As a full day of music comes to a close at the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand of Beach House take the stage for their headlining appearance, letting the unusually cool summer air greet them. Quickly, the pair of longtime collaborators jumps into a set of songs both new and old, mesmerizing listeners in a way that only they can. Buried beneath all of their usual charm, however, is a sense of raw emotion that feels both genuine and urgent, making this set more special than any other I’ve ever seen from the dream pop duo.
“Love is the key word,” says Legrand at one point during the set. “And fear is the bad word.”
This simple statement seems incredibly relevant, especially considering the terrorist attacks in Nice, France that had happened just one day prior. Later on in the set, I also remember that Legrand was born in France, making her words even more moving.
Less than a week later, I find myself talking on the phone with Scally, and I quickly bring up the performance mentioned above. The guitarist tells me that half of Legrand’s family is from France, making the country very close to the both of them. Ultimately, though, he makes sure to point out that her words could be applied to “everything happening everywhere.”
“I don’t know if it’s just my perception, but it seems like everyone’s kind of feeling like everything is unraveling, and it feels very beautiful to try to ignore that and try to create an atmosphere of love and happiness and acceptance,” Scally says. “We try to create that feeling; we always have. But now more than ever, it feels like there’s some sort of mission to create that feeling of love every night just so that more of it exists in the world and less of the garbage keeps getting pushed around.”
Although he and Legrand share these views, the guitarist points out that nothing Legrand ever says on stage is planned. “Victoria’s very much just shooting from the hip,” he says. “Whatever she’s feeling, she says. And if she doesn’t feel anything, she doesn’t say anything.” This spontaneous nature seems to be a consistent theme with Beach House, especially when it comes to the duo’s songwriting.
Although they’ve always stuck to this natural approach of making music, Scally does believe that the songwriting dynamic between he and Legrand has evolved over the years. “I think things have changed a lot, if you look closely,” he says. “Victoria plays the guitar and bass some now. It’s evolved a lot in different ways. You might not hear it if you don’t listen closely, just because the instruments we’ve used haven’t changed a whole lot. But, in some ways, they have.”
Nevertheless, Beach House has remained one of the most consistent indie rock bands of the modern era, earning praise with every new album they put out. This includes their pair of 2015 releases, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which were both written during a very creative time for the band.
“We were writing a record, which was Depression Cherry, and it was almost done,” Scally says. “But because of the way booking works, we had to book our studio time way in advance. So we were like, ‘Okay. Well, we’ll be done writing by November.’ But, we ended up being finished writing Depression Cherry in July.”
With so much extra spare time prior to heading into the studio, Beach House decided to write some more songs, which became Thank Your Lucky Stars. “We just let the songs be really bare and considered it a bonus record really,” Scally says. “Like, ‘We already have written this one record, and now we’ve written this other. It’ll be something we put out for the fans.’” With this in mind, the duo didn’t subject Thank Your Lucky Stars to any of the typical album marketing tactics either.
“Normally when you release a record, you have to have a million people listen to it and write about it before it even comes out,” Scally says. “And, you have to pick a lead single and do all this stuff. So when we realized we had two records, we had the idea of, ‘Let’s not do that whole thing for the second record. Let’s just release it.’”
Now more than 100 shows later, Beach House is nearing the end of their massive tour in support of this pair of records. “We tour really, really hard, and we’re pretty worn out since we’ve been going almost a year,” Scally says.
“I’m really excited to finish the year in smaller cities throughout the center of America because I get so inspired by touring through those parts,” he concludes. “I get very inspired by the road, even though it completely destroys us. I still find it very beautiful, so I’m excited.”