Features - Interviews

Interview: Beach House


Ahead of their highly-anticipated return to Belfast and Dublin in late October, Beach House will release their stellar fifth full-length album, Depression Cherry, via Bella Union on Friday, August 28. Touching on the past, present and future of the band, Brian Coney talks energy, myth and release with the band’s frontwoman Victoria Legrand.

Hi Victoria. You’ve recently released a statement about Depression Cherry that includes, “Here, we continue to let ourselves evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which we exist.” I really like that. Is not being misunderstood that important to you?

It’s not about being misunderstood or anything like that. In order for us to feel creative and be ourselves we just can’t worry about the business side of things. We just have to separate ourselves from the things that make things work. It’s more of a technical thing. There’s a place and time for things. The creative process is an important, sensitive thing. We can’t really think about things that are not that, you know? We need to feel free. You need to be controlling about certain things otherwise we’ll lose the ability to be ourselves. I think it’s very important not to think about commercial things when you’re just trying to be – trying to be yourself. I don’t think it gets more complicated than that. We can’t be thinking about success or press and all that stuff. It has nothing to do with the beautiful moments that occur when you have an idea.

We acknowledge that we’ve had success and we’re very grateful for it. Our fans are extremely important to us. We’re eternally grateful for what we’ve received. Without people we wouldn’t be where we are now. So we are indebted to people that have given us the energy that has made us where we are now. I think that everybody’s idea of success is different. I personally feel that when we had our first record and we got on Carpark, that was success to me. And we were playing shows to five people. It’s different words for every single human. For us, it’s about how to turn all the good things into more good things and not get sucked into any kind of garbage. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that, mentally. Trying to protect things that are so special. Our fans are very special to us.

You’ve consistently made great music without compromising. A lot of artists sadly do, but Beach House haven’t and that really continues to shine through on the new album. Where does the album title, Depression Cherry, come from?

That title really wanted to be the title of this album. “Depression Cherry” came into the world just as it is. It was part of a conversation in 2014 and it’s a playful thing but it’s many things. It existed and we just had it in our lives. It just existed. It’s very hard to explain something that is so strange and it just comes into your head like a lightning bolt. As we were looking for the title for the album we tried many things but Depression Cherry kept gravitating towards the album and eventually we knew that it was it. There was no other title for the record.

Well, it kind of sums up your whole back catalogue for me. You’ve always played an almost happy-sad kind of music. Do you feel it hard to discuss the intricacies of your music generally? Do you care to delve far into it?

I like to let the music speak for itself. I also like it when other people talk about it – fans, journalists, whoever. I always feel that being in the inside and knowing a lot of how things came to be, it’s just nice to have some things that are mysterious. It’s amazing to not say something and have someone like a fan or someone figure it out or observe. It’s fascinating to me how things get transferred whether you say it or not. That’s something that’s very profound about music in general, that an artist can put something – an energy – into a song and maybe never mention it in an interview because they forget to or never even thinking about. And then someone on the other side notices it. They hear it. They feel it. They see the thing that is never mentioned and I find that to be really cool. It’s an insanely natural thing that occurs.

But yeah, I do interviews and I talk about music the best that I can. If you spoke to Alex he would be different. He has a different way of speaking. It’s difficult for me to talk about my own singing, for example. But there’s so much to talk about in interviews about the process. We talk about where it was recorded, how long songs took, the amount of time Alex and I spent writing music and the hours and the weeks that go into making what we do. We do a lot of playing and jamming. I don’t think it’s pointless to do interviews but there’s certain things, spiritually, that’s better to just feel.

But I like to talk about how Alex and I work together because we’ve been doing it so long and it continues to produce things. It works and it’s fluid and I feel very lucky that I have a counterpart through which I can produce these things in my life. Each song has its theme. ‘Levitation’ has its particular world. ‘Sparks’ has its world. There are little stories and images and hallucinations and energies that are violent, natural energy but when you work on a song you are literally going into the music. It’s not like, “Let’s sit down and make this song about this.” It’s more a case of this is the feeling. This is the music. What is the music making us feel and what is it telling us? The record is not just about loss, youth or whatever word you want to pick. There are many layers of subtle emotion.

