Interview: Victoria Legrand of Beach House
Mon, 03 Mar 2008 08:44:02
Beach House Videos
There's something fantastic, strange and somber about Maryland's Beach House. The dreamy pop duo are elusive, yet inviting at the same time. On their second full-length, Devotion, singer Victoria Legrand explores love, loss and longing with a poetic brilliance and captivating voice. She sat down with ARTISTdirect on the eve of the album's release and delved into the record as well as her creative process, the Baltimore artist community and classic literature.
Devotion feels like a pretty big evolution from your debut. What was the process behind this album like?
It was much longer and more complicated than the first album, but not in a bad way. The recording process took about three times longer than on our debut. The first record was recorded in two days, and it took about a week to mix it. This record took about a week and a half to record. The full process took about a month. For us, I thought it was a long time. In contrast to other people, it's pretty short, because most artists spend six months on a record.
How do you usually begin composing your songs? Is it on piano or guitar?
Normally, it's a different process for each one. I personally write on the piano first. I have an old Yamaha keyboard from, like, 1981. So the Yamaha is as old as I am. The Yamaha has a bunch of the organ sounds that you hear on the record. It's the main instrument of the band, almost. It's sort of the center, because our band is definitely keyboard-based. So, I usually write on that, and then I bring things that I've been working on into the studio or the practice space. Then, Alex and I generally flesh the songs out together. If he needs another part, we find another part. Or, we have bits and pieces over time and put them together. There are a few songs on the record that are like that.
The sound is very catchy, but at the same time you have a spacey, ethereal feel. Where are you drawing from?
When we were making the record, Alex and I were both listening to John Cale. We really like the production of the drums on his record Vintage Violence. Generally, Alex likes a lot of Motown stuff. We both like that. We like the old production and the drum sound. It's distant, echo-ey and far away. I think the recording didn't sound clean. We were trying to keep the sound distant. We didn't want the vocals to be completely dry either, but not as wet as on the first record. Obviously, my voice is different. It has more of a presence on this record.
It takes center stage in the sound. All the songs have that wistful feeling, and you evoke a lot of images.
Images are what inspire me in writing my lyrics. There are experiences that I have had that affect a lot of the songs. But yeah, it comes from something. But, I probably would never really say exactly what that experience was. I just take the energy that I find to be the most powerful for me. A lot of the time, the words just come out naturally when I'm writing. They just form themselves. Usually I'll form a melody, and the words will burst out. Rarely do I allow a stream of consciousness for my lyrics. I do pick and choose what to put down; I don't just let anything go.
It seems focused. You draw from certain images and you pursue those ideas. Are you a visual artist as well?
My father is a painter. I used to be his little artist. Now, I consider myself a visual musician. It's like if you combine the two. The way that I perceive music is very visual. The things that I pick to go with a song, like lyrics or parts, always go with a feeling. Like with a painting, you'll look at something and go, "That's right." You don't know why exactly, but the composition works. That's how it is with music, for me. It's the same for Alex. We're working together, and we know when something's right. It feels right. Alex is a carpenter during his off time. I think he's very much a perfectionist. We're both crazy perfectionists, in a way. But he's more of an engineer. He's also a guitarist. His mind balances well with mine. I have more of a raw type of brain. I've had the classical training, but I really think that things work based on how I'm feeling.
You evoke images and emotions. That's what makes the music so interesting. You can find new things on the record with repeat listens.
Right. Also, we've been doing a bunch of music videos for the new record. We've actually done three. One of them is finished. We're waiting for it to be color corrected, and then it'll be released. Doing these videos, figuring out the designs for sets and figuring out the outfits, costumes and colors, I was like, "Wow, our music really seems to work well for film and videos." Everything behind making the music was visual. I think it's going to hopefully come out more physically. I think it might make things more intense. Not intense in a serious way, but intense in a visceral way. It's very emotional. I feel like the music is more emotional now. The first record had emotion, but it wasn't palpable. You couldn't really hold on to it. It was fleeting, kind of distant.
It feels like you're a lot closer to the emotions and images that you're exploring.
Yeah, or maybe I'm closer to the thing inside of me or inside of Alex—or like the core of where everything comes from. Every record is an exploration of something. That's why I don't think that any two records should sound the same. I think it's natural for things to be different, slightly different. We didn't go crazy with overdubs or anything. We didn’t want to make a record that was completely different. It just happened naturally. It took longer. It was more intense. We changed slightly. We knew what we wanted to hear and what we didn't want to hear. It was much more of a challenge, and hopefully it will reveal something interesting to people.
Every song flows directly into the next. It's almost like the whole album has a thread through it. You want to sit down and hear the whole thing.
That's good. There are 11 songs. Well, it's a 45-minute long record. I actually haven't listened to the record in quite a while, because I've had so much stuff going on. It also feels strange listening to my own work sometimes, especially right when we first finished recording. We were too inside of it. Sometimes it was a little much to be listening to it twelve hours a day and then making sure everything was flowing. I think now we might revisit it and see what it sounds like.
It seems like, even though it came together so quickly, a lot of work was put into each and every song.
I think one or two of the songs were actually written way before, like right as the first record was coming out. We wrote the first album before we were signed to a label. We recorded it ourselves and all that jazz. By the time the record came out, and we were on that first tour, we already had a new song. That was "Wedding Bell," which is the first track on the new record, but that's not why it's number one. It's kind of the beginning. We wanted to write new songs. Playing the same songs all the time is not very durable for an artist. It gets old.
Why did you call the album Devotion?
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