Friday, 26 July 2019 10:15

Musical Getaway: Guitarist Alex Scally of Beach House shares a glimpse into his creative process

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Beach House. Beach House. Photo by Shawn Brackbill

From the very beginning, dream-pop duo Beach House has always strived to find that perfect spot. It’s not a specific time or place, but the creative space where they can share the beguiling beauty and ethereal elegance of their signature sound in an almost effortless way. 

And now, nearly 1,000 shows into a consistently critically acclaimed career — that includes seven enthralling full-length records — the pair has gotten as close to perfection as they’ve ever been. 

Vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/vocalist Alex Scally have now traveled the world over, playing countless festivals for crowds of thousands. But right from the start in Baltimore’s indie-rock scene back in 2004, they’ve maintained a certain sense of artistic integrity and a keen eye for detail. Blurring the edges of their music and their shows, they present an unparalleled sense of ambience that taps into the natural balance of life, even as the world seems closer and closer to chaos.

Ahead of Beach House’s first concert in Grand Rapids in nearly seven years — in support of the band’s seventh studio album, fittingly titled 7 — Revue talked with Scally about numerology, time, musical evolution and more.

 

So I wanted to start off by talking about the evolution of your live show. At this point in your career, how much do you feel like the live experience of your music has grown or shifted or changed?

We’re getting near the 1,000 shows mark later this year, which is completely insane. Not bragging or anything like that, but I just think we’re getting better at it. I think with any live show, there’s a lot of things you can control and there’s a lot of things that you can’t control. And I think a lot of times when you’re young, you get bent out of shape about all the things you can’t control, but as you get older, not only do you understand how to control the things you can control more, you just learn to be OK or vibe into the things that are out of your control. Where this Grand Rapids show is falling in our tour cycle, as they call them, couldn’t be better for you guys, because we’ve figured out everything. We’ve done 100 shows with this lighting set-up and it’s continued to evolve and change and get better and better. 

You’ve played a wide variety of different venues and performance spaces and festivals, in front of so many different audiences. How do you think that has affected you creatively?

It’s made us weary of situations that we don’t want to be in. We know certain types of festivals that we don’t want to play. We say no to festivals that we won’t play unless we can play at night time because we feel like we can’t really make our songs or feeling happen during the day. We’ve learned from the things that lead to these bad experiences, and we just consciously avoid them. And we also just don’t play as many shows anymore. We’ve realized that you just don’t put on as good of a show if you’re burned out and not excited. So we try not to let that happen. 

You first started working on your latest album, 2018’s 7, in your new home studio. How much do you think that helped reinvigorate things for you?

Yeah, it was awesome. If anyone is going to keep working in any creative field for a long time, I think you have to continually reinvent and find new ways to get a fresh look at things. Being too methodical or too formulaic is a disaster for creativity. So it’s almost more like survival than anything else.

I wanted to talk a little bit about the numerological significance of the number seven. What meaning does that have for you?

I think seven is a really fascinating number. I don’t think we wanted to load it down with too much, but it’s a really beautiful looking number, as silly as that sounds. For some reason, it has always had a powerful look to it, and I think with it being our seventh record, there’s only one time when you get to call your record a number. We were into all the sevens, all the funny connections throughout the history of mankind. 

I’ve read that while you were working on this album, both of you couldn’t help but explore the “societal insanity” we’re experiencing now. As an artist, how do you grapple with what’s going on in  the world?

I think just exactly the same as all people do. I don’t know if I even believe in the word ‘artist.’ Artists make things, and I think most humans make things. Some of them make friendships or they make families, or whatever work you do. Generally, most people make things. And I think that all of us process what’s happening in our society in different ways. But everyone processes it. Whether you ignore it or you face it head on, or you obsess with it, or if you’re in denial, it’s still processing. So I think it’s definitely an intense time right now, but not necessarily a bad one. I always try to remind myself that it’s not necessarily bad, what’s happening. Maybe this is what has to happen for us to finally get really serious about environmental problems. Who knows? I think media in general really feeds off fear, and I have to remember that they’re getting us all to click with the fear, but fear is not the only part of the picture here.

 

Beach House
Wsg. Hellp
20 Monroe Live, 11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Aug. 7, 7 p.m., $30-49.50
20monroelive.com, (844) 678-5483

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