I always get a feeling of almost self-hypnosis from your music. Is that something you can relate to, when writing and putting songs together?

It’s a lot of things for me and for Alex. It’s physical, emotional, meditative, trance-like, violent (in a mother nature kind of way, not violent like… you know, in a social way!) but it’s a lot of things. It’s not just spiritual either, it’s everything. It’s a shapeshifter. It can be hypnotic. It can be completely in the body. I do think that making music is a form of love, anger; it’s really everything. It’s hard to pick one word.

I tend to view your albums almost like seasons. Your self-title record is like Winter, Devotion is most definitely Autumn. Bloom and Teen Dream veer between Spring and Summer. When I listen to your music I always there an overriding tone that sways either strongly towards optimistic or melancholic. At the risk of dumbing it down, do you feel that Depression Cherry an optimistic album?

I would let you listen and you decide. We’re at a point where it’s going into the world and I’m not ready to decide. At this point it’s not about me any more; how I feel. It’s really now up to you. There’s some things I don’t even know. I’m on this different side. You’re on the other side. It’s yours. I feel that in this day and age people can be afraid to allow themselves to feel how they feel. For me, Depression Cherry is about being ourselves. That’s the closest thing that I can say right now but if you ask me in ten years time, I could probably say more.

Well, next year marks ten years since the release of your self-titled album. Looking back, do you “recognise” yourself in that album?

Each album is a document of a period of time in our life. I can hear the first album and I know that it was a very hot summer, and then into winter. I do recognise myself but I can hear and see a younger version of myself. It’s very trippy, seeing these albums adding up. It’s like, “Woah.” They’re windows.

For me, Depression Cherry seems to relate that age-old adage of the more things change, the more they stay the same. But was the recording process different this time around?

It’s funny. People say “their sound hasn’t changed much” but I feel that we are constantly changing. As musicians, as people – just changing all of the time. Every time we work on music it’s different. We’re different. It feels different. There’s different ideas, sounds, notes. In this particular recording process we did things different. It’s still us with Chris Coady. That was a similarity from a technical standpoint. We wanted to work with Chris because we’ve already been with him and we didn’t want to fuck about with time. We knew him and he understands us and that’s very valuable; more valuable than producer-type things you can get caught up with in the world. He knows us and we know him. We’ve done each record in different ways. Like our first record was recorded in a basement and our third record was recorded in a studio, a professional studio, you know?

But the way we worked on the songs were a lot more free. For example, on Bloom we did things in a certain traditional order. Like we started with the keyboard or the drums or whatever. When we recorded Bloom there was two weeks of just drums, you know? Then there was probably less time for vocals. This time I really wanted to sing whatever I wanted. Having all the previous experiences it gives you this… not even wisdom but it’s like you know places you’ve been. There’s places you don’t want to go back to and there’s places you’ve never been to. As a singer, I just really wanted to sing what I wanted and not for it to be all sung in like, a week. As a singer and as a lyricist and all that, one deserves to make to be able to make one’s work when one wants and when one feels like it. But that owning of it… a part of getting older you really start to know the things that you’re capable of for yourself. That’s a huge force behind Depression Cherry. Allow oneself to be natural is the highest value, I think.

Agreed. Finally…. you’re currently on tour. How’s it going and what can we expect from your Belfast and Dublin shows?

The best thing to do is not have any expectations and you can enjoy yourself in live. Things are going great and we’re really looking forward to coming back to Ireland. It’s a really musical country. We’ll be coming as a four-piece as opposed to three or five. We’re still touring with the drummer and we’ve definitely been working on stuff and we’ve many songs to play and a wide array of eras so I think I wouldn’t worry about that! It’s going to be great.

Depression Cherry is out on Friday, August 28 via Bella Union.

Go here to buy tickets for the Belfast show at Mandela Hall on Saturday, October 24 and here to buy tickets for the Dublin on Sunday, October 25.

Win tickets to the Dublin show here.

is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.