Alex Scally of dream-pop duo Beach House - interview
Scally and vocalist Victoria Legrand are enjoying success from breakthrough album Bloom
Alex Scally of Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House talks to David Pollock about playing bigger gigs, finding a good musical union and knowing when it’s a good time to say, ‘no, no, no’
An interview with Beach House’s Alex Scally is worth the chase across a continent, the reschedulings and delays as he, singer Victoria Legrand and their band and crew relay their way through the duo’s biggest tour of the United States since they formed in Baltimore eight years ago. When The List at last catches up with him, he’s just set foot in Boise, Idaho. ‘You remember the band Built to Spill?’ he asks enthusiastically, requesting that we speak up to counteract the hearing loss from which he apparently suffers. ‘They’re from here. We’re excited.’
It’s not the length of tour that’s changed this time (five weeks of the US, a four-day break then an assault on Europe), but the size of the venues. This year’s fourth album Bloom was top ten in the US and top ten in the UK, a significant leap into the mainstream for the pair’s gorgeous, chiming dream pop.
‘A few of the bigger cities it’s over 2000 people,’ says Scally, ‘that’s new territory for us. But you know, when you’re smaller and your fans know everything you do, there’s maybe more expectation. When you sell out to 1500 people, I think a lot of them are thinking, ‘I like a couple of their songs, I’m going to go and have a good time.’ In a way, that’s less expectation than 300 people who are obsessed by your music. I know, because that’s how I am when I go to gigs.’
He reflects upon what seems on the outside like an overnight success, and points out that it’s actually been as gradual a build as any band gets. ‘I’m really glad nobody came to our shows at the start,’ he laughs, ‘because we had no idea what we were doing.’
Bloom is a very good album, but then so was 2010’s Teen Dream – why is it happening for them now? ‘I have no idea how the music industry works, and I don’t think anyone else does,’ he sighs. ‘That’s why all these ridiculous things go on, a band being signed for a million dollars when they haven’t sold any records. But we’ve been lucky, we’ve kept ourselves as musicians and it seems to have worked. We don’t wanna do useless promo. We want to be interviewed by music listeners, not fluff-piecers.’ He gives such a good interview, it would be a shame to stop him. ‘We’re epic control freaks and we have been since the beginning. We got a manager after two records, we’d been a band for four or five years, not to tell us what to do in our career but to answer emails for us. We didn’t want somebody to tell us this is our new look, or we should do this cover, or placate this music supervisor. We still get told, and we’re like [checks off a list] no, no, no, no, no, no.’
Beach House are, says Scally, ‘already starting to reach the end of these songs’, and he hopes the hotbed of touring will create new ones in time for planned festival dates next year. ‘The thing about musical unions is they have to make both people better,’ he reflects on his relationship with Legrand, ‘and I don’t think it happens as much as people want it to. We instantly realised this crazy thing we were having, it was palpable the first second we started making music. It was like we were reading each other’s minds, like we always knew the other’s next step. Kinda mystical, actually.’ He laughs, which feels like the first breath he’s drawn since we started talking.
The Arches, Glasgow, Mon 29 Oct, with support from Holy Other.