Beach House – Artists in ResidenceMegan2019-05-30T13:50:14-04:00
WTMD’s Artist in Residence
In the past decade, Beach House has become one of the most popular, influential and enigmatic bands to emerge from Baltimore’s storied music scene. And WTMD is excited to host the dream pop duo as our first Artist in Residence, a new series of on-air and online features which offer a glimpse into the world of the artists behind some of our favorite music.
First, Beach House’s Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand will curate and host an hour of songs which have become touchstones in their lives and careers. This airs at 8 p.m. Thursday May 30.
Then, Alex and Victoria will sit down for a rare and intimate interview at 9 p.m. Tuesday June 4.
WTMD is also giving away several pairs of tickets to Beach House’s June 11 performance at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Here, Beach House’s Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand curate an hour of songs which have become touchstones in their lives and careers. From songs which helped define their adolescence to tracks which live with them on the road, this is a rare and intimate look at music which has left an undeniable mark on Beach House.
Beach House will be playing their first large-scale Baltimore show since 2015 on June 11 at the Hippodrome Theatre, and we’re happy to have them here with us at WTMD.
There are a total of six sets of music, including Baltimore music you love, songs that have never gotten old, and others, and you’ve each chosen one song for each set.
Songs from adolescence
Victoria: The song I picked is more about when I started getting into music as a teenager, hormonally, and being drawn to certain kinds of music because of the way it made me feel. Explaining helped me understand what the hell was going on in my body and in my mind. So I picked a Portishead song, “Sour Times,” which at the time – I was, like, 14 – was their single playing on the radio the whole time. But that whole record, “Dummy,” was something that played over and over again. And I associate that with the first time falling in lust or just general exploring sexuality. It’s just a really unique, special world you go into and that takes over you. And to me that’s the mark of really good music – it has a strong identity of its own and you can go into it and feel yourself. So I think that’s really an amazing thing to have created. When I think of the first time getting into music, I’ll always associate it with the changes that are happening in your own body as you’re growing up. It didn’t make me want to be in a band or anything like that. It’s a totally different type of connection. There are actually a bunch; it was hard to pick. Alex and I were both talking about this a couple days ago. There are so many songs, it’s just picking the one that feels on a larger scale like I think other people could connect to that. That are 37 years old. [Laughs] That would know what that felt like the first time they heard something like Portishead.
“We could have spent this entire time talking about Velvet Underground and Lou Reed.” — Alex Scally
Alex: Music was always just melodies, and they were catchy and fun to sing along with, and music felt like this light presence in life. And at a certain point, coincidental with puberty and the darkening of reality, this other side started to emerge. And I think the Doors were the first [band for me]. That was just a record lying around our house. I remember I was 12, maybe 13 and I started listening to it, I would go into my room and close my door and secretly have my Doors experiences. It felt really scary and subversive. The themes felt dangerous and sexual and just about drugs and all of these things that felt really exciting, like I was breaking rules. We had “The Best of Doors,” at our house. That’s what I was always listening to, and it was the second half. I liked the non-big hits, and “Crystal Ship” is one I’ve always loved. Of course the poetry is really odd and kind of terrible but great in its own way. Almost perfect for teenagers.
Victoria: We’re going to seem so old to millennials listening to this. They’re going to be like ‘The Doors? Who are the Doors?” It’s like classical music now for younger people. But for us, approaching 20 years ago, our adolescence is a long time ago.
Alex: I think for all of us in our generation – the ’80s kids – the Doors were the drug band.
Victoria: One of the first ones that stimulated your cellular makeup.
Alex: Another thing about the Doors, something I think about, I wonder how much this influenced things. They had so much organ in their music. Rock music was guitars and drums but their music had all of these moody organs.
Songs from Beach House’s beginnings
Alex: During that period, the early 2000s, there was this great movement — I think nationwide — we were experiencing it in our Baltimore bubble. Everyone was getting back into vinyl really intensely. One of the awesome things about that was finding records that your parents never listened to but were great from the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s. And I think at that time it was this incredible thing – you could go to the thrift store anywhere and find all of these records that were old and they were a buck or two bucks each. One of the ones we became infatuated with during the early days of our friendship was “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison. I think it had commercial success at the time but it was never on the level of all the other Beatles’ success. And the whole record is one of those records that start to finish is completely incredible. There’s not a bad song anywhere. This is the title song, “All Things Must Pass.”
