Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally of Beach House. Shawn Brackhill

Music

Beach House’s Victoria Legrand On 7, Glamour, and the Movies In Her Mind

The Baltimore duo plays Dallas on Monday with drummer James Barone.

Beach House sounds more like a band than ever at turns on 7. “Pay No Mind,” the second track, begins with a deliciously overmodulated grunge letdown. Sonogram-heartbeat pulses on “Lemon Glow” give way to beats that almost read like drum fills. The Baltimore duo’s allure, which is never simple, feels straightforward on the record they put out in May. It’s most akin to 2015’s Thank Your Lucky Stars in its outright fury, but shadows still rule from just below the surface as they did on the more deliberately immersive Depression Cherry from the same year. The new songs bring those two worlds together. I skipped a rock and it fell to the bottom, keyboardist Victoria Legrand sings on “Black Car.”

Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally have enveloped a vast range of fans in the sonic landscapes they’ve created over the past 14 years as self-described musical soulmates. Legrand’s distinct part in this connection, with Scally and listeners, has a lot to do with images. There are those in her mind, spun with language into scenes like the one in “Rough Song:” through the glass drank a memory of her face, or frames carefully drawn, like the pattern caught in a falling tear on “Girl of The Year.” Legrand coaxed a sway of metallic bodies in the video she directed for Beach House’s “Silver Soul” in 2010, employing her brother as director of photography and pressing the tortured line it’s happening again with a chorus of hula-hooping swimsuit models in an icy fog. She has said many times that Edie Sedgwick is a central inspiration on 7. Mentions of cinema and its effects dot Legrand’s talks with journalists through the years. The vocalist and keyboardist herself studied theatre in Paris before exiling completely to music.

Beach House plays The Bomb Factory July 30. The below, edited for length and clarity, is a product of 15 minutes in conversation with Legrand after an extra week to prepare for it, as she was called into jury duty the scheduled day of our original phone interview. In the meanwhile I spent deep time with a playlist she made for Rookie’s soundtrack of your life series posted at the end of June. If 7 is where the land meets the water at a jagged edge, Legrand’s mixtape (Lou Reed’s “Vicious” sits next to  “Lose My Breath” by My Bloody Valentine) bears a map to that intersection of concrete statement— melodies that carve into one’s memory, eviscerating lines of poetry that could stand bare of all else— and the limitlessness evoked by the layers in her and Scally’s songs.

In the life soundtrack playlist you made for Rookie, you mention that Mazzy Star’s “Rhymes of An Hour” reached you because of a scene in that ’90s movie Stealing Beauty starring Liv Tyler, in which the song appears. My friends and I watched to the end waiting for it! More and more in your songs you create these characters who are sort of tragic and easy to project on— thinking “Girl of The Year,”  “Majorette,” and “Common Girl.” Have any of these songs come from characters that already exist in film?

For every single one of those songs you named, there’s a lot of, probably, similarities in what draws me to writing about this particular scenario, this particular person. There’s probably some common thread of cinema in there, I’m sure. It’s just sort of my natural propensity for creating these types of female energies, in my characters. I don’t know what you’d call this in lyric writing. I think in poetry there are specific ways to talk about the way you write people in your poems. I don’t think my lyrics are to be considered not as important as the music— they are.

I think a song like “Girl of The Year,” which is one of my personal favorites on 7, is something that very much evokes Andy Warhol’s Factory era. A lot of the imagery from that time is something that inspired the album art as well. The sort of destruction laced with absolutely brilliant, sparking glamour is very much something that fades and burns out and doesn’t last.

About Stealing Beauty, though. That playlist was intense because they ask for the songs for your life, and realistically, there’s a billion, but I just picked things that had made impressions on me. When you think about your 14-year-old self, somebody like Liv Tyler or Alicia Silverstone, those are people that—I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 37—I was a teen in the ’90s. These were young women that were burned into our retinas and they made a big impression on us.

But also, soundtracks and movies together, like Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and JulietReality Bites is another great example. I don’t know why, but I feel like I see fewer and fewer movies that have that same feeling, where I’m like—“this [music supervisor] perfectly chose the perfect song and now I can never forget this scene.” I feel like I experience that less and less, and maybe that’s because when you’re young everything is so new, so everything makes a bigger impression, but I feel like I don’t see that as often now. I don’t know why.

Of course I think first of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, but that was more than a decade ago now. Can you think of the last movie you really felt like that about?

Her musical choices—those are always … yes. And Randall Poster, the music supervisor for Wes Anderson. I think the last example would be Call Me By Your Name, and that Psychedelic Furs song “Love My Way.” That was an amazing song selection. It’s a song I think most people know but it’s not something that people have a visual connection with right off the bat. And it’s not like that scene in Say Anything where he’s holding the stereo above his head.

You sound, so often, like a filmmaker when you’re talking about your music. I have to wonder if that’s something you hope to explore—

With music and what happens in my mind visually, and therefore emotionally—it has always been triangular in that way. There’s a relationship but each one fuels the other, feeds the other. For 7 I was very much tying a lot of things together that have always been fascinating to me visually. And, the stories—there’s a great book called Edie: An American by Jean Stein that’s amazing and the copies are collectible, there are these old beautiful covers, it’s an amazing book. But it’s really a great way to spend your time, reading history, the history of American culture, if you’re into that kind of, stars-gradually-burning-out— it teaches us something about what we’re attracted to and why are we attracted to that. It’s very fascinating on a psychological level.

I would love to direct a movie or make my own movie. I’ve thought many times about writing my own screenplay. I have two ideas in my head. It’s more of a thing of not starting it. For the meantime I’m just kind of in the music world, but there’s always time to do that, I hope.

That’s exciting for those who’ve experienced yours and Alex’s music in the same way you say you conceptualize it. I think about the video for “Dark Spring,” there’s all these really simple elements but there’s something so visceral about the way they’re assembled. To what degree did you and Alex partner with [director] Zia Anger during that process?

I think it was collaborative, very collaborative. I think Zia had a great deal of influence regarding even our presence in the video. I had the idea early on—if there was a video, it would be for “Dark Spring.” And I saw us in it, which is pretty rare for us to want to be visible in something because we always want to not get in the way of the universality of the music.

Zia is independent. She’s strong. She’s a perfect director, she’s amazing at what she does but she’s perfectly open as well. I wrote everything that I’d ever thought for the video, then she said what she envisioned, and basically we worked on different versions of it until she put together what you see now. So it’s very much bits and pieces of our ideas and her vision. It was a very ideal situation. And she has a great relationship with her DP, Ashley Connor. 

We’ve had difficulty in the past with music videos. People can criticize whatever they want about Beach House music videos but the reality is, it’s very hard to get good videos. You have a plan, and you work with somebody and it just falls apart. And it can be so upsetting. And you’re usually trying to work with a certain amount of money—it’s not easy to make music videos. I think “Dark Spring” was one of our—we’re really happy with it.

[the prompt comes to wrap it up]

Thanks so much for your time, Victoria.

I hope to talk to you again someday!

Me too, hopefully about a movie!

Write Netflix: give Victoria a budget. And I’ll be like, OK!

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