Beach House: “On the other side of darkness, there’s light, always. It’s the law of the universe”
The sprawling ‘Once Twice Melody’ finds Beach House taking advantage of an extended gestation period to wander down as many rabbit holes as possible.
If the essence of Beach House has always been the weaving of dreamy tapestries, then new record ‘Once Twice Melody’ has to be their most quintessentially Beach House yet. The sprawling, eighteen-track release, drip-fed in the form of four chapters over the course of the past four months - finds the Baltimore duo at their spaciest and most exploratory yet, taking advantage of a pandemic-extended gestation period to eschew self-editing and, instead, wander down as many rabbit holes as possible.
Accentuating their sonic cornerstones - Victoria Legrand’s smoky vocals, Alex Scally’s twinkly guitars - are everything from synths to live strings, as they recast their dream-pop foundations in a new mould, one inflected with psychedelia and goth-rock - ideal backdrops for Victoria’s trademark hazy poetry. “We believe made a world for people to enter into - kind of a literary, filmic world,” says Alex. “And who knows if we’ve succeeded, but that was the intention - to create somewhere that people can fully enter, and find a place there.”
How did you end up making a double album?
Victoria: Making this record was a three-year process that preceded the pandemic; over that length of time, you’re going to end up with a pretty expansive amount of ideas. I think we both found ourselves in a very open place in our lives, and we had zero desire to nix anything that we liked.
Alex: In the past, whenever we had ten or so songs, we’d say, “great, we have an album, let’s go to the studio,” and then the album would come a time capsule of that moment. This time, we just kept going, casting a wider and wider net. When people around us said they liked an idea that we weren’t sure about, we listened, and saw those songs through. It kept growing and, eventually, became this family of songs, this world of its own.
Victoria: The more you work, the more you make, and then the more you make, the more you want to keep working. We’ve never felt as if the ideas were going to dry up for us; over time, as you’re living your life, you collect all of these little ideas; you might be sitting on a train platform, and some lyrics just pop into your head, that kind of thing. It’s a pleasurable experience, sorting through this collection of little bits and pieces, and figuring out what works.
Are the four separate chapters of the record supposed to work as self-contained, standalone EPs?
Victoria: Those groupings of songs - they definitely speak to each other. We wanted to pace the journey into the forest of this record, because it’s a vast 18-song world.
Alex: They definitely each have vibes - a character of their own, for us as the creators, anyway. There’s a flow and a meaning moving through each chapter.
Was it freeing to just embrace every good idea you had, rather than worrying about having to cut the record down to size?
Alex: For sure. It allows you to actually create the world on the record, the world that opens up to you as you’re writing the songs. I think the commercial energy field is something that wants you to simplify things and give people something easily digestible, which is great for marketing, but not great for art. I mean, imagine if a modern movie studio had Solaris, and modern producers had to work with it; they’d just say, “you can’t release this - it’s just a non-stop series of frozen moments.” I don’t think indulgence is a dirty word. What comes to mind when you talk about indulgent artists is some washed-up musician putting out a million songs and saying, “don’t you just love all these demos I have?” Knock on wood, we’re not entering that territory. We’re just engaging with what our subconscious wanted, what the art wanted.
Victoria: It can be a progressive thing to indulge yourself, and pursue grandiose things, drama, velvet curtains. It’s liberating. Oversimplification does a disservice to dreams, and fantasies, and mystery, and storytelling, and creativity. We wanted to use our imaginations in a bigger capacity than we ever had before.
Why was now the time to finally self-produce a record?
Alex: It was just down to the fact that there were restrictions on how many people you could have in a room, and who could travel where. We’ve always been at the helm, and our own producers in terms of arrangement and instrumentation. Having a producer was always about having another person in the room, because that kind of expedites your way through the stagnation.
Victoria: When we made our last album with Sonic Boom, he was there as a vibe man; it was about his presence. I will say that it just being the two of us meant that it brought as closer than ever, and we were close to begin with. I think it speaks volumes that we still want to work together after all these years, given there’s so many reasons that bands end up self-imploding. We’v spent a fuckton of time together these past there years, which is something a lot of people maybe couldn’t handle. It’s a little bit masochistic.
Alex: I think we maybe have a special gift for self-abuse.
It feels like there are a lot of firsts on the album; a lot of areas you haven’t explored before, and a lot of choices you haven’t previously made, like putting live strings on some of these songs. Is that something that just emerges from giving yourselves more time and space?
Victoria: There are definitely things we’ve always wanted to do - strings being one of them - and it wasn’t the right moment, because the song wasn’t calling for it.
Alex: If there’s premeditation in the way we write, then it’s in terms of feeling. We never say, “let’s make a song with this type of drum beat, with that type of bassline, with these strings.” It’s always more intangible; it’s more like, “how can we make a song that feels like running through the rain?”
Victoria: I mean, it’s not even necessarily a feeling or emotion - it’s an instinctual thing. You gravitate towards something, you find it alluring, you desire it, and then you follow it, wherever it takes you. Writing songs can be emotional without even knowing quite what the emotion is.
How are you feeling about coming out of this long period of hibernation to take the record on the road, especially now the world’s changed the way it has?
Victoria: Well, on the other side of loss, there’s always a new-found appreciation for things that were taken for granted. We’re coming out of an incredible collective time of pain and grief, so it’s important to realise what we have, and what a beautiful thing it is to go to shows, be with strangers, really see each other. It’s a necessary thing for humans - to congregate, and to trust each other. We’ve missed it terribly. We’re going to try to love forwards; on the other side of darkness, there’s light, always. It’s the law of the universe.
‘Once Twice Melody’ is out 18th February via Bella Union.
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