Victoria: Also at the time, I remember purchasing this Brian Jonestown Massacre album at Sound Garden, in like 2004 or 2005. Very much the feeling around was that feeling. When I moved to Baltimore it was the summer. Hot. And there’s such an energy that I think is reflected in that. The son g “Anemone” is one of those songs where it’s so natural and it just flows out. It’s just a great song. It’s to me very indicative of a feeling of sultry, blissed out vibes.
Alex: There was a subculture movement where everyone was fetishizing music from the ’60s and ’70s, not because of nostalgia but it seemed like this great moment when pop music could be really artistic. And I think that’s why everyone was so obsessed with it. It was like, ‘This record sold millions of copies? This record doesn’t seem like it’s been dumbed down at all. This seems like a great work of art. It doesn’t feel like it’s been commercialized at all.’ So I think that’s why everyone was fetishizing it, and Brian Jonestown Massacre is totally one of those bands that was trying to make new music by sounding old. I think the negative of that is, it feels like you’re not going anywhere. But that very much was the feeling of the moment when we met – let’s get obsessed with this old music because this old music had this incredible production value and this incredible aesthetic power.
Victoria: A lot of the shows we were going to at the time at the old Talking Head Club on East Davis Street would be like Vetiver one night. It would also be the dangerous freak folk – that era of the Devendra Banhart world. But it was also Cass McCombs. There were a lot of things combining. Like Alex said, it was a big quilt of resurgences of these previous decades of music coming back into style, and we were surrounded by that. I still think about that time.
“This record doesn’t seem like it’s been dumbed down at all. This seems like a great work of art. It doesn’t feel like it’s been commercialized at all.” –Alex Scally
Alex: Friends of ours were booking there, Lexie was booking and we didn’t even know the bands half the time. We just trusted in the curation that was happening. Let’s just go down there.
Victoria: Nothing is ever the same. But that period? It was an incredible time.
Favorite Baltimore songs
Alex:Lower Dens, which was a band started by a bunch of Baltimore folks, one of whom is a very dear friend of mine who was one of my best friends in college, Geoff Graham. They’ve sort of re-formed and moved along, but they were firmly placed in Baltimore from 2008-2015 or 2016. My favorite record by them is “Twin Hand Movement” and the song “I Get Nervous” is a very, very beautiful, incredible love song that they wrote from that record.
Victoria: Alex and I both love Zomes, which is Asa from Lungfish. He started off solo and grew with Hannah. “Clear Shapes” is just a grand one. It’s very meditative. When you know people and you hear their music, there’s something really wonderful that can occur. Asa creates an incredible beauty, and it’s him. It’s his entire world. It’s beautiful. It’s a wonderful essence. We just love listening to it. It’s a wonderful introductory for someone who had not listened to Zomes in Baltimore. I thought this would be a good one.
Victoria: Touring has been the most expanding of the mind. You could drive 30 minutes from here, 45 minutes from Baltimore and something in you would shift. So touring is this massive shift that’s always occurring. You’re seeing new things and new people. So music that’s introduced to you in travel is something that really sticks with you. It becomes a memory or it becomes a symbol of that time. And “Lorelei” by the Cocteau Twins is a song that was shown to me in 2009 by a lady friend of mine. I’d never heard it before and we were driving to the beach. It was the actual sound of what was going on at the time: Massive changes in life, personal changes, heartbreak. The unknown future, what was going to happen, but it was a full embrace of that. And Alex and I have shared that song with other people who have not heard that before. There are so many gems with the Cocteau Twins, but I feel like this one is particularly beautiful. I associate this with our time as well. Because 2009-2010 was a giant shift also in our lives as young people and the band and everything was growing and changing. I’ll always think of that song as a signifier of that.
