What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Kathryn Calder, former member of Immaculate Machine, current singer and keyboardist for The New Pornographers and solo artist with her very own label? Well, her story is one that reaches deep inside my heart. I wanted to approach our conversation about her music and her documentary, A Matter of Time, on a personal level, the kind of conversation you’d have with an old friend. I discovered that Kathryn is an extraordinary woman who has overcome adversity in a truly powerful way. It’s the type of adversity that would normally tear a person down, but in Kathryn’s world, it built her up instead.
As a writer, it’s ingrained in me to want to tell the other person’s story. But Kathryn’s story pulled me into feelings and memories I thought were long since tucked away in that secret space inside me, that space we all have where we put the things that only we, ourselves, can comprehend. So, even though our stories are far removed from one another, they contain that same secret space. When I realized this – when I heard the words of Kathryn and saw in her eyes what I saw in my own so many years ago, I understood then that there is a choice to celebrate what was and what will be, instead of existing in what was and what will never be again.
Kathryn Jane Calder was born on June 17, 1982 in Victoria, British Columbia, growing into her musical roots through her beloved mom, Lynn Calder, who encouraged her to seek the bright lights of a professional music career from an early age. Kathryn fulfilled her mom’s dream all in the short span of her young thirty-five years, but in between, was forced to accept something that would turn her world upside down – her mom’s diagnosis of the progressive and incurable disease of ALS. Through this unimaginable tragedy, Kathryn created what would become a solo career that would allow her to express her grief, but also her joy. Her songs are articulated in such a way that every lyric sung and every instrument played fill a distinct and individual purpose to express an emotion. There is never just one feeling for one song, which parallels the good things and the bad things within the lives of every person, everywhere.
Kathryn’s story speaks about sadness, a subject that is far too often subjected to the stigma of being unacceptable in a society focused on positivity as the only acceptable emotion. We often forget that life is an unexpected event on a daily basis, sometimes bringing us far more than we feel we can handle on our own. Kathryn has shown us in the most exquisite way that it’s okay to be sad. She has shown us that sadness is not to be feared and unspoken, but instead that it is meant to be shared and that it is an integral part of what makes us who we are supposed to be. To quote the great Sarah McLachlan, “There is a beauty in being sad and just showing that for what it is. There’s a beautiful truth in that.”
I want to begin by having you watch a bit of a preface to Kathryn’s story. The following video, presented by TedxVictoria in Victoria, British Columbia in 2013, tells intermittent details of Kathryn’s story before the story in her own words. It includes an extended trailer for her documentary, A Matter of Time, as well as three breathtaking performances from her solo albums.
Watch Kathryn Calder on TedxVictoria with special guest performers Liz Reed and Lane Arndt:
I am so grateful to Kathryn for allowing me the opportunity to tell her story in this very personal way. It is my hope that others can be enlightened by the courage and wisdom that she has put into the world.
If you have the opportunity to catch one of The New Pornographers upcoming shows before the end of their current 2017 tour, I urge you to do so. You can find their current touring schedule at www.thenewpornographers.com/tour.
JK: Hi Kathryn! Thank you so much for taking time out of your current touring schedule with The New Pornographers to do this interview with me! I want to begin with the record label you founded, Oscar St. Records. What inspired you to start your own label and how did it begin?
KC: I guess I was feeling a sense of wanting to contribute to the music community in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, so I thought it would be a fun, and hopefully useful, project to start a record label.
I started the label on my own last year, in December. So right now it’s just me, but I have been talking with my friend Andy Bishop who plays in Twin River and White Ash Falls about teaming up. I feel that there are lots of records coming out of our area that aren’t getting the attention they deserve. He feels the same way. I’m curious to watch the label evolve over the coming years!
JK: Your world of music emerged at the tender age of five playing piano alongside your mom, a former piano teacher, and then you received your first guitar from her. How old were you when you first began writing your own songs and what is your songwriting process like? Do you write lyrics from a melody in your mind, or do the lyrics come first and then the melody…or a little of both?
KC: I was about 16 when I started writing songs. I was hanging around with a crowd of young musicians at the time, and some of them were writing songs. I thought to myself – hey, I could do that! And I really loved it. The song is the perfect format for me. A song can be written in a day or two (if I’m lucky) and I can add as much melody or harmony as I want to it. Songs can be so many different things. And it includes one of my favourite activities – singing! I usually have a melody first and the lyrics come later, but sometimes the melody and the lyrics arrive at the same moment, and then it’s a matter of capturing the flow of the lyrics and melody for the rest of the song.
JK: Your mom was adopted as a baby. At the age of forty she began her search for her birth family. She subsequently found her birth mother as well as five siblings, one of which is your uncle A C. Newman, founder of The New Pornographers. What prompted your mom to want to find her birth family and how did it come about that you joined her brother’s band as production began of its third album Twin Cinema which was released in 2005?
KC: I can’t say what prompted my mother to find her birth family except that she was curious, and her parents had passed away. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her! She was always brave in situations of uncertainty.
It was kind of a serendipitous road to joining The New Pornographers, as these things usually are. But I guess the story goes that I was in a band called Immaculate Machine when I was in my early twenties, many years after first meeting Carl and family. Immaculate Machine played a show with The Evaporators, who had John Collins from The New Pornographers in their band on bass. John saw me play and mentioned to me that they had been talking about having another singer join the band. Then Carl came to see Immaculate Machine play in Vancouver at the Railway Club, and [he] asked me to come in and play piano and sing on Twin Cinema. And then I came along with them for a little run of shows in the summer of 2005, and so it all began! I was young, I was only just barely twenty-three. I felt very lucky.
JK: You began your professional music career with your band Immaculate Machine which was active from 2003 until 2011 although you officially left the band in 2008. What was it like recording music and touring for two bands simultaneously?
KC: It was tricky. I naively thought it would be easier than it was. I thought I would just be busy and would just make it work. And I certainly was busy! But there were conflicts, and I sometimes had to choose between the two bands, which gigs I would do, etc., which broke my heart, because I wanted to do it all. Eventually, in 2006, when my mom was diagnosed with ALS, a terminal illness, it all became much too much for me and I had to make the difficult choice to leave Immaculate Machine.
JK: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a disease of the nervous system that weakens muscular and physical function. For your mom, it began with tripping – losing the ability to lift her foot high enough to take a step. In 2006, she received her official diagnosis of ALS. If I may ask, can you describe what the physical progressive stages of the disease were like for her?
KC: Yes, it’s a horrible disease – it’s a neurological disease – the brain, for reasons that are still unknown, stops sending signals to the muscles to move. So she started being unable to lift one foot, then the other, then she needed a walker, then a wheelchair, then her hands started to weaken, and she was unable to hold onto things, unable to write. Then her arms and back weakened, and she was unable to sit up on her own without help. She eventually was unable to do anything at all without help. So she would lie in bed waiting patiently for my brother or I, or a caregiver, to come and move her into a new more comfortable position. She lost her ability to swallow, then her ability to speak, which was possibly the worst part, not being able to communicate. Eventually her lungs stopped working and she passed away in hospice, loved, among family. That is the way the illness progressed for my mom. The progression took place over a few years. It’s a very dark illness, because the progression is relentless. There’s a lot of fear. People living with ALS are very brave. Their loved ones are very brave too. It’s difficult on families.
JK: Your documentary about your mom, A Matter of Time, was released in 2015. It began with a Kickstarter campaign through Yellow Bird Project. You travelled to Victoria, Vancouver, Chicago, New York, Woodstock and Baltimore to interview authors, doctors and musicians. Some of your bandmates appear in the documentary as well. The result isn’t just a film about ALS, but instead, it’s a film that finds the human connection inside all of us through what I believe to be the only thing in life that perfectly exposes who we all really are – music. What prompted you to want to document your mom’s illness in such a personal, beautiful way?
KC: I was moved to tell the story because I felt a personal responsibility to do all I could to raise awareness for ALS. But it wasn’t originally my idea. It was the filmmakers who had the vision. They approached me, they knew the story, they knew they could tie it into music in a really beautiful way. I, in turn, trusted in their vision.
JK: I lost my mom to inoperable cancer when I was just twenty-one. She was my rock, my sole confidant. She steadied me. Through the eight months she underwent debilitating treatments which ultimately took her life, she still somehow managed to remain strong and devoted to every person in her life. Your mom was your biggest fan as well. Tell me a little bit about her – her strengths, her dreams, her devotions.
KC: My mom was a beautiful person. She was quick to forgive. She was gentle, very good with kids. She could be stubborn if she needed to be, and she was easy to make laugh. She was an excellent musician. She was devoted to her family. She was very smart, loved to travel, and particularly had a soft spot for France – the art, the food, the history, the landscape.
