, but she writes more. But we work on the music together. We start with something that is very, very small, and we let it grow naturally and we build it, and build it and build it until it becomes a song. This might be one of the reasons it might be both intimate and epic, like you said. Because we start with something that is very small and we try to complete it until it is a real song.
Albums Beach House - Bloom
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