Alex: When we saw the idea of road songs, it made me think of how music sharing has always been a huge part of touring for us. We’ve toured so much. About to hit show 900 on this coming tour in a couple weeks. In the van, in the bus, whatever we’ve been in, there’s always been a culture of sharing music. Our sound engineer, who’s been with us for over 10 years, has great taste in music. A lot of people have great taste in music in the touring party. A lot of tour has always been sitting around and listening to music together. That’s been so fun and such a great way of finding out about new music or new old music – whatever it may be. I don’t remember when it was that Tim, our sound guy, started playing Suicide at some tour – maybe 2008 or 2009. This is just a really great Suicide song, and one that whenever I hear it I think about those days of sharing music all the time and finding out about things you didn’t know about.
“There’s so many incredible male voices that I’ve loved, and Gregory Isaacs is one of those. Just an incredible singer. These voices are the voices you want to come home to and you want to live with them around you.” — Victoria Legrand
Victoria: Travel is growth, and people sharing is growth. When people share music, you’re not only sharing the music, you’re sharing a feeling you’ve had, and you’re giving someone else the opportunity to have their own feeling in that song. It’s a wonderful exchange. When I’d not done any heavy touring, I think one of our first long tours was opening for the Clientele, and I did not want to go. The idea of being on the road for more than two weeks really challenged my entire psyche. Looking back at the person I was then and the person I am now, I wish everybody could experience it, because it really does break down comforts. You start to realize there is nothing better than sharing your space with people. And yeah you get tired and you need to be alone, but life is much more fulfilling just sharing it with other people. We feel very lucky we’ve been able to build a life out of music, but music’s also changed us irrevocably.
Alex: Mariah is a Japanese band that, for some reason this record has been getting a lot of traction. In case people hadn’t heard it yet, I just thought this song “Shinzo No Tobira” is a great representation of this record. It’s just a really catchy, obtuse song. It’s really structured and really free at the same time. And I think that will make sense when people listen to it.
“‘Disintegration’” is just destructive. It crushes you.” –Victoria Legrand
Victoria: Alex and I both love Gregory Isaacs. “Extra Classic” is just a great song. The title is exactly what it feels like. Sometimes you hear a song and it’s the cherry in the Manhattan, it’s the olive in the martini. So perfect in is symbolism. It’s a great love song too. It’s a very gentle love song. It’s classy. We were just talking about it this morning, Alex said ‘He’s a melody master and an incredible singer.’ I’m asked often ‘who are your favorite singers.’ It’s a very difficult question to just answer. I don’t have one particular person that I’ve ever aspired to sound like or want to be like. But Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley, there’s so many incredible male voices that I’ve loved, and Gregory Isaacs is one of those. Just an incredible singer. These voices are the voices you want to come home to and you want to live with them around you.
Victoria: I feel like I’m on the verge of tears for no reason at all just talking about these songs and realizing how much life and music are intertwined. I think it’s the song. It’s the masterful way they’re created. It’s unbelievable. There’s the Stendhal Syndrome, which is a thing that occurs when a person is taking in something of great beauty. You almost feel sick that it’s so beautiful. There’s obviously a more articulate, scientific definition for Stendhal Syndrome but I feel like these songs make that kind of feeling arise. They’re just so beautiful. Purely beautiful. The Cure’s “Plainsong” is gushing with celestial rain. It’s just really incredible. Music is not hard, but in the craft of it, when a person or an artist achieves taking perhaps some subject matter that everybody relates to, right? Like falling in love with the girl next door or driving in your car down into the sunset. To take the things we all know, we all connect with, but make you feel like you’re being transported to the stars, I think that’s where you go, ‘Yeah that’s an incredible ability.’ And the Cure obviously are masters of taking – it’s not trivial but there’s a teenage element or there’s just street to it. And then that album “Disintegration” is just destructive. It crushes you.
“I feel like I’m on the verge of tears for no reason at all just talking about these songs and realizing how much life and music are intertwined.” — Victoria Legrand
Alex: My choice was “I Found a Reason.” It could have very easily been Victoria’s choice. We could have spent this entire time talking about Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. Whatever his thing is, it’s so hard to define. He has that weird voice, he can talk-sing. He’s utterly expressive somehow. And the song “I Found A Reason” is just this crushing love song. Very much from the same realm as “Perfect Day” – another song where he somehow is able to have the feeling of completely being in love and completely losing love in the same swipe. It’s just so crazy, what he can conjure up. And that song is so gorgeous.
