Beach Fossils began as a one-man studio project, not unlike many of frontman Dustin Payseur’s other musical endeavors. But in just a few short years, the project has grown from a genre exercise to a full band. The Brooklyn band’s latest full-length, Clash the Truth, reflects the growth Payseur and friends have undergone, and while the end result is still within striking distance of the band’s surf-influenced twee pop leanings, it’s also a solid step forward.
We spoke with Payseur prior to the record’s release about the new album, building on the band’s humble beginnings, and how his “new” songs already feel old.
What’s the mood like for the band right now as you’re about to unveil your new slate of songs?
I guess the best thing to do is just not think about it, you know? You spend so much time working on these songs, and you make them for selfish reasons. Bringing them out to the world is kind of a strange experience. You want to be able to connect with people, but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is just that you’re proud of it.
What was the process like bringing this record together as opposed to What a Pleasure and the self-titled album?
It took kind of a while, actually. I started as soon as I finished recording What a Pleasure up until October. The process was definitely longer this time than with anything else I had done. I just felt like I was more in my own head for most of it, just working out where I was going with things. I think I wrote about 70-something songs for it, and some of them didn’t feel right. It’s not that I didn’t like them, but they didn’t feel like part of this album. The songs that took the least amount of time to write were the ones that I felt needed to go on this album. There were ones that took less thought.
Some came about more organically than others.
This is the first Beach Fossils album that was approached as more of a band effort, right?
I still wrote the songs and recorded them all at home by myself. When I went into the studio, I went in with my drummer, and he played drums on the whole thing. And that definitely gave it more of a live feel. We recorded the drums and bass live together, and that gave it more of a steady pulse and a natural feel than it would if I was doing it at home to some programmed beats or a metronome.
When you started the band, it was just one of several different projects you were working on. But now it’s grown into something more full-fledged and permanent. How has that progression impacted how you go about working as Beach Fossils?
It definitely increases the energy. So far, everyone I’ve had involved in the live band has been really energetic. We kind of just get up onstage and feed off of each other. It’s an unspoken thing. It’s not like we talk about how we’re going to go out there and be energetic. That’s just our personalities, and we get excited by each other when we’re performing. And that definitely has an impact on how future recordings will sound and how I write songs. After being on tour and coming home and listening to those songs, it sounds like a completely different band. The records sound so much quieter and so much slower. So touring has definitely brought out more of a feel on this record.
What’s your take on the new wrinkles the other guys have brought into the band’s sound?
I love it. I’m open to constantly changing. I never want to do the same thing twice. I never want to make something that feels too much like something I’ve already done. When you’re writing by yourself, sometimes you can fall into a trap where you’re repeating yourself and repeating ideas. I’m not saying you need to change so much that it’s unrecognizable, but making subtle changes and bringing in other people can change things in a good way.
“Clash the Truth”, the lead track, ends with a string of free-associative words and ideas. Was it an aim of yours on this record to evoke more of a feeling or mood than an explicit theme?
Yeah. The lyrics from that song, and really every song on this album, just came from sitting around writing prose, not even with the idea that I was writing lyrics. I was just writing to get things off my chest and get these ideas out of my head. Then later, after I had already recorded the songs as instrumentals, I finally took what I had written and worked them into the songs. But yeah, a lot of them weren’t written with the intent of being lyrics, but it just turned out that way. It’s more personal, and I think more honest that way as well.
The album still has that light airiness of the last records, but there’s also a more aggressive edge to it in spots. How aware were you that some of those harder influences were finding their way into your songs?
I just didn’t hold back whatever the songs were calling for. On the first album and the EP, I had a very strict idea of what I wanted to do. I sort of defined what it would be before a lot of it was even done. On this one, I kind of wanted to leave it more open-ended, so the energy just spiked in different directions.
What’s up next for you? Touring?
Yeah. It’s always exciting to be playing new material. I’m already working on the next EP already. I’m always looking at what’s next, I guess. It’s hard for me to stay in the present; by the time the songs come out, I’ve heard them so many times that they already feel old. I feel like this record came out a while ago, because I’d been working on it for so long. But that’s a good thing, because it pushes you to write more and stay ahead of yourself.
Is there anything you can say about the new songs you’re working on? Are they taking any type of shape, or is it all still in the embryonic stage?
Right now everything’s kind of in different directions, so it’s kind of hard to say what it’s going to be. But I almost feel like it would be a mistake to try and define something before it happens, because then it turns into some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.