24 Minutes with Beach Fossils
Beach Fossils. (Kohel Kawashima Photo)
An indie rock band from Brooklyn, N.Y., Beach Fossils long-awaited Somersault album has them charting new musical territory with “a refined songwriting style.” Prior to their July 10 appearance at the Biltmore, Joe Leary spent 24 Minutes with vocalist Dustin Payseur.
The recording of Somersault was rather involved and pushed the boundaries with additional instrumentation. Do you approach each musical project as a way to further expand as artists?
Yeah I think so. I know a lot of people are comfortable writing the same thing over and over, but I think we are always pushing ourselves to do something we haven't done before from an album-by-album to a song-by-song basis. (There are) a lot of new recording techniques such as sampling our own tracks and incorporating orchestral elements, etc. But it's not necessarily a conscious decision all of the time. A lot of it is just looking inside and following intuition.
You recorded in a variety of studios. Does each environment offer something unique to a track?
Yes and no. The environment does change a lot of the creative direction, but not usually in the way that you would think. Recording at our own studio in NYC is the most comfortable spot because it feels like another home at this point, and anytime we go somewhere else it's like starting fresh. Recording in the cabin in upstate New York was extremely mellow and productive, but we were also going a little insane only having human interaction with each other. But it created this feedback loop where all we had was each other and the instruments, so we could spiral down into it and get in a hole. Going to Los Angeles also changed things in a way because working with Rado was really fun, throwing another person into the mix really changes stuff up in a positive way. It lifts the mood to somewhere more positive where we aren't just with each other anymore, we have somebody else to hang with who can give input, it's like taking a step back and seeing what we've been working on from an outside perspective.
What initially brought you all together?
We were all playing in different bands and through touring we crossed paths a bunch (and) after a few years we just gelled together and now here we are.
Is the songwriting process a totally collaborative one?
Yeah, but in an untraditional sense. We all just write parts and layer on top of each other's ideas and before you know it, it's just a collection of things floating around. We all change each other’s parts too, so it's not like if you wrote the bass, you own that bass line. We all have a say like, “oh for the third note let's go here instead,” and then somebody else suggests a different little change or way to play it.
Your sound is described as “lo-fi”. How exactly do you define it?
I don't think that makes sense. Lo-fi isn't even a style, it's just a way stuff is recorded. It's kind of a lazy term people throw around when they don't know what they're talking about. Same with "indie" like that just means you are self-releasing or are on an independent label. Chance The Rapper and Crass or Minor Threat are all technically "indie" so the genre name is so meaningless. But yeah, I don't think I really like labeling music anyway. It's just music, people should listen to it and make up their own minds.
Any great (or horrible) road stories?
I think every road story is both great and horrible.
Have you been through Vancouver before? The Biltmore is a pretty cool live environment.
Yeah Vancouver is amazing. It's a beautiful place and has a very mellow vibe. I wish we could spend more time, every time we come through it's so in-and-out. But I love the place, I love the scenery, I love the people, stoked to be coming through.