Everyone has felt that gut feeling. That feeling that something is right. That feeling that it's the right time. In the case of dream pop duo Beach House, that means a new record. It's not something they take lightly, or plan. It's something they wait for. It's something the voices in their own heads tell them.
For Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, a musical partnership from Baltimore that's worked together for more than a decade, that time is now. They're about to release ‘Depression Cherry’ - their fourth record.
It's unmistakably them, with lashes of reverb and meandering melodies that transport you into warm haze. But it's stripped back, scrapping live drums for simple beats. It's about just the two of them again.
Were they planning the next record? Not exactly. They admit they didn't even know if they would ever record together again after 2012's ‘Bloom’; a success, but one, in their eyes, full of mistakes. At the same time, they say they could never record without each other.
“After the last one, it was just making sure the voices tell you to do it. We had to see if the creativity came again. We didn't want to push it,” Alex says, sipping coffee in an empty East London bar, surrounded by bursting sofas and booze-soaked wooden floors.
He talks so naturally about these 'voices' - this creative demon that buries it's way into his sub conscience to tell him it's the right thing to do. It brings riffs and chords and lyrics and ideas to both of them. It even brought the name 'Depression Cherry' - a phrase that came to Victoria from the ether and stuck around, intriguing her with its weird lexicon mis-match.
“There's no pressure. There's no one that tells us what to do. It comes from within you,” Victoria says, showing the connection both professionally, musically and spiritually. “I had no creative thoughts after the last record, not of any worth anyway. There's some encouragement to see if the voices were there.”
‘No creative thoughts’ is probably putting it a bit strong. They toured Canada and put together a folk super group - featuring Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold, Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen and Hamilton Leithauser - to perform the whole of 'No Other', the forgotten classic of Byrds' founder Gene Clark. Its only UK show at End of the Road festival has gone down in history as one of those special festival moments that could never happen again.
Alex simply puts it as “fun doing different shit” and “not a millions worlds apart from our own music” - but it doesn't seem to compare to working with Victoria on their own music, even if that can have its own moments of musicians' tiff. “We both have different ways of working and sometimes it can be hard, but the true creativity happens when we're together,” he says. “Little ideas can generate into something amazing. You have to trust yourself, and each other. The most joyous part is loving your own brain. I love my brain but I'd never make a solo album. Music has to be made with multiple people. When I hear solo records, I feel like there's something missing.”
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I just don't feel we could have made this record before.
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For ‘Depression Cherry’, the most intense time together was two months in Louisiana at Studio in the Country - a studio that has recorded the like of Louis Prima and Perry Como to Marilyn Manson. When those voices came, a place that allowed them to be heard was as essential as the music itself.
“It was a dream for someone,” Victoria says, telling the story about how the studio was copied from one in Los Angeles and painstakingly built in the sticks to be closer to the musician's home. “When I'm there, I can feel that it's someone's dream. We don't know how long that dream is going to last, so we need to use it and appreciate it.”
“Studios shut down and limp along, but this one has something special,” she continues. “We were there for two months. It was a long time, but it meant we could just do every song when we wanted to. The whole thing felt very natural.”
It's clear that this is a partnership built more on just music. Both laugh at the amount of times they've been asked if they're romantically tied, or related. For them, it's more of a cosmic connection. That's not to say there's not a lot of love involved.
Victoria says that finding Alex was like finding a soul mate who gets her and that there's a definite “chemistry”. She couldn't see herself working with anyone else. Not right now anyway. It's back to those voices - when the ideas start to come, it's her duty to get them out, and Alex is an essential cog in that machine.
“When I get these voices then I know what I have to do. Then, the ideas, the record is inside, but I have to get it outside,” she explains. “I can have ideas, and Alex can have ideas, but we feel compelled to share them with each other, and then other people. That's the beginning.”
And for this record, the process and the end result is something they feel is a lot more mature than their previous albums. “It's silly to say too much about it, but there's a depth and a certain place where we have gone this time. It's a place we have never gone before,” Alex says. “I just don't feel we could have made this record before.”
They put it down to experience, learning from mistakes and age. Victoria and Alex are 34 and 33 respectively now - veterans of dreamy indie folk, you might say. Have they hit a mid-life crisis that will see Beach House reinvent themselves as a grime duo? Definitely not. In fact, they've decided to not even talk about their music and let the listeners make up their own minds. They even wrote their own, slightly mystical, press release.
Victoria says: “We've been playing together for a decade. We have the ability to play. We've played hundreds of shows, so you think we'd be tired, but the human emotion fights to live again. We love going forward. I'd never want to go backwards. I like getting older and wiser and seeing how things change.”
“When you're young, you want to make a statement and be noticed, but I don't care about that now,” she muses. “We're very analytical about the world, but not about our own music anymore.”
“Part of being older is not being on a soapbox,” Alex says in agreement. It's a bold statement from a band who have so often talked about how their music should be played, where it should be played, and what adverts it can appear on. Even in Beach House's last interview with Clash, they talked about the importance of the album and how shuffle culture was killing creativity.
“We expected people to listen to ‘Bloom’ in a certain way and that was a mistake. We can't expect our fans to do things our way and they shouldn't have to. We know that now and we're not making that mistake again,” Alex says. “But, saying that, we know shit now.”
“But we have more to know,” Victoria adds. “I guess age is about what you appreciate.”
It sounds like this duo, still oozing cool, are embracing age and wisdom. Their space guitar and keys, wrapped around a drum machine, sound fresh and warming, familiar and calming. The voices told them to do it, so who are we to argue...
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Words: Gemma Hampson
'Depression Cherry' will be released on August 28th. Catch Beach House at the following shows:
26 Glasgow ABC
27 Manchester The Ritz
30 London Shepherds Bush Empire **(SOLD-OUT!)**
31 London Shepherds Bush Empire