JK: My final moments with my mom were in the hospital after she’d received her final cancer treatment. I’d purchased this giant “I Love You” balloon for her. We sat together, somehow knowing it would be the last time we’d get to speak to one another. As I left and was walking back to my car, I stopped and turned toward her room. There she stood in the window next to that giant balloon waving her final goodbye to me. It was the most precious moment of my life. What were your final moments like with your mom? Do you have a particular memory that stands out the most?
KC: I was with my mom too, at the end, and it was peaceful. It was not initially peaceful for me, in that I was confused about what was happening, but once I understood that it was the end, I held her hand through it, and let her go.
JK: I recently had a friend ask me how the death of my mom affected my life, and I could only think of one thing. It took away my strength to become who I should have been. For you, it was the complete opposite. You gained an unfathomable strength, a strength so powerful that you have managed to not only achieve what some would consider a lifetime of work all while still in your thirties, but you managed to take the deepest of pain and turn it into something immensely beautiful, something that can teach us and heal us. I consider you to be a beacon of light and hope for those who have suffered such a loss. Where do you feel your strength and perseverance stem from?
KC: Thank you. That is really very, very kind of you. These things all affect us in different ways. I don’t know where my strength and perseverance comes from. I do tend to have a streak of quiet defiance in me. I get an enjoyment from being sort of unpredictable, to do unexpected things. I suppose it comes from a confidence I have in my abilities to figure things out. A lot of that pre-dates my mom’s illness, although it was certainly strengthened by the experience of looking after her. Everything else was no big deal, comparatively. It was a confidence I had, and I guess I’ve always had it. I got it from my parents, probably. They both thought I could do whatever I wanted. And I guess I believe them! I have been lucky to be surrounded by supportive people who believe in me. I also have lots of moments of self-doubt. But the ‘confident me’ tends to be the one who throws the ‘unconfident me’ into situations with the full expectation that I will figure it out. And I suppose I usually do!
JK: In your solo career, you have produced a single titled “New Millennium” in 2015, three albums, Are You My Mother? (titled after the book of the same name) in 2010, Bright and Vivid in 2011 and a self-titled album in 2015. Are You My Mother? was a tribute to your mom. You became her sole caretaker, moving into your family home, after her ALS diagnosis. At the same time, you set up a recording studio inside the home to record the album. What did that endeavor entail and can you describe your mom’s reactions to hearing you sing as she lay in her bed in the next room?
KC: We set up a mobile recording studio in our family dining room. Colin, my producer/engineer, set up his computer and a car full of gear he brought from his studio in Vancouver on a big table in the dining room. The dining room was attached to the living room via big sliding doors, which was perfect. It not only allowed us some separation, which is important for a clear recording, but also gave easy access to the living room, which was where the baby grand piano was, and where the musicians set up. We had lots of people come through the house to play on the album, which made it very special. I think it was a very good distraction. It was something that was happening that kept everyone busy, and kept my mom occupied with more positive thoughts than the ever present reality of her illness. She was incredibly supportive. We had the kind of dynamic together where I’d bring in something for her to hear, to get her opinion, and she would tell me her opinion. And then I would promptly ignore it, because I already knew what I thought of it! But I guess she understood I was figuring it out for myself. I couldn’t have done it without the support I knew I had. The net I knew was under me if I fell.
“It all appears coming from thin air
I trade my empties for parts
If scars are what we have
To show for all these trades
What is left but our luck?”
Listen to Kathryn Calder’s track “Blue Skies” from her self-titled album Kathryn Calder:
“Dark clouds today Sleepless nights in shades of multiplying grays What can you do Ghosts become your own guests that will not leave you alone”
Listen to Kathryn Calder’s track “Younger Than We’ve Ever Been” from her album Bright and Vivid:
JK: Who did the illustrative work behind the cover of your album Are You My Mother? and the two videos produced for the album which highlight the tracks “Slip Away” and “Arrow”? I’m most especially curious about the bunny in both videos.
KC: I did the original artwork. It was a series of collages of different landscapes made out of cut up old National Geographic magazines. Then I had a designer, Jill Holmberg, make it all look wonderful and turn it into a booklet. For the video for “Slip Away”, my friend Dean Tzenos took the idea of the different scenes from the booklet to make a story using live action puppets. It was quite amazing. And then when we were making the video for “Arrow”, we thought it would be cute to reference the bunnies from the album artwork and from the “Slip Away” video, to sneak a bunny in there, creating a thread between it all that only some people would catch. It all just kind of worked out in a really nice way.
“You say I’m too sad Well I happen to like it I happen to like you to Fire away, I’m still here in phantom waves Fire away, I still have my better days Fire away, what more can I do but say Fire away, fire away”
Watch Kathryn Calder’s animated video of her track “Arrow” from her album Are You My Mother?:
“Hide my hands behind my back My fingertips, they hold a secret I have to hold it lightly though Be very careful not to break it
I’m holding on to something lost I should just let go and move along”
Watch Kathryn Calder’s animated video of her track “Slip Away” from her album Are You My Mother?:
JK: Is there a particular track from Are You My Mother? that impacts you the most from the experience of dealing with your mom’s disease, and if so, which track and why?
KC: I think “Arrow” is a song that sort of sums up how I was feeling at the time. It’s about a defiance and an understanding of the situation all at the same time. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, but I figured I would just deal with whatever was thrown my way.
JK: It’s no secret that I hold immense admiration of your strength and outlook on life. What advice, from your own experiences, can you give to people who get stuck in the pain that life often throws at them?
KC: Everyone has their own path and their own challenges, but what has helped me is to try to learn all I can about myself and the world we live in. And I try to be helpful to others.
JK: Are you working on, or planning any future new solo albums?
KC: I am working on a new record with a friend of mine who is a wonderful fellow Canadian artist who performs under the name Woodpigeon. We’re hoping to finish up our album in a few weeks. It will still take awhile to get it out into the world though! Hopefully next year sometime!
JK: On a final note, I just want to say that I’m only one of many who see how you cherish the life you’ve been given and how you make every second count. People often ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and I feel my mom had a perfect response. She would say, “Without the bad, how would you recognize the good?” Do you feel you live by that kind of philosophy?
KC: Absolutely. It’s an important lesson to learn, and I still think I’m learning it every day. Because although you may see me as someone who makes every second count, I don’t always feel I do. It’s hard! Our attention gets so easily drawn away into unimportant things because of the nature of our world. But my mother’s illness gave me the chance to think about a lot of important things, and though it was a truly horrible illness, I did discover many new ideas about the nature of life, which I am very grateful for and which have helped me immensely.
Please consider supporting ALS Worldwide here, or visit your local chapter’s website.
Dedicated to Lynn Calder, her beautiful family and all families, everywhere, struggling with ALS. Also dedicated to my mom who I miss every day.
The first question I’m usually always asked when I mention the name of one of my longtime favorite bands The New Pornographers is, “What kind of name is that for a band?” Well, A.C. Newman answered it best on Chart Attack in reference to a quote from Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart who believed rock and roll was the “new pornography”.
“That [Swaggart quote] came after the fact. Somebody told me that and I thought it was so good that I was going to make it my new story. The truth of it is, I’ve always liked the Japanese movie The Pornographers. It’s a mid ’60s movie. I was so fascinated by the word pornographer – it just seemed like a weird word to me. It seemed like such a clinical word to describe what it is. [Also], Dan [Bejar], at around the same time, had a song called “The Pornographers”, that was on the first Destroyer record. I also always loved the name The New Seekers. I always thought it was a ridiculous name. There were the original Seekers and then a few years later, a completely different band showed up and they called themselves The New Seekers. I really liked the New. Somehow, in my head one night, it just became The New Pornographers. Before we’d written any songs – before we were a band – I thought, “We’re going to be a band and we’re going to be called The New Pornographers.”
This is a band that isn’t afraid to tackle controversial subjects – one most recent subject being the last Presidential election. They even proudly displayed “Resist” stickers on their equipment during their most recent tour.But along with controversial subject matter, you’ll also find pure, unfiltered humor, sincerity and deep truths that unmask stigmas such as depression which is represented in their latest album Whiteout Conditions released earlier this year. The New Pornographers are the realest of real in every sense of the word – the kind of people you want in a best friend. And selflessly, every piece of music they produce becomes that friend.
One of the greatest attributes of The New Pornographers comes from their ability to multitask their career as a solid, perfectly harmonized band while simultaneously maintaining solo projects just as powerful and deeply personal.
