Alex Scally is one half of Beach House, the Baltimore dream-pop duo that blew up with its last record, Teen Dream, in 2010. He spoke with City Paper about the band's new album, Myth.
Listening to the new album, I feel like one thing that's surprising is that you've chosen to stay mainly with the same type of instrumentation as the past couple of albums —
It's strange: As a musician, I feel like I don't really understand half of what we've been told about this album. There's a lot of stuff on this album that has never existed on our recordings before: autoharp; actual, live strings; a synthesizer. We've never used a synthesizer before! To the untrained ear, yeah, I think it's not new — but there's actually a ton of new stuff happening on this record. I don't know what to tell people; I think people are just hearing our songwriting. We're just playing who we are, and maybe someday we'll make an album and people will say, "Beach House made something that sounds different!" But we only do what we naturally do. And on this album we used so many instruments that we'd never used before, but I don't think that's what people hear.
I feel like your albums grow on people: I tend to like a Beach House album more with each listen. Do you think it's because the complexity you're referring to isn't at the surface?
That's another thing — I can tell a lot of people who are talking to us haven't done that with the album. And I think that's largely how we write. We have a little idea, and it's a really exciting, cool thing. And then we kind of cover it up with another thing we find really exciting. Every song is meant to have multiple dimensions. As we write it and as we play it, we move through the layers. It's very visual. So, you don't expect everybody to get that.
I think, more than Teen Dream — which, for us looking back it looks more like a dumbed-down record, I think we were just really excited to write some pop songs or something — this is much more like our earlier material in some ways. It takes longer for you to get there. But it's all there.
This album is marked by a minimalism, in the song titles and the aesthetic, the stuff surrounding the music.
Yeah — I just think that that's how we're feeling. We don't want to try to sell anything. Our whole feeling with this record is, "Can we just not try to sell it? Can we just try to have it exist?" We want these songs to just exist, and for people to experience them and not be overwhelmed by our personal image, by the artwork.
Is there an ideal way of listening to the album?
I think that's different for everybody, but sonically, the record, the vinyl — not the colored or anything, because that actually takes the quality down a bit — but just the plain, black vinyl sounds insane. Not on headphones; listening to it out into a room, on vinyl. It sounds about a million times better than an MP3 earbud. But in terms of locations, I mean — I haven't listened to the record since before it came out, but when we were figuring out the mixes and everything, anything moving seems so perfect for it. When you're in a car, a train — anytime you can see movement.