Beach House - Victoria Legrand on “7”

Like Children Do

Oct 19, 2018 Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington Photography by Shawn Brackbill Bookmark and Share


If you were to make a word cloud representing Beach House vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Victoria Legrand describing the creative process she shares with multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally, the word "intuition" would be bold and about twice as big as any other word. Over the past 14 years, that intuition has served them well, resulting in a series of remarkably consistent albums that have evolved subtly while retaining the duo's idiosyncratic aesthetic. When it works, that process resembles what Legrand likens to "children playing." When it doesn't, as happened at times while recording recent albums, it looks like two frustrated musicians sitting around in the studio for hours as they wait for the right microphones to be set up. For their seventh full-length album, 7, they wanted to go back to the playground.

"That way of working has been going on for many years," Legrand says, explaining that she and Scally often became bogged down in recording processes that pulled them away from their natural spontaneity. "But I really think that there was a big change with this record, because if I think about the way we wrote, for example, Bloom or Teen Dream or Devotion, there was something about the writing process that was very different. And I think with 7, the amount of time between the writing and then [the songs] being recorded and finalized, the gaps were much shorter. There was this speed that was so exciting with 7. When we wrote something, we captured it."

Recorded during five sessions spread over 11 months in three different locations, 7 was created with the mantra of "not having to have any rationale or constraints at all." Where Legrand and Scally previously crafted their arrangements with their live show in mind, knowing that they would be necessarily limited in what they could recreate, this time around they ignored such concerns. Every idea was on the table. With touring drummer James Barone playing on the entire album, the band pushed their sound in new directions, out of the hypnotic twilight haze of earlier albums and toward bigger beats and more direct melodies. Working with legendary Spaceman 3 veteran Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember for the first time, Legrand and Scally found a co-producer who intuitively grasped how best to challenge them.

"I think there's an unspoken language between artists working together, and he's an intelligent person and I think he's very intuitive, like we're very intuitive," Legrand says. "So it was really a great pleasure to work with him. We were ready to be open. We were ready to bust out of the patterns of the past. His suggestions, whenever he made them, very rarely were they not something that we were into. I think he understood us, and we were very lucky that we were working with someone that understood us. Because we're not that complicated."

Some have speculated that Beach House's 2017 vault-emptying B-sides and Rarities compilation served as a sort of reset for them creatively, providing them with the necessary perspective to refine their approach. Not so says Legrand, explaining that a confluence of factorsnew collaborators, new ways of working, new environmentssimply "blasted away the past." More importantly, Legrand explains, she and Scally were able let go of the insecurities and concerns that previously served as limitations in their earlier lives as artists. Now in their mid-30s, they're done waiting.

"It was like constantly doing it exactly the way we wanted it, when we wanted it," she says. "And when you get a taste of that, I don't think there's any going back."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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