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Constant Work, Continuous Rewards: Inside Beach House’s Widescreen Vulnerability

"There is a bit of sacrifice... every [album] has changed us and also has destroyed us in certain ways," says Victoria Legrand

beach house interview
Beach House, photo by David Belisle
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    Beach House have always been masters of atmospheric pop. Their music teems with emotion; almost every song is a psychedelic haze, a whirlwind of sound that seems to envelop the listener from all directions. But perhaps the most powerful aspect of Beach House, the duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, is the beating heart at the center of each of their songs, the “eye of the hurricane,” so to speak.

    Beach House’s process tends to revolve around this notion — according to Legrand, there’s a “deepening that occurs” when they sit down to create. Each Beach House album strikes a unique balance between urgency and resignation, of intimacy and distance. With their eighth studio album, Once Twice Melody, they’ve seemingly perfected this unique formula.

    Once Twice Melody (out February 18th via Sub Pop) is a sprawling, deeply moving work from the Baltimore duo, and one of the most affecting and remarkable albums in their storied career. Across 18 tracks, Legrand and Scally create dazzling moments of clarity, taking their time to let these mini-transformations develop and flourish.

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    Such a level of sonic determination and success isn’t anything new for Beach House, but the way they’ve released Once Twice Melody certainly is: rather than release the double album in full, they’ve opted for a more fragmented approach, ambitiously releasing each “chapter” as an EP over the span of four months, beginning in November 2021.

    This wasn’t necessarily a business or stream-minded approach; rather, Legrand calls it “a creative choice, where we would be peppering this period of time without stagnation.” Scally agrees. “Oftentimes, you’re waiting nine months to a year after you’ve finished something to release it,” he says, “and this was a way to get it out closer to when we finished making it. That felt really exciting to us.”

    Though streaming has created an environment in which artists are encouraged to employ shorter, more fragmented release strategies, Beach House still believe in the power of the full-length. “The idea of an album in essence just encapsulates a period of time usually in an artist’s life or working life — two to five to ten years of work,” says Scally, “I think it still does that.”

    Legrand also feels that while they broke up the album into chapters, there really is no “right” way to listen to it. “The chapters are just these gateways into it,” she says. “You can just get lost how you want to — that’s the beautiful thing about music, and you can’t forget that. There’s a lot of freedom in it.”

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    Freedom is certainly an apt word to describe their process. Legrand and Scally both feel that there is no intended journey in Once Twice Melody, and the feelings it may evoke are entirely dependent on what sticks out to the listener. However, there is an undeniable air of acceptance throughout the album, a peace and a wisdom that looms even larger than their previous efforts.

    And though the band worked heavily on Once Twice Melody during the pandemic, this air of “acceptance” is meant to have multiple interpretations. “What does acceptance mean to you?” asks Legrand. “It can be about things that happened during the pandemic, it can be about things that happened ten years ago. It can be about a trauma, it can be about becoming who you are. The words are like these umbrellas.

    “Words are these touchstones and you see it, you touch on it, you turn, you think about it, you reflect.”

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