Beach House's Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are not a couple—so stop asking
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2010 is the year of Beach House. Not only has the Baltimore, Md., duo created its brightest, most personal and intense album to date, but it is about to embark on an extensive tour that looks like a 162-game Major League Baseball schedule. Teen Dream, the band's third effort—and first on Sub Pop Records—expands on its dark, dreamy melodies without sacrificing any emotion, and has received rave reviews by, well, almost everyone important. Before kicking off the tour with a Friday-night performance at The Black Cat, Victoria Legrand spoke with The A.V. Club about getting more physical with her listeners, not getting down with her bandmate Alex Scally, and packaging the next record in angel bones.
The A.V. Club: Was it a conscious effort to make a more “hi-fi” record with Teen Dream?
Victoria Legrand: No, I don’t think it was very mentally conscious, but I think we had a lot of—we weren’t aware it would feel more hi-fi on that level. We had a lot of energy from touring and all our ideas had been brewing. A lot of force mixing with desires is how it ended up being like that. It wasn’t super intentional, just the end result of the time that we had and the amount of clarity we had. I think it was more the result of things coming to full fruition. For us, we wanted a much more physical feeling than an ephemeral thing. We wanted it to be closer to people, that’s why it feels more hi-fi. That’s our desire: to get closer to the listener and get more intense.
AVC: Did you spend much more time on it than Devotion or the self-titled record?
VL: In terms of writing, no. All the records have taken months of writing, but all come about differently. When we wrote Devotion, it was between little tours. When writing Teen Dream, we had eight or nine months of a writing period. Teen Dream had most uninterrupted time. The recording process was really longest to date, but still not technically that long. The first record was recorded in two days, Devotion in two weeks, and this one took three weeks. We spent a month in upstate New York; it was still very intense and crazy. We had a nice chunk of obsession time.
AVC: Is it much harder on a band to write non-stop like that?
VL: We never felt tortured or disjointed; it just helped us feel like we were really getting the sounds we heard in our heads. All the things we wanted to express—we were really getting it. We weren’t rushed. Whether or not that results in more intimacy, I dunno. It definitely was, for us, very beneficial. This was the beginning for us, as artists, to take the time we needed and have the money to make the records we envisioned. That’s the beautiful thing about making your first records—the innocence. We were so excited to make our self-titled record that people were like, “Is this a demo?” We had to say, "No, it’s our record." It’s not deceptive, it’s not polished. Devotion was the same thing; we were just excited to make a record, even though we were touring the shit out of ourselves. With Teen Dream, it's like, "We’ve done a lot of touring, so let’s just write, not worry about business, and we got a nice taste of what we would like to keep doing." We allowed our obsessions to have a time and place.
AVC: Why did you make videos for each song on Teen Dream?
VL: Somewhere in between the Devotion cycle ending and feeling the urge to make new music, this idea popped up to make this happen and it was a dream, and it just grew and grew. We were collecting names of people we would like to make videos with; we kept meeting new random people and decided, "Let's just do this." It’s a fascinating curation—these are not traditional music videos. We had so much control over the record and no control over this. It was the risk, the excitement, the visual expansion, and we thought it would be interesting and challenging for people. Not confrontational or challenging in the sense that we want to alter the way people feel about our music; it just opens it up to the darker sides, the grosser sides, the sexual sides. We feel more and more intensely about the music we make. It’s unexpected, and not always what you would think of in Beach House. It’s all art in the end. We aren’t making records because we have to; it’s because it’s what we want to express.
AVC: Each record seems to be received better than the previous one. Do feel that Teen Dream is Beach House finally coming into its own?
VL: I think each record taught us something. Whether you want it to or not, you want to learn every time; you don’t want to repeat. It’s unnatural to repeat. Teen Dream shows how we benefit from time. We don’t like to take too much time, but when we have time we can let our visions go where they should go. We got a taste of what it feels like to be able to take what’s in your head and make it a reality. Being on Sub Pop helps with that. When it comes to making a DVD, doing the packaging, whatever, it helps to be able to accomplish your visions.
AVC: This wasn’t possible before?
VL: We were on Carpark [Records] before, and that was great. But the more people you have working, the more you get things done on wider level. I think we’re always finding something. With Devotion, we found a darker intensity, a deeper—I don’t want to say the word "groove," but something heavy. That grew into Teen Dream. We weren’t bogged down on one plane like with Devotion. That one plane taught us we could sculpt our songs in a more dynamic way on Teen Dream. Nothing is definitive or at its peak; we’re growing. Even tour-by-tour, so many things are fascinating; you can go in so many directions. It’s an exciting time. We feel lucky to have positive reviews.
AVC: How far will you expand? Will the next record be a triple LP?
VL: Yeah, with diamond binding! It’ll come in a cube of angel bones. Yeah, we’re gonna just keep expanding until doesn’t make any sense. No. It’s important to keep growing. Children need to know that they are able to take a nap. [Laughs.] Old people too. We need to be able to know we can go to our space. It doesn’t matter where we make a record. As long as artists can make something, artists will continue to survive. I don’t like to read the internet; I’m not aware of what’s going on. We’ve been in Europe four or five times, and this was the first time there were many people at each show. It takes time with these things. It’s a natural evolution of art, it’s not a leap of zero to100.
AVC: This tour you are embarking on looks insane. Is it overwhelming?
VL: We just came back from Europe for six weeks, and it felt shorter—that means we didn’t burn the candle too short. We’re leaving Friday, our first show is in D.C., and we have a lot of things to do to prepare for tour. We have different lighting and all new things planned. It feels natural for us to be on the road. It’s a very invigorating thing to travel; it’s a whole other part of the record—bringing it to life again. Playing the record and exchanging it with people; we’re not burned out yet. It’s like the Amazing Race. [Adopts an announcer’s voice.] “Will they be able to survive?” The answer is yes. Or no. It beats sitting in the same place all the time.
AVC: Why does your Sub Pop artist page go out of the way to say that you and bandmate Alex are not a couple?
VL: It’s tongue-in-cheek. When you’re getting a bio written, they tell you include things that are irrelevant to you or what you don’t want to be asked. When we did our first did interviews ever, that was a huge thing. [Mockingly.] “So you guys are romantically linked?” It got to the point where we would say that in interviews—“and we’re not a couple.” A lot of boy-girl duos use that mystery to their benefit; we don’t think it’s very interesting. Alex and I are a really weird thing—brother-sister, alien-alien, love-hate, but ultimately we work very well together. It’s something about the tension. It’s not sexual, just intense. We are two people that only work in this one way, in the creative realm.
AVC: It’s like you are musical soulmates?
VL: Yeah, it’s a lot harder to find a musical partner than a love partner. I’m very lucky he’s my musical partner, I never could have predicted it. It continues to grow. Hopefully we won't get sick of each other. [Laughs.]