Victoria: It’s a love song for life. When you’re listening to it, it’s not just love between a man and woman, or man/man or woman/woman, it’s love of being able to live. There’s always that element of darkness in the Velvet Underground, and the play between light and the dark. When you’re listening to it, you’re trying to figure out what it could be about. But at the end of the day, I think it’s about survival and just living day in and day out, whether you’re a drug addict or whether you’re suicidal or depressed. That time period, the ‘70s, that whole era of the Warhol world.
Alex: There’s a really cool moment towards the end of the song, he says “I still believe we are what we perceive, what comes is better than what came before.” You almost can tell what he’s saying is that, he has thought so many times that what came before is better than what’s coming. It’s kind of this willful flipping of the feeling that all humans tend to feel.
Victoria: Regret, or fearing the best days are behind.
Tune in 9 p.m. Tuesday June 4 for the next installment of WTMD’s inaugural Artist in Residence series with Beach House.
On farm life, darkness, eschewing social media & more
By Sam Sessa
As Beach House’s star rose with the albums “Teen Dream” and “Bloom,” they pulled back, careful to protect their artistic vision. They turned down offers to license their songs in commercials, kept their social media accounts professional and, at their live shows, began performing as silhouettes wreathed in darkness. They gave fewer interviews, and kept the conversation focused on their music.
Here, Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally open up for a candid, personal interview as part of WTMD’s new Artist in Residency series.
Victoria, you spent several years growing up on a farm in a rural part of Cecil County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. What was that like?
Victoria: The surroundings of my childhood are something I’ll never actually get over — living on a farm. And we were caretakers, so we were able to live there. I think we paid some rent but it was very very little. We just took care of the grounds and elements of the farm. But there were also Amish families that would come and work on the property and also there was a family that did the hay baling, and there were some cows sometimes and people that boarded horses. I had a very natural childhood.
Did you participate in any of the hard work part of the farming?
Victoria: I mean, what can an elementary school kid do? I think I lifted one bale of hay once and got paid $5 and thought I was an incredible farmer. I didn’t till the fields or anything like that but I did walk through the forests and swim in the pond and commune with nature and deer and turtles. I saw storms in the fields and watched swallows dive low. I bonded with nature very intensely and I think that has had a huge effect on my entire life.
It’s really important, I think, to be bored, and that’s a great place to be bored.
Victoria: You’re not being rushed to do anything, there’s nothing actually happening, so you can kind of just play with everything — or play with nothing at all. And that’s a really luxurious freedom, and that’s where you can all of the sudden have an idea. Because there’s nothing going on. So if you’re feeling bored, just enjoy it. There’s something to be played with, and I think kids just naturally play. And if a kid is bored, it just starts to do something else. If it’s bored playing with a ball, grab a piece of paper and draw on that. I think as we get older and become adults, it’s a little harder to tap back into that inner kid. But yeah, boredom — or that state of nothingness — is crucial.
You ever wonder what your life might have been like if you’d stayed there?
Victoria: I’d probably be married or have kids already. There’s a chance I probably wouldn’t have done music. I’ve wondered about that. I probably wouldn’t still be living on that farm, because we never owned it. It was never going to be ours. I might have just kept moving no matter what. But I do know that the years I was there had a huge impact on my imagination.
You were among the first of the wave of Baltimore bands who experienced some success and decided to stay in Baltimore. I’ve talked to the guys in Future Islands and Dan Deacon, and they all have a similar experience where they come home from tour and everyone assumes they’ve left Baltimore — that they don’t live here anymore — because they’re successful now. So why would they stay in Baltimore? And then they go out on tour and go to Brooklyn where people ask, “Well you’re living in New York now, right?” It’s almost like they’re getting it from both sides. Have you experienced this?