I recently caught up online with Todd Fancey, guitarist for The New Pornographers, as the band was nearing the end of their current tour in Europe. Inquisitive over the years about discovering new solo projects from members of the band, I discovered Todd’s project Fancey, a revival of the music of the 70’s, an era with a unique mix of genres such as soft rock, funk, soul, pop and even salsa. Songs from that era included a wide mix of instruments such as strings, horns, flutes and electric piano, rhythm guitars and synthesizers.
As a child of the late 60’s and mid 70’s, my earliest music influences began with bands such as Electric Light Orchestra, KC and the Sunshine Band, the Bee Gee’s and Blondie. It was a generation of songs that told stories encased in repetitive lyrics and catchy rhythms. Instrumentally, the music of the 70’s seemed to hold the unique ability to either take something sad and make it happy, or to take something happy and make it even happier. I always felt the music born in the 70’s was far too short lived…although I imagine Mark Watney in Andy Weir’s The Martian would adversely disagree with me.
Within Todd Fancey’s solo project Fancey, which has produced three records and one EP since 2004 and is due to release a 12-track cover set for download in Autumn of this year, he has managed to keep the music of the 70’s alive in such a way that it feels like it never ended in the first place. Upon first listen of Todd’s music, you can feel that it’s personal and purposeful. It’s music that holds the essence of perfection in how it’s created for the most authentic sound possible.
All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine yourself on the dance floor with fragments of light from a glittery disco ball splashing across the faces in the crowd. Grab yourself a pair of bell bottom jeans, pop one of Todd Fancey’s records on the turntable and you’ll be transported back in time. Follow me as I dive into a bit of his dual life as guitarist for The New Pornographers and singer/songwriter for his solo project Fancey, and treat yourself to a listen of his new album Love Mirage as well as a few samples of his prior albums below the interview. But before you do, here’s an exclusive sneak peek at the titles for his upcoming 12-track cover set:
“Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” by Buffalo Springfield
“Early Mornin’ Rain” by Elvis Presley
“Merry Go Round” by The Brady Bunch
“Come Run With Me” by The Brady Bunch
“Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?” by Charlie Pride
“What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” by The Monkees
“Seabird” by Alessi Brothers
“My Rifle, My Pony and Me” by Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson
“Peter & Lou” by Valdy
“Carolina Caroline” by Jonathan Edwards
“Amarillo by Morning” by Terry Stafford
“Kathy Don’t Go” by The Family International
Watch this space in Autumn, 2017 to download Todd Fancey’s covers FREE!
JK: Hey Todd, thanks for taking time out of the European leg of your tour promoting The New Pornographers latest album Whiteout Conditions to speak with me. I attended your show at Terminal 5 In New York City on April 26, 2017 and the band put forth an incredible performance! I remember the audience vehemently chanting for an encore and the band did not disappoint. You snuck in the song “Challengers” from the self-titled album Challengers which I noticed wasn’t on the setlist. Was that a last minute addition and if so, what prompted the change? I, for one, was super psyched to hear it!
TF: Yeah, “Challengers” keeps coming back as a good way to start the encore mini-set. I think A.C. [Newman] just likes it there because it works well and is a quieter song.
JK: What were the circumstances that led you to join The New Pornographers?
TF: I was asked to come on tour for The New Pornographers first U.S. tour because Dan [Bejar] was off doing other things and they wanted a second guitarist. I was happy to get the phone call! Kurt [Dahle], our drummer at the time, knew me from being in Limblifter with me so it wasn’t really an audition so much. JK: You’ve been with The New Pornographers for roughly sixteen years. That’s given you and the band some solid time in building a history together. I recently saw a tweet from Neko Case saying, “A band IS a marriage.” Do you share her view in that respect?
TF: Having been with the band since 2001, yes, it is like a marriage. We’ve been fortunate in that we get along very well together. We just had a great six-week tour and it really did go smoothly. You have to work on it, work on giving people space when you can and getting your own space too. JK: When The New Pornographers goes into the studio to record, what’s an average recording day like? Is it always a serious endeavor or are there any shenanigans between bandmates? I know on stage there are often some pretty hilarious impromptu jokes.
TF: An average recording day when I do guitar parts is a long hard day of work but that’s a good thing. It’s tense in a certain way because you want to get each part done to move on to the next. So, it’s heads down and get to work. There are some laughs along the way always with this band. JK: What was it like for you touring with Waxahatchee?
TF: Waxahatchee were so easy to tour with! It was just the two of them and their lovely merch person as well. Couldn’t have asked for better touring partners. I watched them play. It was really great, beautiful songs.
JK: I have to ask about your recent tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Being totally honest, how would you rate your nerd/science geek level of excitement on a scale of 1 to 10…10 being “I want to watch watch them build the next space probe!” and 1 being “Cool! A bumper sticker for my guitar case!”?
TF: With NASA, somewhere around a 7. I am interested in their past especially, the Apollo Program and earlier. They treated us very nicely and it was a big thrill to be there. Usually when the band goes to see things like that it’s too early for me as I usually wake up on the bus around 2:00 pm, but I had to go to that one. JK: You appeared offscreen on an episode of The Office titled The Dinner Party which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. The episode included your vocals on a fictional album called The Hunted. What was it like working on a television show?
TF: It was fun to make the recording for The Office. It took about five minutes to write, as Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupinsky [had previously] sent me the words to work with. Then I had to wait about sixteen months to find out if it was going to be used because of the writer’s strike at the time. I’m proud of that because I love that show so much, and to have Steve Carell and the other cast members be in a scene with me singing (badly…and they asked me to sing it that way) is still surreal. JK: You were born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Do you still reside in Canada and what, if any, differences in culture do you experience while travelling in America?
TF: I live in Vancouver, Canada. It’s a great city. I think many places in the states are far more friendly than Vancouver though. I have no idea why. America gets this horrible reputation but it’s a very friendly place in general and my favourite country to tour in by far. JK: A.C. Newman wrote the track “High Ticket Attractions” during the Trump campaign and his lyrics prove almost Nostradamus-like yet simultaneously casting no opinion politically one way or the other. As a Canadian citizen, do you ever foresee an election in your country that could hold such a division of it’s citizens?
TF: I can’t imagine an election in Canada being as divisive as the one America just had in November. We aren’t as widely polarized in Canada. One of my theories is that the Florida election of 2000 took existing divisions and made them far worse as everyone in America waited weeks to find out the results.
JK: Along with your career as guitarist for The New Pornographers, you’ve had your own solo project in the works for awhile now called Fancey. You released your first album, Fancey on March Records in 2004, an EP titled The Magical Summer in 2005 also on March Records and your second album, Schmancey on What Are Records in 2007. Your latest album titled Love Mirage was just released in January of this year on your own label, Stoner Disco. Your albums as a whole seem to blend an A.M. radio 70’s disco pop with a hint of soft rock. What’s your inspiration behind re-creating this unique era of music?
TF: Well it’s my favourite kind of music and a worthy challenge to make music that sounds like that. I also like the simple lyrics of those A.M. radio 70’s songs.
JK: Are there and any bands or songs in particular from the 70’s that influenced what you want to reflect within your own music?
TF: There are more than a few flagships from that era that I aspire to in terms of recording achievements. A few are “On and On” by Stephen Bishop, “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” by Chris Rea, “Fallin’ in Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds and of course anything by England Dan and John Ford Coley, such as “It’s Sad to Belong”. JK: Love Mirage sounds very much like a record actually recorded in the 70’s. Can you tell me how you and producer Allan Rodger accomplished this instrumentally?
TF: Instrumentally, we made sure we used all real vintage synths and instruments. When you use real Rhodes electric pianos and write in that style you’re going to sound 70’s! JK: I get a definite ballroom waltz vibe when I listen to the track “Disco Angel”. Was that an intentional feeling to the song?
TF: Yes, “Disco Angel” is basically about “waltzing” back in those days, which was pretty much just hugging and slowly turning with each other during a slower song. It was called a “waltz” even though people into real waltzing must have derided it.
JK: Do any of the songs on Love Mirage reflect events from your own life?
TF: Pretty much all of the songs reflect my life. I like to have maximum relevance to my life with each song in some way. It’s the only way I can get feeling into them.
JK: Any plans to tour for Love Mirage and your previous records?
TF: Touring is a possibility once the Whiteout Conditions touring wraps up, but that won’t be for awhile.
