Beach House's Victoria Legrand on memory, female empowerment, and social media
Photo by Liz Flyntz
Beach House duo Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand might be the darlings of the indie rock world, but they enter that realm unconsciously and perhaps a little unwillingly. The pair's recent fourth album, Bloom, is a lushly arranged dreamscape, full of the roaming synth-pop that Beach House fans have come to expect and admire -- except Bloom offers more than the wildly successful Teen Dream.
Tracks like "On The Sea" offer a hazy reverb that casts the listener off like a piece of driftwood into a vast unknown, and opening track "Myth" spreads gloriously with the aid of Legrand's expansive vocals. Bloom is altogether just that: a slow-motion unfolding of soft sonic petals, as fragile and dainty as a brand new rosebud, sad and lonely -- even in its loveliness.
And yet, Beach House has purposefully remained, more or less, out of the limelight. Gimme Noise caught up with Legrand ahead of the band's show at First Avenue on Tuesday to discuss the new album, and Legrand passionately expounded on her views on everything from Twitter to Katy Perry's cleavage.
Gimme Noise: You have a lot of themes throughout Bloom -- a lot of songs with subject matter entirely different from the next. "Other People" is a break up anthem, while "Lazuli" is far more dreamy and, lyrically, less direct. What events and memories have inspired your writing?
Victoria Legrand: Well, the thing about memory, for me, is that a lot of the stuff that comes out is very subconscious most of the time. Something that I feel, let's say, lyrically, or words that come out, has to do with the memory. They're the right words for what's going on. It's a very abstract moment. Lots of things are going on at the same time, and I think if you put a lot of pressure on something and then all these formations occur, you don't really control the outcome. The end result -- what you feel when you hear this song -- is something that we don't have any say over, and I think that it's hard to narrow it down.
I'm realizing I'm completely off topic at this point... But when, for example, with other people, each song has its own meaning to someone. Each song has its own story, each song has its own emotion. That's what's beautiful about songs or songwriting, and you get to make your own little universe, and then your album is a collection of universes that take a listener to some place, and each listener is a completely unique and different person from the next, and will have their own interpretation. And there's the other universe, the one that Alex and I are creating, at a practice space or at an airport or wherever, and all the thoughts we have and the experiences we have and everything is being funneled into a keyboard or an 8-track or a tool that we're using.
As far as a direct memory, like "I remember when this happened," as far as it being limited to one particular memory... It's like, for me, imagining 50 of those all swelling up inside of you, and then what comes out is this thing -- I don't even know what it is. That's what's interesting about listening to music: an artist has this big paintbrush, and they don't even now how many colors they have, but then you listen to it and you hear a particular thing, and there's a very specific thing. I think that over the past eight years, everything has been kind of free.
GN: Looking back on your eight years as a duo with Alex, do you feel like you've had less challenges being in a band versus being a soloist? Do you feel like you've experienced a lot of sexism in the music industry?
VL: That is a really great question... One thing about me, personally, is that in my life, I never wanted that. I think every artist is different -- I think, like, Lady Gaga, that's what they've wanted their whole life -- Madonna... They've wanted to be a superstar, and some people like working with other people. I've always liked working with someone else; for me, it's beyond sex. But what happened in my life is fate, because I met Alex and it was just music, and that was my life, and I had no control over it.
It was one of the most natural occurrences. I've never even contemplated being just me [as an artist]; it would be something completely different, but it wouldn't be about... I think a woman that's a solo artist has the power and the choice to decide how she markets herself, and any artist -- not just a woman -- should have control over that. I think Beyonce has a lot of power over what she does. I think young female artists who have a certain look, but don't necessarily have much artistry, [it's like] she's a shell; she shouldn't really be a really role model. I think Taylor Swift is a good young role model.
I've never been interested in being a solo artist. Not because I'm afraid of it, but my personal temperament prefers collaboration. I think both are empowering; not one is better than the other. I don't think that girls in bands should just be limited to being the bass player, where you're just limited to stand on stage. I think as long as women are empowered in what they're doing, whether they're solo or in a band, that's key. If you don't have enough voice, get out of it, but don't fall into a trap where you're kind of like eye candy. That drives me the most crazy.
GN: You spoke in a recent interview about how you avoid wearing dresses on stage and save them for your "personal life," striving for androgyny while performing. Is part of your goal to transcend sexism?
VL: Well, I think that, like, the "eye candy" I'm referring to, like, Katy Perry with cream on her titties and literally, like, no brain, just candy. Like women should be consumed like cappuccinos, and you're not being asked to perceive the woman in any different way. It's a dollar sign. I think that stuff is really entertaining, but for me, personally, it doesn't make sense.
It's more... What do I feel comfortable with? I don't feel comfortable wearing dresses on stage. I love clothes, I love being feminine. I have dresses, I wear them, I love them -- but artistically, the music is first, so whatever is distracting from that can't be part of it. I choose not to show that much skin. It's not based on fear, it's based on what I like to see. I like Janet Jackson in uniform. You can even say, like, the less you see, the more you feel. A woman, when you just see the eyes, is one of the most sensual things. I guess I'm not that political about it... If I am, it's very naturally so. I'm definitely not trying to sell sex, but I do think that no matter what, you can still be sexy. If you're wearing a giant sweatshirt, it's not about that. It's being true to yourself. You can just be exactly what you are.
GN: How are you able to preserve the identity of the band and keep your sanity at the same time? What do you think about people saying you are "off the grid"?
VL: We're not off the grid. We're not off social media. We're not gonna go off the grid. We're not super "anti" anything, it's just everything in moderation. We probably will do commercials, it just depends on what it is, and I think we're just very careful about it. It's not just saying, "Beach House is anti-everything," it's "Beach House is very thoughtful." We care very much about our fan base. We're trying to protect what we make, and we're very respectful and sensitive towards our fans, and we don't want to jeopardize that.
People do want to have money and support themselves, and we want to use [our success] to make more art -- not build a swimming pool or whatever. I think it's all about moderation. We don't want to overexpose ourselves. [Social media is] a tool and not our identity. We choose to keep our identity through our music, the art we make, the shows we have, the intimate experiences. As far as the internet goes, it's a tool. It's very useful, but knowing the good parts about it and using it in a healthy way... It's totally different, case by case. We will do commercials--people shouldn't be disappointed -- but we'll be thinking a lot about it. We're not that desperate, is the best way to say it.
Beach House perform at First Avenue on Tuesday, October 9 with openers Poor Moon. 7:00. $22. 18+. This show is sold out.
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