Fall into Summer: The seasonally psychedelic stylings of Beach House

Jason Nocito
Jason Nocito

Originally published in New York Press

JUNE 6, 2007

by David Chiu

Victoria Legrand, singer for the indie pop duo Beach House, has a restrained yet dramatic vocal delivery that recalls the great rock chanteuse Nico. Ironically, Legrand wasn’t into pop culture early in her childhood. “I listened to a lot of musicals,” she says. “When I was a little kid, I loved The Phantom of the Opera. From an early age I loved organs even then, so I have always been drawn to that kind of music.”

That might explain Legrand’s somewhat theatrical singing, which complements the music’s blend of shimmering guitar, earthy-sounding organ and light percussion—all of which can be heard on Beach House’s self-titled debut. The music by the Baltimore-based duo of Legrand and musician Alex Scally is as warm and inviting as its moniker. “It’s music based on melody,” says Scally. “We just start with something that we love, and then it just grows itself.”

Recorded in a day and a half at Scally’s basement in Baltimore, the album falls somewhere between 1960s psychedelic folk and shoegazing music. A dreamlike quality permeates throughout the record in tracks such as “Tokyo Witch,” “Lovelier Girl” and the hypnotic “Master of None,” which, according to Scally, was the last song recorded for the album.

“We made all those chords and we couldn’t find the right melody,” he says. “We’re just trying really, really hard…and we just couldn’t get it right. Then in one minute Victoria just found that melody and it all came together really quickly.”

Legrand usually writes the words based on the music first. She likes to let listeners interpret her impressionistic lyrics for themselves. “A lot of people ask me, ‘What is this song about? Is this song about somebody in particular?’ It’s usually sort of an abstract collage of many different moments.”

Born in France, Legrand moved to the United States when she was six. Having played classical piano, she has been trained vocally since the age of 14. “Being classically trained has helped me with my strength and my range, so I’m grateful for that,” Legrand says. “I definitely think that singing [in a] rock style is a lot easier.”

After studying theater in Paris, Legrand decided to pursue a music career in Baltimore where she met Scally. The two were in another band while they made their own music on the side. “While playing in that band we came to realize that we had this amazing chemistry musically together,” says Scally. “We just started making songs and before we knew it, that side project was taking off and we were just really enjoying ourselves.”

It took Legrand and Scally a while to think of a band name that sums up who they were and what their sound was about. “We were like, ‘Beach House of the Moon,’ and then we just thought it was too long,” says Legrand. “I’ve always been jealous of band names that seem to be concise and yet so random and specifically perfect for the band. ‘Beach House’ seemed to be a good solid noun.”

Beach House has been on the road recently as the opening act for The Clientele. In addition to touring, the duo also plans to record their next album this summer. “We play a lot of new songs these days to keep it interesting,” says Scally. “We have a lot of our next record written already, so we play a lot of those live.”

What has been mentioned about Beach House is how their music evokes the feeling of autumn. The fact that the album came out last October was somewhat coincidental. “We didn’t necessarily plan specifically for it to come out in the fall,” says Legrand. “We just really wanted to get it out because we already had the songs for a while. We knew it would be a good time for it, but we didn’t realize how perfect it would seem to people. Who knows, maybe our next record will be a doom, wintry [album]—no, I’m just kidding.”

June 8, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. (betw. Bowery & Chrystie St.), 212-533-2111; 8, $15.

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