Listen to Todd Fancey’s new album Love Mirage:
Listen to “Cross O’ Gold” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Lost In Twilight” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Call” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Bitter Life” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Strayed Out” from Todd Fancey’s 2004 record Fancey:
Listen to “In Town” from Todd Fancey’s 2004 record Fancey:
Listen to “I’ll Be Down” from Todd Fancey’s 2004 record Fancey:
One night, not so long ago, began pretty much like every night before it. I put on some Beach House music. Except this particular night, I did something different. Normally I like to listen to one album at a time. I like to get the feel of each album as a whole. But this night, I listened to a mix of songs, old and new, uninterrupted, blending together into one solid moment of sound. It did something to me. It profoundly changed my perspective of what Beach House is all about.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard a mix of their songs before. I’ve seen dozens of their concerts online and had the immense fortune to see them play live in August of 2015. It was the first time they had chosen an Upstate, New York venue. I can still remember the feeling as I stood at the doorway listening to Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally during their soundcheck. It was surreal. I was seeing and hearing Victoria…live…singing “Levitation” right in front of me, with only a few yards of space between the physical two of us. I stood there feeling overwhelming emotion, in disbelief that my wait of almost a decade to see Beach House perform had suddenly vanished…it was happening.
So what was it, exactly, about that blending of old and new songs that changed my perspective of Beach House? The answer was much bigger than I imagined. It wasn’t just their music, but what was inside of it. Initially, I thought of their Setlist Creator and their Installation Shows for their most recent tour. They don’t just promote their recent records on their tours. They create an atmosphere, the same as I did that night not so long ago, blending songs from all of their albums. They turn every concert into a work of art, a personal creation for their fans. These two people, Victoria and Alex, are not just music artists, not just a favorite band. They are the epitome of gratitude, dedication, love, life and energy. They have spent their entire lives as professional musicians putting their souls into every single, solitary song…every recording, every performance, every interview, every meet and greet. Everything they do, they do for their fans. They are intensely private people who never stop giving…an odd combination that totally works for them. I recently had the incredible experience of interviewing Lauren Turek, former bassist/backing vocalist of Daggerhearts, which allowed me to discover a small part of Victoria before she was Beach House. I learned that she has always been a one-track mind…music. Alex has often described himself in the same way. Victoria and Alex were destined to make music together. They are made of it. It courses through their veins. It shines from their eyes. It flows from their fingers. Their appreciation of the world of music, both their own and of fellow artists, is an endless force that drives them to an infinite creativity. And, so it took hearing this blending of old and new Beach House songs for me to truly begin to understand my love of Beach House. They, as a band, exist for us. And, that thought never occurred to me until the moment that the music stopped playing. It was, in that split second of silence, that I suddenly felt such gratitude to Victoria and Alex…but then I instantly knew that they wouldn’t want that from me. What they would want…is for me to take the music they had just given me…and make it my own. That is a beautiful thing.
“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.”
Watch Victoria and Alex in this Wow Magazine interview talk about the energy and passion that goes into every song they create, the heartache of songs never coming to fruition, and about how music is the most integral part of who they are:
Beach House’s appreciation of the world of music has driven them to create a rich and immense history of music throughout their career as a band and has inspired fellow artists along the way. Albums, collaborations, covers, tributes…the list goes on and on. If you look hard enough, if you listen carefully enough, you will find Beach House hiding in the least expected places. I found myself compelled to put some of that history into one place…and so began this article. Within it, I’ve attempted to put together a comprehensive collection of some of the most prominent music and the history behind it…that is…and of…Beach House, including my interviews with Antoine Bédard of Montag and Adrien Chabal, photographer of La Blogothèque Soirée de poche #14. However, this is not meant to be a discography, but instead, it is an attempt to understand where Beach House’s music comes from…how it is born, and most importantly, how it changes everyone it touches. I hope this collection will bring you, at the very least, a few new discoveries of the band that we have come to love so much. When viewed separately, this collection doesn’t seem like much, but when viewed as a whole, one can walk away with a new perspective of what it takes to be an artist…in any capacity. Beach House has certainly proven that point. I have also added a non-discography link…just because it’s passionately worthy of a mention. So, without further ado (and be prepared to spend some quality Beach House time here)…a collection of Beach House and the inter-connectivity of artists who share their passion for music.
BEACH HOUSE ALBUMS:
Self Titled – Saltwater, Tokyo Witch, Apple Orchard, Master of None, Auburn and Ivory, Childhood, Lovelier Girl, House on the Hill, Heart and Lungs, (Hidden Track: Rain in Numbers)
Devotion – Wedding Bell, You Came to Me, Gila, Turtle Island, Holy Dances, All the Years, Heart of Chambers, Some Things Last a Long Time, Astronaut, D.A.R.L.I.N.G., Home Again
Teen Dream – Zebra, Silver Soul, Norway, Walk in the Park, Used to Be, Lover of Mine, Better Times, 10 Mile Stereo, Real Love, Take Care
Bloom – Myth, Wild, Lazuli, Other People, The Hours, Troublemaker, New Year, Wishes, On the Sea, Irene (Hidden Track: Wherever You Go)
Depression Cherry – Levitation, Sparks, Space Song, Beyond Love, 10:37, PPP, Wildflower, Bluebird, Days of Candy
Thank Your Lucky Stars – Majorette, She’s So Lovely, All Your Yeahs, One Thing, Common Girl, The Traveller, Elegy to the Void, Rough Song, Somewhere Tonight
Side Note: In a Pitchforkinterview, the question that has been asked a thousand times is finally answered:
VL: “People go, “Who’s Irene?” It’s like, “Well, c’mon. It’s more crazy than that.”
AS: “Your mom. The answer is your mom.”
VL: “But isn’t it more interesting to feel many possibilities?”
Listen to Beach House’s Irene (with those OH so tremendous key presses) and its hidden track (be patient for it) Wherever You Go:
BEACH HOUSE SINGLES AND EP’S:
10 Mile Stereo Apple Orchard Gila Heart of Chambers I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun Lover of Mine Lazuli/Equal Mind Master of None Myth Norway Other People PPP Sparks Used to Be Wild You Came to Me Zebra EP – Zebra UK Radio Edit, The Arrangement, Baby, 10 Mile Stereo Cough Syrup Remix
Beach House’s track “Norway” was born out of a challenge by none other than Norway’s Lydverket, a Norwegian music magazine for television that aired from 2002 until 2012. On a train ride from Bergen to Oslo, Lydverket challenged Beach House to write a song, and write a song they did. In the interview, you can literally hear Victoria’s brain creating the lyrics as she discusses facts about Norway with the interviewer (along with a few sneezes). As Beach House and the Lydverket crew venture down the platform exiting the train station, the song is played acoustically for the first time.
If you have a few hours to kill, give these next two videos a watch to get a feel of what the train ride from Bergen to Oslo encompassed for Beach House. There is some immensely gorgeous footage to behold.
Watch Bergen to Oslo 1/2:
Watch Bergen to Oslo 2/2:
BEACH HOUSE ALBUM APPEARANCES:
¬ 77 – Gila
#89 – Norway
2007 Pitchfork Music Festival Sampler – Apple Orchard
Bella Union 10th Year Anniversary – Apple Orchard
Best Albums of 2010 – 10 Mile Stereo
Best of 2010 – Better Times
Carpark Holiday Sampler – Auburn and Ivory
Digital Bang – The 2010 Sub Pop Sampler for Amazon – Zebra
Dream Pop – Norway
FUV Live 15 – Turtle Island
Harbour Boat Trips 01 – Copenhagen by Trentemøller – Gila
LateNightTales – Midlake – Silver Soul
La bande-son 2012 – Wild
La bande-son de l’été 2015 – Sparks (Radio Edit)
Live at KEXP – Volume Nine – Myth
Live at KEXP – Volume Six – Walk in the Park
Live at the World Cafe – 20th Anniversary Edition – Zebra
Lone Star Solid State – A 2010 ACL Mixtape – Norway
Loss Opportunity – The 2012 Sub Pop Records Sampler – Myth
LSTN #4 – Used to Be
LSTN #8 – Norway
LSTN Europe #5 – Norway
Momentos 2010 Canciones Internacionales Volume 1 [Issue 291] – Zebra
Monitor This! June/July 12 – Myth
Musik Express Mixtape 2012 – Myth
New to Q: 15 of the Most Exciting New Acts on the Planet – Norway
Now Hear This! – Wedding Bell
October 2010 Chrysalis Music Singles Sampler – 10 Mile Stereo
Paste Magazine New Music Sampler Issue 60 – Norway
Pitchfork X UO Playlist – Lazuli
RA.270 – Walk in the Park
Rough Trade Shops – Bella Union 15 – 15 Years of Bella Union Records – Lover of Mine
Sonically Speaking Volume 51 – Norway
St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service [Ep 7] – Take Care
Terminal Sales Volume 5 – Mixed Nuts – Myth
The Best Carpark Compilation in the World…Ever! – Master of None
The Space Project – Saturn Song
Un Printemps 2012 Volume 3 – Lazuli
Un Automne 2015 – Life is a Killer – Majorette
Western Skies – Norway
White Winter Hymnals – Master of None
The Space Project is quiteliterally an out of this world creation. Inspired by the electromagnetic radiation fluctuations of planets and moons in our solar system that were recorded by NASA’s Voyager 1 & 2 Space Probes, this Record Store Day Release compilation from Lefse Records features fourteen music artists who use these planetary sounds within their own music. The track “Saturn Song” by Beach House makes its heavenly appearance within this compilation.
