Arts & Culture
Beach House Discusses Duo's New Album
We talk to guitarist Alex Scally about loving Baltimore and playing Windjammer.
It’s been 10 years since indie dream-pop duo Beach House started its journey towards becoming one of Baltimore’s biggest bands. French-born singer/organist Victoria LeGrand and Baltimore native guitarist Alex Scally burst into indie stardom with their last two albums, Teen Dream (2010) and Bloom (2012), and now they’re about to drop the much-anticipated Depression Cherry, out August 28 via Sub Pop Records. We talk to Scally about still loving Baltimore and their upcoming show at Pier Six Pavilion.
You guys just got back from a press tour in Europe. Is coming back to Baltimore still rejuvenating after being on the road?
Yeah, I’m born and raised in Baltimore City and I love Baltimore. I keep expecting the love to go away but it really doesn’t. There’s just something about the way the seasons are here, the people are here.
You’re about to start a pretty extensive tour for Depression Cherry.
We have a lot scheduled because we’ve always loved it. It’s always been fun and we learn a lot from it. I’m expecting to still love it, but it might be a little harder, because of the weird entity of getting old.
You’re playing some pretty amazing venues, too: Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the Fillmore in San Francisco.
We’ve played a lot of small venues and big venues and middle venues in our 10 years of doing this. We’ve tried to avoid big ones—they don’t lead to very good shows for us. I don’t think we’ve ever done Ryman before and that might be our biggest venue on the tour. We’ve played Fillmore probably five times, but it’s a pretty small place for such a big city.
And then you’ll be at Pier Six for Windjammer on August 29. We’ll be there.
You know, Baltimore is notoriously lacking in mid-sized venues. For one reason or another, whether its location or the way it’s designed, there just isn’t a place in Baltimore that’s 800, 1,100, 1,200 seats that is a place where everybody loves to go and is beautiful and sounds good. Imagine something like the 9:30 Club. Even when we had Sonar, it was one of the worst sounding places in the world, you know? We have The Lyric, but that’s very formal and kind of uptight.
It’s going to be pretty epic—triple headlining with Dan Deacon, Future Islands, and then all the other Baltimore bands. How did the idea come about?
I forget how it started but I think Dan and I were both saying, well, if we all joined forces, maybe we could play somewhere really fun, rather than have to do shows of our own in places we’re not psyched on. Future Islands hasn’t really done a Baltimore show since everything happened with them. I’ve gone to a couple summer shows at Pier Six and it just feels so fun being in the breezy harbor. We were like, shoot, let’s try to do a summer show there. Then we all invited a band and a DJ and the bill was set.
At first, I thought, interesting. Pier Six. I don’t know. It feels like such a big Baltimore venue for you guys but . . .
It’s actually not that big! When I was a kid and I would go there, it always felt so huge, but when I went to see Hall & Oates [last September] or whatever, it didn’t feel that huge. And it’s so cool having water on either side of you. And the way the hill rises up and the wind just blows across. It seems like a killer place to just lie around in the sun and drink beer all day.
And it’s going to be a benefit concert for Believe in Music, the Living Classrooms music education program.
Somewhere along the line, money started being discussed. Not in a negative way, just like, how we should set the ticket price? We saw all these different amounts that could make it sell out and it just started feeling weirder and weirder. Around the same time was when everything was happening surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and we decided this should definitely just be a charity show. So after expenses paid, it’s all for charity. I think our idea was: It should be small enough that the money would go directly into action, as opposed to an established, giant charity, where it would kind of just be another bit on the heap.
What band and DJ did you and Victoria pick for the lineup?
We picked Romantic States. Jim [Triplett] was in a band called Videohippos and this is his new band. We really like his songwriting. It’s just really unpretentious and simple. Their music is really beautifully simple, with just guitar and drums. In an era where everything feels overthought, it’s under-thought, in a good way. And we picked a DJ friend of ours, Big Party, who plays great music. We’ve played with Dan a bunch of times, and we were all on the Round Robin Tour [in 2008]. I would consider all of those guys good friends at this point.
It’s been a decade since you started Beach House. With all the work and travel and acclaim, do you still feel connected to the Baltimore music scene?
I feel really connected. We still have a lot of friends here. I don’t spend as much time out every night, and I might not know as many people every time I go out, but that also might be, like, getting older. Ten years ago, we were out every night of the week. It’s just a different culture being really young. But I still really love Baltimore and feel like a part of it. I think Baltimore is changing. It was changing back then, too. Like everything in reality, it’s always shifting and changing.
What sparked this album? Was it just the right time?
Touring is such a big part of our life because we learn so much. It’s so much of the way we interact with the universe. And then, when touring ends and you get home and you start to write, there’s a natural pace. This time, it took a little bit longer to decompress and take stock of things and feel natural again, and when we did, we began writing. Nothing is pre-imagined. Nothing is conscious.
You recorded and produced in Louisiana, but did you write it here?
We’ve written every song we’ve ever made in Baltimore. We always write at home.
Do you write in your practice space in Fells Point?
Every song comes about differently. Little things start—maybe at sound check, maybe at home on a guitar—and they evolve into something else and grow. We do a lot of jamming. It’s very collaborative. But we take our time with it. Sometimes it happens fast and other times it’s months before a song goes where it’s supposed to. These songs were probably starting around the same time Bloom came out. We didn’t have any time to work on them [before] then. We had burnt the candle on both ends and needed to recover.
Should it be listened to as a whole, as you’ve said in the past?
That’s something we were saying last album that we then realized is so stupid to tell people. I think people should listen to things however they want.
That being said, are there any songs that stand out for you?
Was there one that stands out to you?
I really love how bare bones “10:37” is. It feels like you, but it feels like something completely new, too.
Yeah, I personally think we’re breaking a lot of ground on this record, but we move at such a slow pace, it probably won’t even be noticed. I think every song is special to us for some reason. It’s awesome that you chose that song; someone else might say another. I often feel like a fool when I’m trying to convince someone to like a song I love—just playing it really loud and staring at them like, ‘Do you hear this?!’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t know . . . I don’t know if I’m hearing what you’re hearing . . .’
“Do you feel what I feel?!”
It’s so funny. It’s the ultimate human condition: wanting to know how someone else is feeling and if it’s similar to you.
Read our review of Depression Cherry in the August issue of Baltimore magazine, on newsstands now.