It's all very well supporting Vampire Weekend and playing in front of 14,000 people, but Beach House are after a more intimate kind of success, Victoria Legrand tells SIOBHÁN KANE
WITH THEIR three records - Beach House, Devotionand Teen Dream- Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have managed to create places of sanctuary and retreat. They formed in 2004 in Baltimore, Maryland, and their kinship is borne out in the spirit of their collaborations: intimate, dreamy, fragile, yet full of depth and strength. In a sense they are a family, and view their records in the same way, with songs having to "belong".
"That is how Alex and I still operate. It is very much part of our beliefs. It is all very intuitive - one cannot happen without the other. When you call it an album it is because it is part of a world. Sequence is very important to us as well, because we care very much about putting out our collection."
This care extends to their live set-up too, with their tour of Teen Dreaminvolving a set with jellyfish-like creatures (made by Scally) framing the band.
Still on the live theme, Legrand laughingly recalls a summer's evening at Primavera in Barcelona. "That was a special show. It's one of those things where you can't really explain why. It probably has a lot to do with all the drugs people are on and the beautiful surroundings, but a lot of concerts have been memorable in Europe. It is our second real tour without doing a lot of festivals, because overall we like regular shows a lot more - it is more of an experience - though festivals are where other people can find you."
Considering the intimate content of their records, which can go from a heartbreaking song about frailty such as Take Careto the swooping, soaring Norway, it is hard to align them with groups such as Vampire Weekend, who they recently supported in the US.
"That's a very different world, and I don't think we are very interested in playing massive venues for 14,000 people. The shows were fine. We played in front of a bunch of teenagers, which was funny, so there were things that were good, but things that were bad. When you are dealing with that kind of band, it is a different culture, a different kind of success, a different route. When our first record came out, it wasn't on the front cover of Spin. That is probably one of the last times we ever support a band that is big like that. If you want a certain type of success then you will climb those little ladders, but for Alex and I, just touring and coming up with interesting shows and records is more fulfilling than leaping levels, so for us it was more of an experiment. Our music is much more personal, and we want personal experiences."
Another band with a unique way of navigating things, The Walkmen, come to mind. "They are an amazing band and, like us, really don't care about being massive. They want to make records and tour and have been doing it for so long. No one needs to play for more than 5,000 people. U2 is U2, but then you get massive crap that gets huge and fizzles away in a year and no one cares, and that's not our world either, so in between there are regular shows like ours. We are playing Vicar Street this time, which is big, but I hope we make it special."
The instruments they use are usually vintage, such as their white Yamaha. "It is the keyboard I have had since the beginning. It has been a very useful part of Beach House. When people ask if anything has changed, I say there are lots of natural changes, but some elements stay the same. We try to acquire keyboards as we go along. Even if its shitty it might have something amazing about it. The white one has been a loyal companion - we don't use it for a while, and then all of a sudden we find another sound. It continued to unfurl its jewels for Teen Dream."
On this record they worked with producer Chris Coady (Cass McCombs, Grizzly Bear among others) having self-produced their previous two albums, and Victoria made her debut as director on the video for Silver Soul.
"I found it challenging, but more exciting than anything. I have a lot of visions in regard to our music, and that is when I know I am going in the right direction inspirationally. To basically tell people your ideas, then have it happen in front of you is a pretty magical experience. The best part about Baltimore is that everyone helps each other out. When I cast the video I had a clear sense of what I wanted. I was very grateful I had all these people who were willing to let me film their ass or whatever."
Baltimore is home to a supportive community of interesting artists, including the brilliant Future Islands, to whom Victoria lent her vocals for a remix of their Little Dreamer. "They were new friends, and had just moved to Baltimore. I think it depends on the person and the connection with somebody, though I think I have had my period of doing things with other people for now, and I will always be picky about it."
They are equally picky about who collaborates with them. Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene directed the video for Take Care. "He is someone we met on the road, and we all became close friends. In a strange way his idea was almost exactly what we would have imagined for that world. For us it was emotional to watch, as it made sense in the way that sometimes when you are friends with someone, they just get it. Kevin is an amazing mind."
With all their touring this year, it was a pleasant surprise when they released a new song, White Moon, but the touring process actually goes hand-in-hand with their writing.
"That song was being worked on in Teen Dreamand throughout the tours. We were always looking for a place to put it, but didn't think it would be a Teen Dreamsong. It existed on its own, though it may be part of a record one day. I hope people like it, as it really is a little moonbeam. We're writing a lot, and I definitely believe there is going to be another Beach House record sooner rather than later, but we just have to get home and continue writing. Touring has always been part of our creative process. This is our last run in Europe, then we go to Australia, but that's it for a while, so fingers crossed we will get down to it. Things are definitely stewing."
One theme in their work is a belief in the mystery of life, which often gets lost in the debris of the everyday. "For me it is very important to think about things like that. Maybe it is just part of the creative mind - the ability to play with things, the universe, and see things from different sides - to look at one situation and connect it to another in a way someone else hasn't thought of and that can make sense. That is why people do this, for the ability to connect with other people."
Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes of the Broken Heartedcomes to mind when thinking about Beach House, and it happens to be one of Scally's favourite songs, and provides the subject of much of their work. Says Legrand: "Some days my heart is extremely confused, some days it feels nothing, some days it's overwhelmed with getting older, and some days it goes crazy. The only thing that probably gives my life meaning is knowing that I may have made someone happy with my music."
Beach House play Vicar Street on Monday. Teen Dreamis out on Bella Union