Listen to Beach House’s Saturn Song:
Side Note: To purchase a copy of The Space Project (available digitally, on CD and vinyl) visit the Lefse Records official website.
Air – Le Voyage Dans la Lune – Seven Stars Frenemies – Birds in High School – Waiting for the Ambulance Future Islands – Post Office Wave Chapel – Little Dreamer (Jones Remix) Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest –Two Weeks Grizzly Bear –The Twilight Saga: New Moon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Slow Life Jana Hunter –A Goblin, A Goblin (video) Montag – Going Places –Plus Grand Que
At the Cannes Film Festival in France, a hand colored print of Georges Méliès 1902 silent film Le Voyage Dans la Lune (discovered in 1993) was premiered featuring a newly commissioned soundtrack by the band Air. The soundtrack to the film was extended into a full album featuring Victoria as well as Au Revoir Simone. Georges fourteen minute science fiction story was a first for silent films and was his own version of Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H.G. Wells First Men in the Moon. The film was a satire of the scientific community of the time and Georges not only wrote the script but also directed, produced and photographed the film as well performed in the lead role, designed the sets and created the costumes. The image of the lunar capsule landing in the eye of the moon is widely recognized in film history.
Air’s Nicolas Godin describes the soundtrack for the film as being “nourished by living art” and provided a perfect description in an NME interview of how artists can influence one another:
“Projects like this refresh our brain. Making your own albums all the time is too narrow-minded. At some point you write the same song. So you need new blood all the time. We are like vampires.”
Listen to Air’s Seven Stars:
Frenemies is the solo project of Chris Freeland, former drummer for the band Oxes. Frenemies defined itself as “a strange brew of hip-hop, punk and post-pop” in an article by Binghamton University’s bi-weekly newspaper Pipe Dream. In 2003 Chris produced his first album Friendship, followed by his second album in 2006 Birds in High School which featured Victoria as backing vocals on the album’s 7th track “Waiting for the Ambulance”.
Listen to Frenemies Waiting for the Ambulance:
The track “Two Weeks”, although being an upbeat song, is actually about the breakup of a relationship. The song was released as a single on June 1, 2009 before being released on Grizzly Bear’s third album Veckatimest. Much like Beach House, Grizzly Bear tends to pull places or things that grab hold of them into their music, and in this case, the title of the album was actually named after an uninhabited island in Gosnold, Massachusetts. In a Pitchforkinterview Ed Droste, singer, songwriter and original member of Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear, explains more about the island, and how Victoria was chosen for backing vocals on the track.
“We were doing some recording in Cape Cod, and we were looking at some typography. We were invited to that area once, and we thought it was really beautiful. And we liked the name. We didn’t camp there or anything, but we spent a lot of time there because of my grandmother’s house there. So we had a chance to really explore the region, and it was an area that we thought was really pretty because it was so natural and untouched.”
“…during the chorus there’s this vocal line that’s distant and a little odd. I remember Dan [Rossen, guitarist] being like, “This is such a Victoria part; we should totally get Victoria to come in and sing this.” It just made sense. She came up and did the part for us.”
Listen to Grizzly Bear’s Two Weeks:
Victoria’s collaboration with Grizzly Bear for the track “Slow Life” was much less complicated than a collaboration ought to be…but Victoria seems to have a way of making things easier than they should be. The end result was a song that took a lot of people by surprise, and even introduced a whole new generation to the music of Beach House with its relation to the Twilight series. In a Music OMHinterview, Victoria describes, quite literally, the effortless process of being asked to collaborate on the song:
“A quick phone call, I took a taxi over, and in an hour and a half it was done. I’m not trying to destroy any magic, but I didn’t write any of it with them. But it was fun.”
Listen to Grizzly Bear’s Slow Life:
Jana Hunter is singer and primary songwriter for the band Lower Dens based in Baltimore. Jana was asked during an interview by Vulture if she had heard of comparisons being made between her voice and Victoria’s voice. This was her response:
“I have. I’ve been listening to their music since they first started making music and loving it since then; we’ve played a few shows with them, too. I’m in love with her voice, but it’s hard for me to see the comparisons because I just think her voice is just so much better than mine and will continue to do so much more than mine. So I find the comparisons flattering, but they must be coming from people who aren’t too familiar with either of our voices. [Laughs.]”
Watch Jana Hunter feat. Victoria Legrand perform A Goblin, A Goblin:
On his 3rd album, Going Places, Montag’s French-Canadian producer Antoine Bédard created an exquisite collection of collaborative tracks which feature himself along with Au Revoir Simone, Matthew Barber, Shaun Brodie, Anthony Gonzales, Leah Abramson, Victoria Legrand, Amy Millan, Ida Nilsen, Owen Pallett and Ghislain Poirier. Victoria’s hushed backing vocals dance through the lyrics of the track “Plus Grand Que”.
I had the extraordinary pleasure of interviewing Antoine, who graciously took time out of his travelling schedule to answer a few questions for me. I have to say, his answer to my last question left me breathless. It is a frame worthy response.
JK: From what I have researched, you had received a grant from the Quebec Arts Council to record and catalogue orchestra instruments into a database which you use along with your own keyboard for your recordings and live performances. Is this correct?
AB: “Yes, it is. Those recordings were used on an album called Alone, Not Alone that was released on Carpark Records in 2005. It was Montag’s first release in North America, as all the previous releases were on other European labels such as Gooom and Ai Records. And, it is through Carpark Records that I met with Beach House. We played a show in 2006 at Pop Montreal. It was their first show outside of Baltimore. We became friends right away.”
JK: The track “Plus Grand Que”, which appears on your album Going Places, features a collaboration with Victoria Legrand. It is an incredibly mesmerizing song from start to finish. I have found myself listening to it on repeat! What led you to choose Victoria to do backing vocals on this track?
AB: “I wrote the song not knowing who would collaborate on it. I wrote the song in French and instinctively I thought about asking Victoria to sing on it because she speaks French quite well (her father is French and she is the niece of famous composer Michel Legrand). I thought it would be great also to hear her sing in French. Unfortunately, the tracks she recorded on her side were quite lo-fi sounding as it was a home recording – this was before the band had access to bigger studios. That explains why her voice is quite low in the mix. But it does add to the mood of the track. I was so grateful she had accepted to do this with me.”
JK: Your album Going Places is a huge collaborative effort! What prompted you to want to collaborate with so many different artists on this album?
AB: “I have always fantasized about being in a band. Making music alone can be tough sometimes so it felt really satisfying from really early on to collaborate. Working on Alone, Not Alone was a first step in that direction as I worked with seventeen different classical music musicians. But with Going Places I gave myself the objective of having one collaborator for each track. It felt natural to ask Alex and Victoria to collaborate in one way or the other, and Victoria accepted to sing on a song.”
JK: Can you give your listeners a description of what the track “Plus Grand Que” is about…especially for those of us who do not speak French?
AB: “The song was written at a time when I was madly in love. “Plus Grand Que” means “bigger than” in reference to the mathematical sign “greater than”. It was a way for me to describe how strong love can feel sometimes, how it gives you the impression to be invisible. The chorus is very simple: “We are bigger than nature, our love is bigger than us, our love is bigger.” The rest of the words are quite poetic and a little bit more obscure. I wanted to create a luminous song, and in the end it was all quite mysterious sounding but in a soothing way, especially when Victoria’s voice was added to it at the very end.”
JK: Are you a fan of Victoria’s band Beach House, and if so, have you had the opportunity to see them perform live at any of their venues?
AB: “I have seen Beach House many, many times. The band would stay at my place when I lived in Vancouver (before 2008). And they toured very intensely so I got to see them often. It’s very weird because their music never touched me more than after I had a very hard breakup. It was their music that felt like the antidote to what was happening in my life. We always had a great friendship but since then I feel like their music had a much bigger presence in my life, which also, in a way, contributed to feeling closer to them than ever.”
JK: Do you plan on doing any further collaborations with Victoria in the future?
AB: “I am not sure if it will happen again. Victoria is very busy, but I would ask her if it felt right. I thought about asking Alex to play guitar on one of my songs before, but who knows if it will ever happen. First I have to get back to recording my own music again, which I haven’t done in years now.”
