Q&A: Beach House's Victoria LeGrand On Singles, The South, And Controlling Your Music
Beach House didn't entirely disappear from the cultural consciousness, but they did go hide out for a while. The Baltimore duo of Alex Scally and Victoria LeGrand toured the hell out of their last record, Teen Dream, before heading back home to write Bloom (Sub Pop), which comes out tomorrow. Even their Twitter account (the frustratingly hard to remember @BeaccchHoussse) fell dormant for about a year. After a seven-week recording period in Texas, the band had a hell of a collection on their hands: 10 songs that weave in and out of themes like death, life, and that moment, so very small, of truth.
Whereas their previous release rode a lot of the tailwinds from its standout tracks ("Zebra," "10 Mile Stereo," and the gorgeous "Norway"), Bloom comes at you with the wallop of an hour-long odyssey, charting paths that perhaps you never thought to take. With ideas taken from a long touring period (180 shows since Teen Dream was released!), Beach House has landed on a feeling expressed in song, and a haunting work of art that surpasses even their own personal bests.
Sound of the City caught up with LeGrand over the phone as she rested up in Baltimore before the new-album whirlwind. She spoke about how people forget that the band did not debut with Teen Dream, and how New York can be a rough place to play a show. She also kept bringing up this idea of how important it is for her and Scally to know that they control how their music is being heard by their fans.
First thing I want to talk about is the title of your new record. I think that there's a lot of imagery behind the word Bloom and your titles have gotten more ethereal, more metaphorical with time, from Devotion to now. Why the word "bloom"?
It's funny because for me, Devotion was a heavy title but I felt like it had some weight to it, and I actually feel like Bloom has more weight than it has the literal 'flower' meaning to it. For me, it doesn't represent that at all. It's an abstraction of many feelings and it's a broad spectrum. For us, the album Bloom has many things inside of it, and forces inside of it. To find a word or a set of words we felt curated the whole thing, Bloom was it. And it was based off of feeling and just a belief in the word. It actually has more weight for me than it has an ethereal quality. It came about where it made sense.
Where it actually happened was more than halfway through the writing of the album, maybe three-quarters of the way. Things take time, and you can have many working titles, and you can be playing with words for a long time. We were looking for a name, like for the band. Beach House kind of happened the same way. For things to feel right, it definitely has to sit for a while and I think that's why it's not ethereal for me. I associate that word with fleeting or not having any substance, I don't know. It's funny because that's something that we get thrown at a lot, and as the years go by, I feel less and less like that. I'm not attacking your words, I'm just saying that for us there's a certain intensity with this record, and I think the word "bloom" is an attempt at that.
There's all different connotations of a word. That's what's good about a word: it can be seen from many sides and it's always seen differently. It's something we enjoy. You know, Devotion could mean faith, you could see it as between two people, between one person to the unknown. You can see it in many ways, and that's something we hold very dear to us. Words can be very abstract.
In your bio, it mentions that you hashed this album out on tour before sitting down to record it for a couple of months. Is that different than how you recorded the previous records?
Bios are difficult to create, because you're basically trying to tell someone what you've been doing for the last two years, and what this giant piece of art that you just made is about, all in a few sentences.
Basically, the process of touring and coming up with ideas, that has been the same since we made the first record and started touring, right after that. We never stopped touring and coming up with ideas and that's why we've had a record every two years or so. It's our natural rhythm. For Bloom, and Teen Dream, and Devotion, that feeling of when you're done touring and you have ideas and bits and pieces, that hasn't changed. So, we played over 180 shows. I think that before we even hit the 100 mark, ideas started coming to us very quickly. We even had ideas at the end of the recording for Teen Dream, so some of the bits and pieces of this record started two years ago. Some things happened on tour, and some things happened at the soundchecks, something on the bus.
You hold on to these things, and the things that aren't meant to stay, they leave. Things that do resonate, you keep written in a notebook or you make a demo of it. We've never written anything on tour. It's more of the experience of touring, and taking it all in and becoming inspired on many levels. This record really started being written in March 2011, in Baltimore. That's where we've written all of them, and we wrote and we wrote and we wrote. It was very intense, but we had the most ideas and seeds that we've ever had. It was like 30, and you just start with one and you go from there. It's a wild ride and you know a lot of the ideas didn't make it onto the album. That's why there's these ten specific ones, in a very specific order and sequence.