Victoria: I still get it all the time. Recently I got to know this woman who works in fashion — she’s a stylist that I really admire, and she is the editor of a magazine I love. When we first met, she assumed I lived in New York. The other one is that I live in Los Angeles. So it’s like there’s never the option of it being Baltimore. And then you have to tell people, “NO, I LIVE IN BALTIMORE!” Just because there’s some sort of quotient of success , it’s like people’s brains go, “Gotta be in the big city! The bright lights!” But after a few days in New York City it’s like, “Get me out of here!” I definitely have become a country bumpkin. I like the trees, I like that you can see the sky and the hills. It’s a choice. Alex is born and raised in Baltimore, and he has his personal connections to the city. And I am a transplant — I moved here in 2004. It’s a choice and we’re very proud of that. I think that also when people assume that we’re in Brooklyn or Los Angeles, I’m always feeling like, “No, actually, we don’t live where everybody else is living. We live in this town that we’re very proud of. Come visit us sometime.” And we have people from out of town who will come and we take them to the places we like to go.
“I saw storms in the fields and watch swallows dive low. I bonded with nature very intensely and I think that has had a huge effect on my entire life.” -Victoria
Alex: It’s amazing because it’s not New York and LA and has its own vibes, and has a cool, smaller world where you can actually know people. There’s a beautiful family energy in Baltimore.
Victoria: There’s also a nice private world to it. People never feel pressure to socialize. If you go to a show, people are there because they want to be there. They want to support. They don’t feel like they’ve gotta do it to look cool. They’re doing it because they want to see their friends. In that way it makes it honest and direct. There’s no BS, really.
Alex: I think when that kind of thing happens with Future Islands and Dan and any other people who have gotten that assumption thrown at them, it just confirms why we live in Baltimore. Your’e bucking those trends, and it’s joyful to do that.
But Baltimore also has a chip on its shoulder and assumes that once people get successful, they don’t stay here. I get asked a couple times a year if you still live in Baltimore, or if Future Islands still lives in Baltimore. And I keep having to tell people, I’m pretty sure that they’re proud to be here.
Alex: But I kind of like that. Is that inferiority complex maybe? I like that. I’m into it.
Victoria: I like the idea that someone would assume and then be like, “Oh really?” Yes, we’re just regular people. I always like to tell people the truth: Yes, we get [tour] buses but the buses are gross. They’re not glamorous. They’re just a bus, with one bathroom for 10 people. They’re just a bus. But yeah, we’re still here.
Alex, I remember a conversation you and I had when I was doing a very small interview for The Baltimore Sun, right when you guys had started, and you were worried that I was going to ask you if the two of you were a couple, which was a question you were getting back then. Is that a question you still get?
Victoria: No, because we tell people ahead of time, “Don’t ask us that.'” And also it’s very gender-biased thinking. Because at the time we were in our early 20s, girl/boy, oh they must be Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. There must be sex happening. A man and a woman can’t be creatively together without that being part of it — that attraction, physical attraction, is the real reason they’re together. But with us, the beginning was just purely people meeting on the basis of music, and the friendship growing out of literal loving talking to one another. We’ve both been with other people throughout the band. We have a very unique and special relationship in general. At the beginning, it got really old for us. It was like, “Can’t we just talk about what records we like?”
“We’re the equivalent of the people that still have the flip phones but also have the side iPad touch, just to do their emails. That’s kind of where we’re at with social media.” -Victoria
Alex: It was maybe a little pretentious but I think we just thought it was reductive and not about music so we decided, “Let’s cancel that question and never answer it, because it never ends up being about music whenever that question comes up.”
Victoria: It wasn’t a marketing tool or tactic, either. It could bring people to you, because they think “Aww, that’s cute, they’re a couple, makes me feel lovey dovey.” But I think for us we didn’t want to cheapen —
Alex: This policy of wanting to keep things about music has continued. We have a very weird relationship with social media. Everybody is always showing themselves on there, showing pictures of themselves, showing pictures of what they’re doing. And I’m not judging any of that, but it seems like a big part of people’s experiences now with artists and musicians is a) the music they make but b) what kind of person are they? What’s their style? How do they feel about this and that? I’m not judging that, but for us, it’s been a continued conscious decision to try to not have that be a part of our story. Just have it be the music and none of the personal world.