JK: If you could describe Victoria in one word, what would that word be?
AB: “Witch. I always thought of her as a great music sorcerer, a good and haunting witch.”
Listen to Montag’s Plus Grand Que:
Thalia Zedek – Plum – Bus Stop (feat. Arbouretum) The Grateful Dead – Shakedown Street –Fire on the Mountain (video feat. Department of Eagles)
Thrill Jockey Records located in New York, New York, began in 1992. Inspired by the Devil’s Jukebox 7″ box set released in 1989 by Blast First, Thrill Jockey Records released a limited edition box set titled Plum to celebrate their 15 year anniversary. The box set contains ten 7″ singles, each with their own picture sleeves, which contain Thrill Jockey Records bands covering their favorite Thrill Jockey Records songs. Victoria joins Arbouretum for their cover of Thalia Zedek’s track titled “Bus Stop”.
Side Note: To purchase a copy of the Plum box set (available digitally and on vinyl) visit Thrill Jockey Records official website.
VICTORIA’S MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTIONS:
Rookie Magazine – Just Wondering
Victoria was asked to contribute to a recurring feature of Rookie Magazine called Just Wondering in which adults give advice to teenage girls. This is a must read! Visit Rookie Magazine to read the full Q & A.
Serge Gainsbourg Tribute
Held at the Hollywood Bowl on August 28, 2011, the Serge Gainsbourg Tribute was formed by a diverse group of artists which included Beck, Zola Jesus, Victoria Legrand, Mike Patton of Faith No More, Ed Droste, Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (aka GHOSTT), Lulu Gainsbourg, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who sang and spoke a nearly all French tribute to Serge Gainsbourg, a French singer, songwriter, pianist, film composer, poet, painter, screenwriter, writer, actor, and director. The tribute consisted of three setlists as follows:
Setlist One: L’eau a la Bouche (Gainsbourg), Couleur Café (Gainsbourg), La Noyee (Gainsbourg), Requiem pour un Con (Patton), Chanson de Prévert (Patton), Danger (instrumental), Le Horse (instrumental), Harley Davidson (Jesus), Le Poinçonneur des Lilas (Jesus), La Décadanse (Patton and Legrand), Initials B.B. (Legrand), Le Chanson de Slogan (Droste and Legrand), I Came Here To Stay (Droste)
Setlist Two: Cannibas (instrumental), Comic Strip (Lennon and Kemp Muhl), L’Homme a Tete de Chou (Lennon), Bonnie and Clyde (Lennon and Kemp Muhl), Ford Mustang (Patton and Kemp Muhl), Cha Cha Cha de Loup (Patton), Sea, Sex and Sun (Legrand and Kemp Muhl), Nefertiti (Beck), Teenie Weenie Boppie (Beck), Les Sucrettes (Beck)
Setlist Three: Le Historie de Melody Nelson, conducted by Jean-Claude Vannier: Melody (Godron-Levitt and Legrand), Ballade de Melody Nelson (Lennon and Kemp Muhl), Ah! Melody (Beck), L’Hotel Particular (Patton), En Melody (Jesus), Cargo Culte (Gordon-Levitt)
Watch Victoria perform Serge Gainsbourg’s Sea, Sex and Sun:
Teen Dream – Silver Soul
As a companion to the CD version of their album Teen Dream, Beach House included a DVD featuring a variety of directors including Sean Pecknold (brother of Robin Pecknold), Kevin Drew (of Kevin Drew & Co.) and Victoria, herself, for the video Silver Soul which features the cinematography of Victoria’s brother Alistair Legrand, who directed Beach House’s video Heart of Chambers. Silver Soul was filmed at Dreamland Recording Studios, a converted building which was once St. John’s Church built in 1896, and is also the studio where Beach House recorded their album Teen Dream.
Watch Victoria’s Production of Silver Soul:
Papercuts – Life Among the Savages – Life Among the Savages
Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want – A Dictator’s Lament, The Machine Will Tell Us So, Future Primitive, Jet Plane, The Wolf
Sandcats – Useyeless – The Punchline
The indie pop band Papercuts has more often than not toured with Beach House on a somewhat regular basis, as well as with other well known bands such as Grizzly Bear, Camera Obscura and Vetiver. Jason Robert Quever, songwriter and producer of Papercuts, has remained the band’s only permanent member although drummer Graham Hill and bassist Frankie Koeller have been regular members since 2008. Artist and filmmaker David Enos has remained a longstanding collaborator on keyboard. In 2009, the band produced You Can Have What You Want which features Alex as a collaborator on pretty much the entire album. To be specific, the liner credits are as follows: Percussion on “A Dictator’s Lament”, help with string arrangements on “The Machine Will Tell Us So” and “Future Primitive”, bass on “Jet Plane”, keys and backing vocals on “The Wolf” and general recording/arranging assistance. In 2014 Papercuts released Life Among the Savages which features Alex on arrangements on the album’s namesake track.
Side Note: The liner credits for You Can Have What You Want include a special thank you to Victoria. After seeing a random YouTube video of Victoria doing backing vocals and Alex playing keyboard along with Jason Robert Quever as lead vocals for the track “Jet Plane”, I was curious to know if Victoria did any backing vocals/instruments on the album itself, so I asked Jason to clarify the liner credits. Per Jason, Victoria does not appear on the album in any capacity.
The Sandcats, an electronic funk/soul band, were husband/wife duo Riyan Kidwell (also of the band Cex) and Roby Newton (also of the bands Cex and Milemarker). They produced two albums titled Some Kind of Mantra in 2006 and Useyeless in 2007 under the label Must Finish along with a collaborative 7″ split with the band Car Clutch in 2008 with Wildfire Records which featured the tracks “Ringu, I’m on the Edge of my Seat” and “Bikewrider”. Alex is featured on Useyeless on the track “The Punchline”.
BEACH HOUSE TRIBUTES:
Gene Clark No Other Tour
The Gene Clark No Other Tour was the brainchild of none other than Victoria and Alex who came up with the idea for the tour out of their love of Gene Clark’s 1974 album titled No Other. They sought after and organized a collective group of fellow artists to join the tour which included themselves along with Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold, Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen, the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, Iain Matthews of Plainsong/Fairport Convention and featured Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, plus members of Lower Dens, Cass McCombs’ band, Celebration, and Mt. Royal. The instruments used included a mix of electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, piano and drums. The tour extended to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York City. Gene Clark was a founding member of the folk rock band the Byrds. He passed away in 1991.
Watch Victoria perform Gene Clark’s Hear the Wind:
BEACH HOUSE COVERS:
Gucci Mane – The State vs. Radric Davis – Lemonade (video) Daniel Johnston – 1990 –Some Things Last a Long Time Michael Jackson – Thriller – Billie Jean (video feat. Celebration) Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want –Jet Plane (video feat. Papercuts) Queen – Dark Was the Night – Play the Game
The Korgis – Dumb Waiter – (Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime) I Need Your Loving (Pitchfork Music Festival Video Stream)
Tony, Caro and John – All on the First Day – The Snowdon Song [retitled to Lovelier Girl] Weezer – Self Titled – Undone – The Sweater Song (video)
Side Note: You can download the Pitchfork Music Festival Video Stream files (special thanks to Reddit user dspaceman88) at the following links:
In the year 1990, Daniel Johnston released an album of the same name titled 1990. The album’s fifth track, “Some Things Last a Long Time”, is a story about unrequited love. The track was written by both Daniel and his friend Jad Fair, a founding member of Half Japanese, and remains to this day a lo-fi classic. Born in 1961, Daniel is a talented and unique individual, both musically and artistically. In fact, some of his art appears on his releases. While attending an art program at Kent State, Daniel, began writing and recording in the cellar of his family home. Two very important songs were born during that time, titled “Songs of Pain” and “More Songs of Pain”, which grew from his unrequited love for a woman named Laurie who ended up marrying an undertaker. And thus, Daniel’s magic began and eventually reached into his song “Some Things Last a Long Time”. Beach House cradled his magic…beautifully born from a lifelong struggle with manic depression, and equally captured the longing and heartbreak in their cover of this song on their second album Devotion. I urge you to pour over Daniel’s website, Hi, How Are You, to learn more about his life and his music.
