Beach Fossils

Crashing the Party

May 31, 2017 Photography by Kohei Kawashima Issue #60 - Father John Misty
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For Dustin Payseur, the frontman of Beach Fossils, the making of a record is a singular obsession, akin to the sprawling, punctilious films of Stanley Kubrick, who notoriously labored after the excruciating minutiae of every single take. Payseur is similar in spirit to the legendary director. "I'm selfish when I make a record," he admits. "I'm doing it for myself. I just want to have something that represents me. I won't be here forever. I want something that will be living when I'm not in my physical form anymore. That's my obsession-leaving your mark, leaving yourself behind to other people."

And he leaves a profound mark on the visceral gut-punch of the band's third album, the maddeningly ambitious Somersault. Payseur is proud that band members Jack Doyle Smith and Tommy Davidson co-wrote the songs on the album, a sea change from his former role as the undisputed leader of the group. This one is egalitarian, according to Payseur. "This record wouldn't exist how it is without Tommy and Jack."

The album is also something of an open party, featuring guests including Rachel Goswell of Slowdive on "Tangerine" and Cities Aviv on "Rise." Of Goswell, Payseur, a longtime fan, was nervous about asking her, but his trepidation was assuaged by his wife, Katie Garcia, who along with Payseur, runs Bayonet Records, the label releasing the album, and has a relationship with Secretly Canadian, who work with Slowdive.

"They've been a huge influence on our music and a lot of people's music, and I've always loved her voice, and I didn't think they'd say yes," says Payseur. "I was really worried about it. But Katie said, 'I've been emailing with Rachel and she's really sweet and you should just reach out,' so we did and she wrote back and said, 'I'd really like to do this. I love it.' When I read that email I was like, 'Oh my god!' It was really exciting."

Rapper Cities Aviv (aka Gavin Mays) knows Payseur, so that process was far simpler. "Rise" was originally intended to be the instrumental outdo to "May 1st," but that changed when Mays visited the band to swap ideas, providing an impetus for the hip-hop artist to add vocals to the song.

Payseur says this is the Beach Fossils album he's dreamed of making, still influenced by one of his favorite ever jangle pop bands, The Byrds, always in his DNA. He's also clearly enamored of his close-knit relationship with Smith and Davidson, cultivated over a lot of ardent laboring in the studio and on the road. They're a band in a classic sense now, and it's not always without conflict, but they've morphed into the unit Payseur always wanted. "We've spent so much fucking time together after working on this record. We argue so much. It's healthy arguing. I can't stand it when someone's being passive-aggressive. If you have a problem let's discuss it now and get past it. We're like family members now. We're way beyond friendship. We love each other."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2017 Issue (April/May/June 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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