Victoria: I think it’s a generational gap too because I think that we were pre-Internet, pre all of this stuff, so we know real contact — not having directions, just figuring it out on a map. And I think that part of this evolution of, you’re an artist and you’re also a real person and that’s how people can decide if they like you or not. It’s like, how real you are. And I think it’s a search for an authenticity. So I don’t knock that, I think it’s part of the territory with social media. People who are teenagers now did not grow up in a world where there was no Instagram. It was always there, since they were babies. This new era of people’s personalities and their music — it’s gotta be this whole package — I know where that comes from. It’s a yearning to feel like this person is real, and they’re not just some kind of robot and that I can actually feel something with them. But we’re not of that generation. We’re an older generation, and that’s why we have a proclivity towards not having that be part of us. For us it’s just the art or the music and it’s the poetry. So we still just use it very much like a tool. We’re the equivalent of the people that still have the flip phones but also have the side iPad touch, just to do their emails. That’s kind of where we’re at with social media. We use it to get in touch with our fans and we respond to messages and give information, but I think that we’ve missed the boat of ‘Let’s try to get people into my —
Alex: Personal brand.
Victoria: Yeah! [laughs]
I remember talking to Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak and she was saying that they’ve never released printed lyric sheets because she believes that for her music, lyrics should be sung and heard in the context of the song — not by themselves, as poems or lyrics. Curious to get your perspective on that.
Victoria: The reason, the No. 1 reason why I personally like to have our lyrics on our website — I don’t think a lot of people have caught onto this but last year, we put all the lyrics for every single song from every album on our website — is because I’m so damn tired of looking at Genius and they’re all incorrect. They might as well be writing whatever they want. Even on Spotify, that Rap Genius or whatever, “Lemon Glow” had a thing that it’s taken over a year to get “mystery” changed back to “misery.” It’s not “candy-colored mystery,” it’s “candy-colored misery.” So for me it’s about having the correct words out there. It’s not that I think they’re poems that should be learned and studied and please respect this grand poetry. It’s really just for me to be like, “This is what I wrote, this is what we wrote, them’s the facts.” It’s really a battle against dumb technology. Bots that are just writing stupid words where they’re not.
Alex: As a kid, as a teenager, as an adult, I’ve always loved the experience of getting a record, putting it on, and it’s a very active/passive thing to sit there and listen to the whole record with the lyrics. That’s just so fun. Even though most people don’t listen to music like that anymore, we’ve often included lyrics for albums just so people can have that experience should they choose to. It’s such a wonderful way of engaging with the record as you first listen.
“Darkness gives everyone the cue that it’s time to get lost. It’s like going into the planetarium when you’re a kid, and it’s just this wondrous feeling of, ‘OK, the lights are down, it’s time to go on this trip.'” -Alex
How much of the lyrics and music do you think of as a body of work, and as things that you reference from previous songs or previous albums. There are snippets, images — in the song “Wild” there’s the black car that pulls up, and there’s the “Black Car” song. Is there a through-line?
Victoria: No. The coincidences are not planned. Honestly after the record was out, I realized the black car because I sang “Wild” live and I went, “There’s the black car!” I had an “aha” moment. I’m sure there’s imagery inside of me, in my imagination that will probably recur throughout my entire life, because for whatever reason they just stay with you. But it’s not like we’re creating some kind of code. That’s the delight for the fans — the curiosity, looking through the lyrics and making these connections. That’s a beautiful, playful thing to have with art and music. It’s an open vessel. You can find all the stories you want. But just to be honest, it’s not intentional.
Alex: I think the through-line is your brain.
Victoria: It’s my brain, yeah. It’s coming from the pool in my mind. Back to the lyric thing, I think that I as a person who loves other people’s music, I always am curious about what the lyrics are. And sometimes I’ve heard songs and I’ve loved the song and I’ll be like “Oh this is cool” and I really like the melody but then I’ll look at the lyric and I’ll be like, “Oh.” You know what I mean? Like in my mind I’m like, “Oh, that’s what they’re saying?” It’s a double-edged sword. And I’m sure it’s happened to me. I’m sure someone had no idea what I was saying and they were like, “Oh man, that’s what she’s saying? Weird. Forget about that song.”