Listen to Daniel Johnston’s Some Things Last a Long Time:
Dark Was The Night, originally titled New Blood, is a two-hour mega charity compilation album by the Red Hot Organization with proceeds to benefit individuals and families battling HIV and AIDS. It was the organization’s 20th compilation release which featured the following artists: Dirty Projectors, David Byrne, José González, Feist, Ben Gibbard, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, The National, Yeasayer, My Brightest Diamond, Kronos Quartet, Antony, Bryce Dessner, Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner, The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beirut, My Morning Jacket, Sharon Jones, The Dap-Kings, David Sitek, Serengeti, The New Pornographers, Yo La Tengo, Stuart Murdoch, Riceboy Sleeps, Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues, Andrew Bird, Conor Oberst, Gillian Welch, Blonde Redhead, Devastations and Kevin Drew. Notwithstanding the depressing fact that Beach House’s cover of Queen’s “Play The Game” was inexplicably left off the physical release of the album but later re-added as an iTunes only bonus track, the album raised over 1.6 million dollars and reached #3 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums of 2009.
Watch the Dark Was The Night Live Documentary by Red Hot Organization:
Beach House performed the most moving rendition you will ever hear of The Korgis song “(Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime) I Need Your Loving” from their album Dumb Waiter at the Pitchfork Music Festival held in Union Park, Chicago on July 15, 2016. The concert was an impeccable performance both vocally and musically as well as artistically. The setlist is as follows:
Levitation, Wild, PPP, Silver Soul, Space Song, 10 Mile Stereo, Rough Song, Master of None, Wishes, (Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime) I Need Your Loving (Korgis cover), Take Care, Myth, Sparks, Elegy to the Void and Days of Candy.
Listen to Beach House’s cover of The Korgis (Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime) I Need Your Loving:
The track “Lovelier Girl”, which appears on Beach House’s first and self-titled album Beach House, is a masterfully done cover of “The Snowdon Song” by the British folk/rock group Tony [Doré], Caro and John which appears on their 1972 album All on the First Day. The song is jointly attributed to both Beach House and Tony Doré. Tony, Caro and John recorded All on the First Day in their London Flat using a Ferrograph tape recorder played over a pre-recorded backing track which encompassed unique instrumentation such as mandolin, flageolet, bass-wah and low-key fuzz. They pressed 100 vinyl copies through Eden Studios in 1972 which provided sold out shows for the band. The album was re-issued in 2010 by Garrden Records.
Listen to Beach House’s cover of Tony, Caro and John’s The Snowdon Song [retitled Lovelier Girl]:
BEACH HOUSE MUSIC SCORES:
This Must Be the Only Fantasy (A Rodarte Film directed by Todd Cole)
Launched in 2009 with Intel as its founding partner, The Creators Project features the works of artists who are using technology as an expansion of creative expression. For their third film collaboration, Rodarte and Todd Cole created this short film masterpiece which tells a tale about a girl who is on a mystical and heroic quest on the streets of Los Angeles.
Watch Rodarte and Todd Cole’s short film This Must Be the Only Fantasy:
BEACH HOUSE FILM SHORTS:
Beach House – Forever Still
Beach House’s film short Forever Still features four songs from their album Bloom…”Wild”, “The Hours”, “Wishes” and “Irene”. In a quote from Sub Pop Records, Beach House describes the process of making this captivating film short in their own words:
“Before releasing Bloom, we decided that we would only participate in “promotional” activities that we could control artistically and give substantial energy. We had previously been involved in too many live sessions, radio tapings, photo shoots, etc., where the outcome was far below our personal artistic standards. We also felt a need to distance ourselves from the “content” culture of the internet that rewards quantity over quality and shock over nuance.
The concept for Forever Still was about a year old when Pitchfork came to us about supporting a project that we really cared about.
Forever Still is directly inspired by Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii. We wanted to perform in a non-typical setting without losing the spirit of our music. We felt the songs would resonate in a more majestic and spiritual landscape. The experience was an intense three nights of filming. Everyone involved in production and crew was benevolent in their time and talented in their efforts. We were very lucky to have the help and hard work of many people who aided and lent their abilities to our vision.
The basic concept is four songs performed from sunset to sunrise.
We tried to keep the edits minimal with long takes in order to focus on the energy of the songs, the landscape, and the physicality of live performance. The entire film was shot in or around Tornillo, Texas, where we recorded Bloom. Like Bloom, we hope that Forever Still is experienced as a whole, long form.”
Watch Beach House’s film short Forever Still:
SAMPLES OF BEACH HOUSE SONGS BY OTHER ARTISTS:
G-Side – The ONE COHESIVE – How Far – 10 Mile Stereo Joywave – 77777 – Space Walk – Beach House/Walk in the Park and One Republic Say (All I Need) Kendrick Lamar (feat. Jay Rock and Anna Wise) – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – Money Trees – Silver Soul The Weeknd – House of Balloons – Loft Music – Gila The Weeknd – House of Balloons – The Party and the After Party – Master of None
After the release of G-Side’s album The ONE COHESIVE, people started noticing a familiarity in one of its tracks titled “How Far”. In a Washington Post review, the source for the track was finally revealed, and The City Paperinterviewed Cory Parham from G-Side’s in-house production team The Block Beattaz to get the scoop. Here’s what he had to say about the Beach House’s “10 Mile Stereo”:
“It was one of those moments in your life that something completely grabs you and hits you in that emotional place. That song that says what you feel better than you can articulate it. Then, when I finally made it to the lyric, “They say we’ll go far, but they don’t know how far we’ll go”, chills went through my body. It explained that dynamic of knowing you’re great but God, fate, or life may think differently. We aren’t in control. The song is big. The drums were made for the stage. It had an atmosphere around it. I wanted to make sure we captured that in the production.”
Listen to G-Side’s sample of Beach House’s 10 Mile Stereo:
Joywave, a Rochester, New York indie rock band, consists of Daniel Armbruster, Joseph Morinelli, Sean Donnelly, Benjamin Bailey, and Paul Brenner. They have deservedly climbed the ladder of success making appearances on late night shows such as Late Night With Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and have achieved a viewing audience of well over a million fans on YouTube. Joywave released the mixtape 77777 via their label Joywave Industries in 2011 which contained the band’s sample of Beach House’s track “Walk in the Park” from their Teen Dream album.
Listen to Joywave’s sample of Beach House’s Walk in the Park and One Republic’s Say (All I Need):
Kendrick Lamar’s track “Money Trees” from his album titled Good Kid, M.A.A.D City features an appearance by Jay Rock and backing vocals by Anna Wise. The track also samples Beach House’s “Silver Soul” from their Teen Dream album. Producer DJ Dahi, in a Behind The Beat video interview, said he used reverse sound from “Silver Soul”, adding drum beats, bass and cow bells to the mix. “Money Trees” ended up an instant hit landing itself as #19 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart following the album’s release and received critical acclaim from music critics. That acclaim stemmed in part from the crossing of indie/pop and hip hop/rap genres that allowed listeners to experience a genre they may not have been inclined to experience otherwise. XXL deemed the album “one of the most cohesive bodies of work in recent rap memory”.
Watch DJ Dahi discuss how he created the beat to Money Trees:
The Weeknd rose to indie music fame with its album titled House Of Balloons, a solid electronic and urban mix of contemporary and alternative R&B, soul, trip hop, indie rock and dream pop. The track “Loft Music” distorts guitar and vocals from Beach House’s “Gila”, adding a drum track and vocals, while Beach House’s “Master of None” adds a touch of sensuality to what is characteristically some dark subject matter on the track “The Party and the After Party.”
COVERS OF BEACH HOUSE SONGS BY OTHER ARTISTS:
The Casket Lottery – Myth
Daniela Andrade – Take Care Lauren O’Connell (feat. Will Sturgeon) –Other People Little Girls – 10 Mile Stereo
The Lowlifes – Used to Be Savage Sister –Silver Soul
Toro Y Moi – Master of None
The Casket Lottery is an indie rock band from Kansas City, Missouri consisting of band members Nathan Ellis (originally from the band Coalesce), Stacy Hilt, Nathan Richardson, Brent Windler and Nick Siegel. In 2012 under the label No Sleep Records, The Casket Lottery produced their 7″ split with the band Touché Amoré which features one original song and one cover from each group. The Casket Lottery chose Beach House’s track “Myth” from their Bloom album for their cover.
Listen to The Casket Lottery’s cover of Beach House’s Myth:
Daniela Andrade is reaching new heights with her infamous covers and original songs which can be found on YouTube, SoundCloud and many other online music venues. Based out of Toronto and Montreal, Canada, Daniela creates a world of music that gently carries the hearts of those who listen to a place of comfort and acceptance. To date, she has built a massive fan base with over 300 million streams and plays. Her newest venture due out in the Summer of 2016 is something rarely done by artists anymore…a visual EP called Shore which consists of four tracks about falling out of love despite the struggle to remain in love. Much like Beach House’s short film Forever Still, Daniela’s film short will include four music videos filmed on location over the course of six weeks in Morocco, Cuba and Canada.
