Growing older has its perks — just ask singer and keyboardist Victoria Legrand. She and guitarist Alex Scally founded Beach House in Baltimore in 2004, and now that they’re in their mid-30s, the duo have never felt more artistically liberated.
“The older we get, the less of a fuck we give,” Legrand tells Exclaim! “You can see it in all people as they get older, until you’re in your 70s and you’re wearing three different kinds of outfits all at the same time. I think for artists, it’s a really amazing, fascinating experience. Most artists, probably, are into getting older because of that feeling. Your work becomes more a part of your life the longer you do it.”
This outlook reflects the lucky position that Legrand and Scally, find themselves in after seven LPs. Since their inception, their cinematic songs have been remarkably consistent in both sound and quality, and the new album 7 is yet another masterpiece of immaculate, crystalline dream pop. This is business as usual in the world of Beach House.
Do not, however, mistake Legrand’s “not giving a fuck” for complacency. She has clearly lost none of her awe for the creative process, and during conversation, she uses words like “magic” and “mystical” and “the ether.” So how exactly do she and Scally write such consistently transcendent songs?
“It’s beyond easy,” Legrand says of their process. “It’s some kind of joy or ecstasy or pure moment. That is the thing that we have always paid attention to: that moment. It takes only a few seconds and immediately all of your senses become activated. It’s some kind of mystical and animalistic reaction, where you’re immediately riveted like a child.”
When writing and recording 7, Legrand and Scally strove to preserve these moments of raw inspiration. They set up a home studio in order to capture ideas while they were fresh, and periodically booked a short studio sessions with live drummer James Barone. The recruited Sonic Boom (aka Peter Kember of Spacemen 3) as co-producer, and he helped to highlight the music’s spontaneous vibe. “He’s a master of that — of making sure that certain energies are not fucked with,” Legrand says of Kember. “Don’t jab at this playfulness, just let it happen.”
The 11 songs that make up 7 offer exactly what fans have come to expect from Beach House: a few stylistic tweaks here and there, but nothing that strays too far from the core dream pop blueprint that they’ve embodied since day one. “Lemon Glow” is a perfect example — the seasick synth that opens the song is initially jarring, but it’s soon folded into a heavy-lidded dream-pop swoon that’s classic Beach House. Likewise, “L’Inconnue” begins like a church hymn with its layered a cappella vocals, but the arrangement soon swells sweetly with wistful keys and vintage-sounding drum machines.
Above all, 7 is an album of heart-swelling beauty. “Dive” starts as an aching ballad before, halfway through, an enormous drum fill enters and the song surges off into a shoegaze sunset. Late-album highlight “Woo” has a swooshing new wave groove that’s gorgeously overlaid with echoing spoken fragments, tinkling music box synths, and one of Legrand’s most plaintive vocal melodies. For fans of the band, it’s sure to hit the spot.
Then again, to hear Legrand tell it, she might not particularly care what you or anyone else thinks of 7. She and Scally are caught up in their artistic bubble, and they work best when they shut out the world around them.
“As you’re making something, you eradicate — as much as you can — the knowledge of the existence of other things around you,” she muses. “You just fully go into your fantasy or your nightmare or your obsession. For me and Alex and the way we work together, that just seems to continue to be growing.”
Beach House’s new album 7 comes out May 11 on Sub Pop. They play Vancouver on August 12 and Toronto on August 20; find their complete tour dates here.