Beach House’s Descent Into Madness

The dream-pop heroes dish on ‘Once Twice Melody,’ their “beast” of a new album
Beach House
(Credit: David Belisle)

“I hope I can actually sing and tears aren’t just streaming down my face,” Beach House‘s Victoria Legrand says with a giggle.

Over Zoom from their headquarters in Baltimore, Legrand and bandmate Alex Scally appear relaxed and eager for things to return to normal. They haven’t played in front of a live audience in nearly three years. Now, with Beach House’s eighth album, Once Twice Melody, on the way, the duo has a double album’s worth of new material to perform. Legrand says the two of them are “the most prepared we’ve been for a long time to go out and play live.”

“[Three years] is a long time in the music industry, which changes and accelerates so quickly. So these shows are gonna feel like, I wanna call it a time party.”

“I just hope I don’t have a nervous breakdown from some combination of fear and joy,” Scally adds.

Since their breakout 2010 album Teen Dream, Beach House has proven to be not only one of the most successful bands of their generation but also one of the most consistent. In making blissfully psychedelic dream pop they have been able to grow as a band without needing to reinvent or even really modify their template. In an age where new music is recycled at an alarming rate, their music has endured and maintained its relevance.

“We’ve always had faith in time,” Legrand says. “Whenever we’ve made a record we’ve never expected anything to come out of it. So we have this gratitude for time because records like Depression Cherry or earlier ones like Devotion found lives years after they came out. A major label might have this urgency for a new artist to strike now, but time was always our friend. We’ve been lucky with how time has treated us. I’d like to think it’s a long-term relationship [between us and time].”

 

Over the past few years, Beach House used its time wisely.

After the cycle for their last album, 7, ended in 2019, they went straight back into the studio to work on new material. They came out with so much, in fact, that Legrand refers to Once Twice Melody as “the beast”: an 18-track opus the duo made without an outside producer.

Self-producing was a first for Beach House. It made sense from a logistical standpoint, but they had already decided to hunker down and go it alone before the pandemic hit.

“The process was not that different, it was just harder because we didn’t have that voice of reason or even a distraction when we needed it,” Scally explains. “At times it was like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain. Somehow the boulder got bigger and the mountain got taller each day. But it did allow us to go deeper into cool ideas that the presence of another person would have prevented from happening.”

Once the two had realized the scope of the project, they saw it as an opportunity to change how they released their music. Instead of the usual album rollout, Scally says they decided to “build a crescendo leading to the release.” On the day of its announcement, Beach House released the first four songs from the album as “Chapter 1,” followed by three more chapters that would compile a full-length in February.

“We were really excited to release music as soon as we finished the record,” Scally says. “As lovers of the album format, we started thinking about the sides of the vinyl – A, B, C and D – and sculpting the flow of the record based on the sides. That led to these chapters, for which we tried to make clear beginnings and endings. As we experimented with different sequences we decided to make each side its own chapter. And then we realized that we could release them in chapters, to emphasize that each one is its own story.”

 

The four chapters – “Pink Funeral,” “New Romance,” “Masquerade” and “Modern Love Stories,” all named after song titles – were designed as separate windows into Legrand’s lyrical themes of self-destruction, getting lost and romance. She describes the album as having “multiple little universes inside of it.” And although they tried trimming it down, Legrand and Scally found that some songs didn’t want to be removed from the sequence. So they included them all.

“We discovered that there was something more that the record wanted than just a 10-song existence,” Legrand says.

Whether you lose yourself in the narrative or just need mood music, Once Twice Melody delivers on the pristine music we’ve come to expect, and even yearn for from Beach House. Their brand of meticulously crafted songwriting, candy-flossed melodies and textured, widescreen ambiance remain as compelling and mesmerizing as ever. There is a reason why they never felt the need to reinvent themselves.

“I think it’s about listening to what we want to do and just that,” says Legrand. “There are so many things that are fundamentally us. I think that’s the most consistent thing about our band. Ultimately we’re just listening to desire. The records are these time capsules of desire, longing, excitement, fury and all of the things that go into making a record. I thought Bloom was madness, but I think this one is way more madness, more insanity overall.”

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