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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beach House's Victoria Legrand Says Justin Bieber's Music Makes Her "Need To Take a Shit"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 3:30 AM

Beach House
  • Beach House

Baltimore indie band Beach House plays the Fox Theater this Friday. We caught up with singer Victoria Legrand to find out more about the group's beautiful new record, Bloom. Before the interview, we were asked by her publicist to avoid "generic who/what/where/when/why questions" and stick to the bio we were sent as a reference.

What followed was a frustrating and awkward exchange with one of the more unique voices in indie music: ripe, full, and androgynous, a voice that defines the reverby Sub Pop sound. But Legrand turned questions around on us, painted a vision of a world in which making music is comparable to "working in a field," and said Justin Bieber's music "makes you feel like you need to take a shit." Here's the interview:

You wrote the majority of Bloom while on tour, right?

No, we actually did not. We wrote the record in Baltimore.

How did being on tour for two years, that itinerant lifestyle and sense of transience, affect your songwriting for the new album?

Well, do you know our music?


Have you been to any of our shows?


Okay. We've been a band since 2005, and touring was one of the first things we did before even really caring about being on a record label. Nowadays bands don't make a lot of money selling records. You make your living off of touring, and if you're doing it a lot and doing it right, you're busy, you're traveling, you're interacting with the music audience. Some people sit in an office, some people go to school, some people work in a field. Every human has a different way that they spend all of their time. We spend our time writing music, traveling, living, breathing, eating, doing this. This is our livelihood. For us to just say that touring is the reason why we make music -- it's not. It's everything combined, and music is the way that we express our experience.

When you combine six years of touring and over 500 shows in a career, at that point it's probably changed you in many ways, it's affected you. It's not like you're just sitting in a pasture. You're growing with your music, so it's a bit more complicated than that. Life in general changes you and affects you, so touring is part of that because it's part of our lives.

Your bio says that Bloom is meant to be experienced as an album, and offers a unified vision of the world. Can you talk about that vision and the lyrics of the new album? It sounds consistent with the last album, but calmer, and you can hear the lyrics more, so we're wondering what that change is about.

Well, nothing has changed -- the way that we work, the way our process is, the way that we feel intensely about what we do, the fact that we're songwriters. We don't write hits. It's about real feelings and songs and craft. We're album lovers, which means that one of the first things we bonded over as people was a love of records. You like to get into records because they're beautiful. An amazing album from start to finish is a great experience. It could be your entire summer, it could be your year, it could remind you of some time in your life, it could be your future.

From our bio, which it seems like you are referencing mostly, that statement -- that this album is meant to be experienced as an album -- is just basically reiterating to someone who wouldn't know anything about us that what they're going to find is a group that cares very deeply about music and about songs. They're not going to get, you know, like, a Justin Bieber record that has two hits on it and then, like, eight confusing songs that make you feel like you need to take a shit.

My point is, we're repeating something we feel very strongly about. It's a record. Every song is there for a reason. There's nothing in the album that has been put there carelessly. It's a work, like a painting, not just songs slopped together. You can listen to it any way you want. We're not saying you have to listen to it from beginning to end. It's choice. You can love a song. It's not a dictatorial kind of thing, it's just an elegant statement of how we feel about what we do.

Next: How songwriting is like making a soup.

What I love most about your music is the combination of minimalism and complexity. You have these simple riffs, but when layered on top of each other they make a compelling whole. What is your songwriting approach?

It's like when you make a soup. You don't want a soup. You don't want lots of things floating around that are just in there for no reason. You want the best carrot, or the best meat, or the tastiest thing, you want that quality. It's also about essential things. We're a three-piece when we tour. We have a drummer Daniel Franz, who is extremely important to us, but in writing it's primarily Alex [Scally] and I. Because of these limitations that we choose to have upon ourselves, we like that we have to be selective about what happens. We want to be able to recreate what we write live, so we don't just add five layers of a synth or this cool sound or this thing. Each sound is a character, each sound is integral to the song. Nothing goes in that doesn't belong.

So I think that what you're feeling is the craft, that everything is there with intention, every kind of unique weird string sound or keyboard that you can't tell if it's an organ or an electric keyboard, these are things that we've cultivated, and each one has taken time. It's not like we pressed a sampler and got some sort of automated thing. Each sound is something that we fell in love with. It's not just about the way things sound, either. It all starts from a feeling or the chord and melody. That's the real meat of it all. That's where the feeling happens. There's a lot of great sounds in music, but it's not gonna necessarily make you feel something.

Do you and Alex [Scally] work collaboratively most of the time?

Yes. We work very intensely together. We have every day, anywhere between eight and 16 hours. It's work, you know, there's a discipline to it, but we'll also bring stuff that we've each written alone. There's a harmony between us, and also, because we're moving in the same direction, these forces are created that are intense. But you need those intense tensions when you really care about something. You don't want to lose it, and sometimes you have to break an idea to make it come to life. That's where the collaboration is very interesting, because we really put our two heads together and that's when the records are written.

How involved is Chris Coady's production style? How collaborative is it?

We're not a band that doesn't have a sound and needs help -- we're a band that has a very distinct and clear idea of what they want to sound like on each record. So we can't really work with someone who is gonna try to get in the way of that. Chris understands our vision and he helps us make sure we achieve what we have envisioned. The collaboration occurs in his understanding and respect of the fact that we're such control freaks and that we're not really asking for help at all. But we are asking for his amazing ability to get takes, his amazing knowledge. He's a very talented man, so he does know things that we don't know, but it only helps our vision, so that's where it really meets in the middle.

-- @theChloeRoth

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