When you hear a Beach House song, there’s no mistaking who’s behind it. Over 10-plus years and five albums — counting Depression Cherry, out August 28th — Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have forged a singular sonic identity. The boilerplate descriptor for the band’s sound has always been “dream pop,” and there’s a reason for that: On songs like new single “Sparks,” Legrand’s misty vocals and Scally’s reverb-drenched guitar work combine with buzzing, enveloping organ to create a sweet yet daringly heady sound.
Chances are, if you care enough to be reading this right now, you’ve already heard Depression Cherry: It leaked in a high-profile fumble in early July. The record has the vibe of an unabridged film score. (It shouldn’t be surprising that the group made one for the 2013 short “This Must Be the Only Fantasy” and has expressed a willingness to do more composing for the big screen.) Cherry is more subtle and airy than the Baltimore duo’s previous two efforts, Bloom and Teen Dream, but the sound still hinges on the group’s core elements — that guitar, those keyboards and that voice.
Beach House were rehearsing in their hometown for an upcoming tour, kicking off August 18th in Portland, Maine, when multi-instrumentalist Scally took our phone call. The ensuing back-and-forth was sometimes tense — and other times, downright contentious — but revealing: an illustration of the group’s staunchly uncompromising nature.
Do you see Depression Cherry as a dialing back?
We are extremely natural in the writing process. One thing that has been really great for us over the years is touring. A tour really makes us sick of our old songs, in a certain way. We get tired of what we’re doing. And so in an incredibly natural way — it’s not so much intellectual, it’s an instinctual thing — it drives us toward something else. And this record was no different. We played Bloom for 150 shows, and when we got home and started writing, this is what came out. We followed the natural course. I don’t think that these songs are like the first two records; I think they are different than all of the records. People can hear whatever they want to hear. We are still moving forward; it’s not a regression or a return. Sometimes, going forward doesn’t mean the capitalistic sense of always growing. It’s not, for us, making the biggest anthem.
Is the Beach House “sound” a conscious effort, then?
It’s impossible to encapsulate the artistic process. In terms of intentionality, the instruments that we use — primarily organs and keyboards and just the one guitar — have been our instruments since the beginning. An acoustic guitar did not inspire us. A live drummer didn’t inspire us. A lot of things that are common in music didn’t inspire us. All of the keyboards that we use — that we have and that we collect — are ones we get because of the sounds on them. The presets, the natural timbre of the sounds drive us toward creativity. For us, creativity in writing and sound production are tied. For some musicians, they’re not. They make a song and then they treat it in different styles: “Oh, I want to hop on this trend and make it kind of like this, now that I have this group of lyrics and melodies.” For us, it’s the actual sounds themselves — the drum loops, the keyboards — these things that we’ve loved forever that drive us toward the music. So there’s no separating them for us.