Beach House: Interview
Changing Without Thinking
I met up with Alex Scally of Beach House after one of their shows at Columbus' Wexner Arts Center. The gig was part of their first large-scale tour since the 2006 release of their self-titled debut album. Alex was moderately fatigued and discouraged, but he was pleased with the show. Within the first few moments of talking with him, it became apparent that Alex's soft voice and innocent demeanor is like the human incarnation of his music. Throughout the 15 minutes I spent with him, he discussed the new direction of Beach House, a love for independent labels, and his dream for the distribution of music.
How's the tour been going? Have you been attacked by any rabid creatures?
No, no rabid creatures that I know of. We've never played such fancy places before, and they always have a lot of alcohol in the dressing rooms. Which is new to us -- we don't usually drink that much, but we've been drinking a lot. Which is not really great at all, and it's kind of silly, but it's been really fun, and the Grizzly Bear guys are fun as well. It's been a really fun tour, maybe exhausting.
Exhausting. Are you ready to go back to Maryland yet?
I'm ready to go home because I wanna get into a nice home routine. But then as soon as we get home we leave two days later for Europe, for five weeks. [Laughing] So it's not really much.
Colt, you had a question you wanted to ask?
[My friend Colt, starry-eyed and in love with Alex proceeds to ask a question.]
How did you guys pick up the instruments you use? They're really unique.
We were always getting new instruments to use for our recordings, but I think we just find things that we like and that we like the sound of. It's also not just how it sounds, but how it mixes with the other instruments. We really don't do it any intentional way, and it's usually just like, "Oh, I found this and it sounds really cool." And then we just use that. There is no master plan or anything.
How do you write your music with Victoria? Is it a group process or does one of you usually take charge?
No one usually takes charge. We just have all these ideas, and we just work with them together, play with them together. We never write at home and then bring it in. The songs usually start with a simple melody or chords, and we just let them grow and each little part just tacks onto it until it seems like it's done.
Your first album was released on Carpark Records and now Devotion is being released on the label. How is being on Carpark?
Carpark is just really cool because most record labels try to make you do more than one album. They let you do just one album at a time. So if you're happy with them, you do another album. If they're happy with you, you do another album. So it's not like you're stuck or anything.
So you're definitely happy with them?
They're really cool. We were just making music in Baltimore and we made a recording. And now we've been able to go around and play it, and it's made a lot of people happy. I can't complain and we don't wanna be huge or anything. This was the best we could have possibly expected.
You think it's important to be on an indie label, like Carpark?
I think so, yeah. I think it's important because there are not that many lies involved and hopefully the hype isn't out of control. You're presented in the way that you are. You create these pictures that you think you are, and you create this music that you care about, and you put it out there, and if people pick it up then that's great. That's why it's cool, because there isn't so much money behind it, and no one is telling you what to do. So, yeah, I think it's really important.
Your music was definitely picked up... did you expect your popularity to boom so quickly?
I don't know if it's booming. [Laughing] But no, not at all, and I'm just really grateful and it's really cool that so many people seem to get it. I'm really happy. I didn't expect it at all.
You think the internet had anything…
Oh yeah, 100% internet. We hadn't even toured yet and so many people were into hearing the music, so it's all internet. I think the internet has great powers for bad and incredible powers for good. Like, it's done wonders for so many bands that would never get heard at all.
Your new album, Devotion, is already getting a lot of attention on the internet, how do you think it sounds compared to the last album? What did you do differently?
It's just where we're going and it's hard to say what we did differently. The songs are just wherever we're at right now. Whenever you're creating, you're just always changing without even thinking about it. The last song we made for the last record was “Master of None,” and it seems like these songs are a lot more in that category and sort of more ecstatic, more hyper, less sleepy. I don't know, maybe people won't like it because a lot of people seemed to like the sleepiness.
Your music definitely has a unique sound to it, so what're some of your influences?
I just listen to music all of the time, it's really hard to say. I guess lately, I've been into Dusty Springfield a lot… just everything. There is just so much awesome music, so it's hard for me to say.
In light of different events in the music industry, such as the inevitable death of the CD and Radiohead recently letting their fans decide how much they wanted to pay for In Rainbows... of course, Radiohead is able to afford to do that because that have ridiculous amounts of money, but what direction do you think the music industry is moving?
It's hard for me to tell because I see things that contradict themselves all the time, but I know the direction I'd like it to be heading. I think vinyl is really cool; […] you buy a record and inside is a card so that you can download the album online for free, I think Matador does that. I think that's brilliant because I want to hold something when I buy a record and I want to have something real. I think vinyl sounds better always. I've really gotten into vinyl in recent years, I think it sounds a lot better than a CD. But people need to be able to take music places, so you give them the vinyl and you have the download in there, and we have completely digital and completely analog. We can just cut the CD out; the artwork never looks as good on a CD anyway. That's where I want it to go. I think it's heading there.
I agree. Is Carpark planning to do that?
Yeah, we're going to do vinyl for the next one. Double vinyl.
Have you made any new relationships with fans or with people that you've met that you could possibly work with in the future?
Sort of, yeah. We've met a lot of musicians, and I've met a lot of really great musicians and definitely might end up working with people in the future if the stars line up. It's so cool to tour though. There are so many ideas being thrown around when you're moving across the country so fast, and there are just so many people and so many destinations and ideas that come your way.