In the past 10 years, you’ve become very protective of your image. It’s something that’s fascinating to me, because so few groups are doing this right now in music at the same level. I’ve seen shows where you’re backlit for most of the show, and are almost a silhouette on stage. And there’s very few press photos accompanying your albums. Can you talk about your mentality for this?
Victoria: So there’s art and there’s content. They’re not necessarily separate, but 10 years ago, we realized just in the nick of time — I started feeling a loss of control. Like, this is not an interesting picture to look at. Why would you want to look at a picture of someone with headphones on with a soda can? It’s not necessary, it’s not important. The boundaries between what is intentional and what should be and what should not be? These are questions we started asking ourselves. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t something that was interesting or beautiful had something to do with the artistic message in all of its complexity or abstraction, that couldn’t be part of it. It’s an artistic choice. The silhouette? That is not about hiding from the audience — that is about going into a feeling. It all goes back to painting and things like that. The way something looks evokes a feeling. And every artist is different. This is our choice as artists to be intentional about the way things are done. Also it’s nice to see pictures of ourselves from when we were younger. But I think there’s hilarious sluttiness of when you’re younger, like, “Sure, take my picture, my tongue’s hanging out!” It’s really fun but as you get older, you feel different. You want to reflect this depth that occurs. The reason we don’t do a lot of press photos is, when you take 5,000 pictures, you’re really only going to get maybe 10 really good pictures. We have a critical mind. We’re very critical of ourselves, but we also have expectations. We’re very respectful of our fans, and we don’t want to just put us eating pizza out there, or daily life for us.
“After a few days in New York City it’s like, ‘Get me out of here!’ I definitely have become a country bumpkin.” -Victoria
Alex: When we were just a scrappy band for the first four years of our existence, we were just going along and everything felt really natural. When we started to become more well-known, around 2010, there was this sudden, intense overexposure that occurred. We didn’t have a manager, we were managing ourselves, essentially, and we were just saying “yes.” People would go, “Can we do this? Can we do this?” And we would go, “Yeah, sure.” It just created this giant bulk of content that felt really subpar. I remember we had this mantra that started around then that said, “Let’s only do something if we can do it really well. We can’t spread ourselves too thin. We can only do things, any kind of thing, if we can put energy into it and make it something we’re proud of.” I think that’s just how we feel about pictures. Regarding the live show, we’re actually playing in Baltimore coming up very shortly, which we’re excited about, because we haven’t been able to put on our show in Baltimore since 2013. We played outdoors and then we played The Ottobar. We spent a lot of time building our live show and we haven’t been able to do it in Baltimore in six years. But in terms of silhouettes and not seeing us on stage in a typical manner, I think of it in terms of films. I really, really love slow films. I love that there’s action and then space between the action. And I love when there’s great long shots. Some people’s reaction is, “This is so boring, what’s going on?” But the intention I think of those filmmakers when they do it correctly is, the entire time you’re entering a world in your own mind. Your mind is racing, thinking about what’s happened so far, what’s going to happen. It’s this really really engaging experience. I think we’re trying to re-create that. We’re trying to have that happen at our shows. We want people to be going inward the whole time, between these moments of extreme action, there are these long, still moments where you’re forced to feel color, feel sound and go inward.
Victoria: It’s not forced. It’s back to the idea of the concert experience being a sacred space where someone can have a personal experience in a room and feel safe and also just anonymous and immersed. We’re creating an immersive thing. You can go in or out as you wish, but we’re not dictating how you should feel with my leg on the monitor and you can see my face and I’m telling you to clap your hands. It’s not that kind of experience. It’s like losing yourself in a film, letting yourself have that time between the things, between the actions, between the events. The darkness is so that people can disappear — into themselves or into each other, or into the music. The way that water is all around you? It’s connected to that idea.
Alex: As we’ve gotten so much experience and had so many types of shows, as we get near show 900, we’ve seen so many times: the brighter-lit the audience, the less they let go. So we really try to make it dark, because everyone feels exposed in light. Darkness gives everyone the cue that it’s time to get lost. It’s like going into the planetarium when you’re a kid, and it’s just this wondrous feeling of, “OK the lights are down, it’s time to go on this trip.”