Beach House is more interested in blissing out than rocking out.
“We’re not this raucous tribal dance music,” said singer Victoria Legrand. “It’s not so much putting out something and saying OK ‘that’s what the song is’ and yell that into the mic. We’re more subtle than that.”
But rather than lose itself in the disembodied meanderings of ambient music, the Baltimore-based duo’s groove is rooted in pop structure. It takes time to catch on to the slowly unraveling music, but once there, the slide guitars, organs and Legrand’s Nico-esque vocals lull listeners into the band’s headspace.
“(Our music) is like walking into a flea market to look at stuff, and finding something that relates to you, and the surprise that comes when you realize what it is,” said Legrand. “It’s a delicate thing.”
She explained that after a certain point during songwriting, the duo gives up control. While they carefully select instruments, vocal pitches and other details, building melodies over a bass tone, when writing lyrics the focus is on free association.
“We never have full control over the music,” she said. “At the end, you sort of stand off to one side, since the song has (developed) a life of its own.”
Legrand, who called their Vancouver show at Pat’s Pub “one of the best shows we’ve ever had,” said their performances follow that same process. Like other groups more interested in building a rolling atmosphere than a tight hook (think of Animal Collective or Amon Tobin), the focus is on building a mood.
“Surprises sometimes do happen — you start to look at people (reacting)…and that’s what keeps your motivation going,” she said. “It’s very magical, and doesn’t happen all the time, (but sometimes) you see heads nodding, and you can tell who’s coming with you.”
Rob McMahon is a freelance writer. A graduate of UBC’s Journalism program, he contributes to Metro and other publications. Top music memories include a road trip to Coachella and catching Lollapalooza ‘95.