Interview: Beach House on new album ‘7’ and pushing forwards

Beach House on new album ‘7’ and pushing forwards

“Give in to the unknown and you can be free,” Victoria Legrand tells us.

Today, Beach House release their new album ‘7’ The, well, seventh album from Baltimore’s Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally is a brilliantly considered progression, following 2015’s one-two of ‘Depression Cherry’ and ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’.

“It seems that every time Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally pick up their instruments, a gorgeous, irreplaceable atmosphere washes over anything they play,” we wrote in our review of ‘7’, “and on album seven, it’s lost none of its potency.”

A product of a handful of sessions in different studios and in the band’s homes, we talk to Victoria about ‘7’, the magic of music, and pushing forwards.

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You’ve said your new album is concerned with “rebirth and rejuvenation” - did it prove easy to hit the reset button over a decade into your career, or did it take some time?

This album ‘7’ wanted to happen and it happened fast. It seems like the creativity was just ready to pour out - a creative urgency in times of darkness and we just went with the flow. There’s no better time to do as much as you can when you believe in it. The best part of getting older is the learning from experiences. It’s easy to reset when you have all the pent up frustration from the past and determination to change.

Building the studio in our practice space in Baltimore enabled us to be creative and professionally record at the same time.  No middlemen… we didn’t really do demos for this record. A good deal of the record was recorded in Baltimore, [just] beats, keys, some guitar, and some vocals.  A good amount of vocals and drums were recorded at Carriage House, Crown Lanes studios and Palmetto studios as well. ‘7’ is really a hybrid of home recording and professional studio.

Did releasing your b-sides and rarities compilation last year help with the idea of starting anew?

It was more of an organisational necessity. It did blow our minds how much music we’ve made, digging through the past. I think it was just a necessary task to gather loose ends and come to terms with the past to some extent. It didn’t affect ‘7’ in any creative way.

Releasing ‘Depression Cherry’ and ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ so close together back in 2015 was a move we don’t often see - what did you learn from the process, and is experimenting with non-traditional release techniques something you’re interested in?

We learned that spending long periods of time in a studio is not always an inspiring thing. It can be spark-crushing, and just because you spend a long time in a studio doesn’t mean you’ll get the time you want to experiment and be creative there. The people you work with and surround yourself with affect those creative energies. That’s why working and co-producing with Sonic Boom was so beneficial because he supported our non-traditional method of operating. He’s a believer in that.

He was also a great harbinger of sound experimentation and play. After doing four records with Chris Coady - and there’s nothing but respect there - we learned that we had to change ways of working and people we worked with. That’s where the desire for new really began… Out of frustration and boredom. You definitely need those elements to find the new paths that excite you. We learned we didn’t want to move forward in the same way we had done before.

“We learned we didn’t want to move forward in the same way we had done before.”

Victoria Legrand

The album was recorded across a number of sessions - does it still feel like a cohesive piece of work, or do you see the different sessions representing different sounds and feelings across the album?

It’s absolutely a cohesive piece of work to us. If anything, changing locations for each chunk of songs to be recorded helped keep the electricity alive and energy fresh.

Changing the ways we did things in the writing and recording process never endangered our ability to feel the shape of the album; it only made things more clear actually. We had more time between sessions to really hear and feel what had been created, and more time to really know what’s going rather than what you would get in being stuck somewhere in a studio for two months losing perspective. A great deal of the album art inspiration came out of all this time as well, i.e. discovery of op art as a theme, Warholian ‘60/’70s black and white, collage etc and made our creative art direction over final album art more bold and extensive. We wanted it to be striking like the number ‘7’.

What did you gain from such a different process, and can you pinpoint where the changes can be heard on the finished product?

I think you just have to listen to the record. It’s not really our place to tell people how it’s different or how to feel or respond. That’s the exciting part, not knowing what it’s going to mean to people. I believe that all the energy we felt and put in is in the record. Repeated listens and listening loudly should help reveal that.

It also features more electronic elements than we’ve seen from you before - was that due to new music you were being influenced by, or simply a desire to try new things?

I think desire is incredibly powerful, and especially a desire that doesn’t know where it’s going exactly so that you can play around at optimum capacity. Give in to the unknown and you can be free! We were very inspired by rhythm and heaviness and many of the beats on the record really influenced the musical developments of the songs’ identities. ‘Black Car’ is a good example of that. It’s amazing what worlds chords and rhythm can create together. They can literally create night.

Beach House’s new album ‘7’ is out now via Bella Union.