Wednesday, April 01, 2009


While Baltimore's reputation as a hotbed of murder, mayhem, and drug-slinging precedes it, Beach House are doing their best to carve out a calming psychic/sonic space amidst the urban grit and chaos. Formed in 2005, the duo of vocalist/organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/keyboard player Alex Scally reside and record within the crumbling city's limits, making languidly sloshy dream-pop that feels luxuriously effortless. Beach House, released in 2006 and last year's Devotion (both on Carpark) come across as distinctly a prioriti, as if Scally and Legrand hadn't polished these gems but simply tapped into and exploited the fluorescent runoff from some cosmic underground wellspring.

Legrand's rich, husky voice – think Nico, without all the smack – and gradualist cadences were beguiling enough on Beach House's debut, but Devotion kicked the band into higher gear. To be sure, the duo hadn't altered its core tactics: lobotomized organs and guitars coasted along on stoned cruise-control, rattles and tambourines jangled blithely on occasion, and Legrand eked out dreamy relationship complaints and concerns as though on the verge of passing out on some opium-den couch. Yet Devotion felt slightly less passive, less drift-like in execution, more assertive: Legrand meant it, pushing up on figurative elbows to set her voice above the unmoored fray, while the slo-mo drums hit harder and the woozy-snoozy melodies popped in the mix. For all its Sergio Morrocine overtones, "Gila" lives and dies on a sweet, loop-de-loop keyboard hook - not to mention Legrand's stretched, unsexualized "oh-oh-oh-oh" refrain. On "Wedding Bell," Alex Scally's ax figures register as dull buzz-saw roars as Legrand uncoils kalediscopic organ spools, drops. light-globule keybs, and comes across as, well, happy. Creamy, reverb-soaked organ-balm "D.A.R.L.I.N.G." even deigns to ramp the Beach House pace up to a weak trot and indulge in a multi-tracked chorus that spells out the song's title.

In mid-February, Legrand took time out from rehearsals to answer some questions about touring, bodies of water, and life in Baltimore.

Voguing to Danzig: Where are you right now, and what are you up to?

Victoria Legrand: We're in Baltimore and we’re writing new songs. Also resting.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: How did Beach House come about as a project? Did you know each other long before you started playing together?

VL: We'd known each other for not even a year when Beach House started. We were playing music already together, and then Beach House started when Alex and I just kept playing with each other. We'd go out, then go back to his place, and write music. Or anytime of day, really. We were pretty obsessed.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: "Beach house" strikes me as an especially apt name for your band, as your albums have a sort of languid, relaxed vibe to them. What drew you to the name?

VL: We were searching for a universe where the music could exist. The words kind of fell out and landed and fit nicely.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: What's your songwriting process like? Do you each bring songs to the other fully formed, or is it more of a matter of fleshing arrangements out together?

VL: Very rarely does someone bring a song fully formed to the table. Of late, Alex and I have both been coming up with bits and pieces. The previous records were written pretty similarly. I would bring chords and melodies to songs, and anything we needed to make happen we made it happen together. We work on the fleshing together all the time, and always have.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: Who do you consider some musical influences? I hear a lot of Velvet Underground, Nico, and Sugar Plant - who were a 90s shoegaze-pop band - in your sound.

VL: We admire the Velvet Underground. There is a lot of music that we love, but not one particular artist that has influenced us. We love it all.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: There's a D.I.Y. coziness and intimacy to your album sleeve covers. Do you design those yourselves?

VL: We discuss concepts together. I personally have enjoyed coming up with the cover concepts, like the jewels in the first album, and the altar scenario in Devotion's artwork. We believe in doing the album art ourselves because then its most faithful to the music.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: What's been your favorite Beach House touring experience so far?

VL: We've had several. We've had great short tours with Grizzly Bear, extremely sweet gentlemen. We've toured with the Papercuts, the Clientele, the Fleet Foxes, the Walkmen. They've all had their unique amazing moments.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: Do you find Baltimore to be an especially inspiring city, in terms of the surroundings and the musical scene? Do you have any favorite hometown bands?

VL: The city itself is complicated. It's both terrifying and sheltering. The artistic environment is supportive and plentiful. Personal favorites: Celebration, Video Hippos, Adventure. The list goes on and on!

VOGUING TO DANZIG: Are there any immediate plans for a longer tour, or a third full-length?

VL: No immediate plans for a longer tour, Just snippets here and there. There will definitely be a third full-length. I think we are very excited about making new music. We still enjoy working together after all the time we've spent together. That's weird! Just kidding.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: Do you two like to swim? I ask that question - and it's sort of an odd one, I know - because your songs make me think of bouys or driftwood bobbing and dipping in some warm ocean current. I always imagine the pair of you spending time in a hot tub or a hot spring, then retiring to the studio to record something new and langorous.

VL: I love water. All kinds, swimming pools: reservoirs. We both like bodies of water, yes. I think that would be an ultimate fantasy: a hot spring then retiring to make some more music. Could you arrange that for us? That would be excellent.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: Of all the Beach House songs you've written, which one means the most to you, and why?

VL: "Apple Orchard" will always be an important song for me. It almost signifies the beginning. There is a lot of emotion in that song for me. But each song means the most, in a way.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: Has the faltering economy had any impact on your tour plans?

VL: Well, gas has been a lot cheaper. Other than that, when we're in the van, it's all shag carpets, caviar, and Cristal.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: If you were mandated, by law, to attach a warning label to your albums, how would it read? I mean that in the sense of "this product could cause cancer" for cigarettes or "please enjoy responsibility" for alcohol?

VL: Warning: Babies might like us.

VOGUING TO DANZIG: What's the first thing you like to do upon returning home from a long, grueling tour?

VL: Throw my clothes and suitcase somewhere it will then stay for much longer than it should until I realize that I never unpacked my belongings because the tour has officially overloaded my brain stem.

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