Watch this preview of Daniela Andrade’s visual EP:
Listen to Daniela Andrade’s cover of Beach House’s Take Care:
Just when you thought Beach House’s track “Other People” from their album Bloom could not possibly sound any more upbeat, Lauren O’Connell proves it can be done on her cover of their track which features Will Sturgeon. Lauren is a folk/alternative country singer from Rochester, New York. She has produced four albums to date: Sitting in Chairs, The Shakes, Covers and Quitters. Her album Covers features eleven tracks covering various bands and was recorded in her home studio between 2011 and 2012.
Side Note: To purchase Lauren’s album Covers, visit her Website Lauren ‘Connell.
Listen to Lauren O’Connell’s cover (feat. Will Sturgeon) of Beach House’s Other People:
The Lowlifes, or Matt Pond PA, originally began in Philadelphia and transitioned to a New York based band. Their songs are rich in beauty of the things we often overlook in life, much like the songs of Beach House. The band consists of Matt Pond and producer Chris Hanson who have produced numerous albums, EP’s, demos and more over the last two decades. Quoted in a Stereogum interview, here’s what Matt had to say about his cover of Beach House’s track “Used to Be” from their Teen Dream album:
“For me, this is the first song that made Beach House the kind of band that breaks all the light bulbs. This is the one song I’ll never stop singing in the shower, humming as I collect my mail. And though we’re a million miles away from achieving the stunning sound and vision they create, this may be the most fun anyone’s ever had with their own epitaph. Yes.”
Listen to The Lowlife’s cover of Beach House’s Used to Be:
One of the most unique Beach House covers comes from Savage Sister, a Chicago based dream pop/shoegaze band featuring Chloe Lundgren, Caitlin Klask and Michael Tenzer. The band records with a mix of synth and reverb which is heavy on their cover of Beach House’s track “Silver Soul” from their album Teen Dream, making the song almost unrecognizable as a Beach House song…but in really cool way.
Listen to Savage Sister’s cover of Beach House’s Silver Soul:
BEACH HOUSE REMIXES:
Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo (Cough Syrup Remix)
REMIXES BY OTHER ARTISTS:
Graham Hill – Lover of Mine (Roman Ruins Remix) Mikey Maramag – Remixes – I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun (Blackbird Blackbird Remix)
Graham Hill has been a touring drummer to both Beach House and Papercuts, although, Roman Ruins is his solo project. He created his remix of Beach House’s track “Lover of Mine” from their album titled Teen Dream as a promotion to the release of his 7″ titled PASTOR/AL. Graham’s remix poetically explores the mystical link between song and architecture relevant to his career as an architect in New Orleans.
Listen to Lover of Mine (Roman Ruins Remix):
Blackbird Blackbird (Mikey Maramag) is a San Francisco based electronic synth pop musician with a variety of music compositions under his belt. After touring the U.S. and Europe following several earlier releases, he was signed with the prominent San Francisco label Om Records where he released Tangerine Sky (2014) and Strawberry Light (2015). Blackbird Blackbird’s remix of Beach House’s single “I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun” can be found on his EP titled Remixes (2010) which you can purchase via Bandcamp(whose biography also best describes this unique music artist):
“His unique style of dreamy folktronica recalls inﬂuences from all ends of the musical spectrum. Within elongated song structures, Blackbird Blackbird harnesses thematic elements of dynamism and composition to create depth and complexity, while never losing sight of his pop sensibilities.”
Listen to I Do Not Care for the Winter Sun (Blackbird Blackbird Remix):
BEACH HOUSE SESSIONS:
Black Cab Sessions – Heart of Chambers Daytrotter – Walk in the Park, Zebra, Take Care, Used to Be iTunes – Walk in the Park, White Moon, Norway, Silver Soul, Gila, Real Love Juan’s Basement – Gila, Holy Dances, Apple Orchard KCRW – Myth, Other People, Turtle Island, Wishes, Take Care, Irene, Equal Mind KEXP – Teen Dream – Zebra, Walk in the Park, Real Love, 10 Mile Stereo KEXP – Bloom – Devotion – Other People, Myth, Turtle Island La Blogothèque Soirée de poche #14 – Used to Be, Walk in the Park, Norway, Zebra, Silver Soul Pitchfork Special Presentation – Zebra, Norway, Walk in the Park, Take Care
Side Note: Check out this KEXP photo shoot on Flickr!!
In a unique one-song performance, Beach House performed “Heart of Chambers” in the back of a British black cab while driving the streets of London. The motto of Black Cab Sessions is “one song, one take” and the idea for the sessions began with Jono Stevens and was produced as a partnership between Hidden Fruit and Just So Film.
Watch Beach House perform Heart of Chambers:
Juan’s Basement is a documentary/reality web show that includes music performances and interviews with a variety of professional musicians and is hosted by Juan Pieczanski, who lives in his parents basement which also doubles as the venue for the live performances.
Watch Beach House perform their Juan’s Basement Session:
In a tiny, cramped apartment in Le Marais, a historic district in Paris, France, it took the team of La Blogothèque nearly three hours to set up the equipment for Beach House’s intimate performance. During breaks, Victoria eloquently spoke both English and French to her fans, even taking a moment to ask if everyone was cool enough due to the heat of so many bodies crowded into such a small space. At the end of the set, Victoria and Alex were told they had a few minutes left and were asked if they wanted to play an unscheduled song. Alex played a brief riff and Victoria was up for the challenge. That unscheduled song was “Silver Soul”…and the reason it was a challenge is because it would have to be played semi-acoustically. That “why not” moment created a version of “Silver Soul” never imagined. And as an extra bonus, there is one sentence spoken in the session by Victoria which makes you go weak at the knees…“This is a song about love.”
I had the incredible opportunity to interview Adrien Chabal who is a Professional photographer in France. Adrien did the photo shoot for this La Blogothèque session.
JK: La Blogothèque Soirée de poche #14 featured Beach House performing five tracks from their Teen Dream album which included “Used To Be”, “Walk In The Park”, “Norway”, “Zebra” and the unplanned performance of “Silver Soul”. The performance was held in an apartment in Le Marais, a historic district in Paris, France, is this correct? AC: “Yes, Le Marais is situated in the center of Paris between Bastille, Republique, and Hôtel de Ville.” JK: How was this apartment chosen for the performance, and does La Blogothèque often select such intimate locations for their featured artists? AC: “This is La Blogothèque’s Trademark to find the perfect place, to create the appropriate atmosphere that fits the music. This particular flat was not the “mansion” type, but it had a great location and the coziness of it made it all.” JK: Can you describe your experience of listening to such an incredible performance from Beach House while at the same time doing your photo shoot? AC: “Usually taking pictures of a live band turns me rather schizophrenic. I need to focus on what I’m doing more than on what I’m listening to. On that particular night, such blissful music in that cozy living room gave us a magic feeling as we were joining such an intimate rehearsal of the band. I was kind of stunned and took no more than a dozen snapshots.” JK: Were you familiar with Beach House before this photo shoot, and if so, have you had the opportunity to see them play live at any of their Paris venues? AC: “I had the chance to see and shoot the band in Paris maybe three or four times. I also remember vividly one of their shows at La Maroquinerie that same year or so which also blew my mind. Their shows have great atmosphere even if they like to play in very dark rooms which makes it harder for photographers.” JK: How were you chosen to do the photo shoot for this performance? AC: “I got lucky enough to access this Soirée de poche by asking Chryde (founder of La Blogothèque) if I could take pictures aside from his production team.” JK: For many Beach House fans, the video that was created of this performance is incredibly captivating. The fans in the audience were remarkably relaxed and immersed in the music which seemed to fill every corner of the tiny apartment. Have you had the opportunity to see the video of this performance? AC: “Of course! I love the video! The sound is so delicate considering the tough conditions of this almost unplugged concert, and very small space for the usual recording gear.” “I remember the band was a bit tense at the beginning of the gig (they started over one or two songs), but then Alex (who was cheerful and spoke with every single fan), managed to cool the room up, while Victoria seemed both divine and fragile.” JK: Tell me a little bit about your work as a photographer. Do you work primarily photographing musicians? And, do you work strictly in France or do you travel outside of France for any of your assignments? AC: “I’m more in scenery photography but at the time of this Soirée de poche I used to cover lots of indie bands playing gigs and festivals in France.”
You can view Adrien’s amazing work via his Flickr page. His Beach House photo shoot is featured here.
Watch Beach House perform their La Blogothèque Soirée de poche #14 session:
For the release of Beach House’s Teen Dream album, they did a week-long presentation with Pitchfork on a fur-lined set from their practice space in Baltimore, Maryland. The presentation consisted of four tracks from the album…”Zebra”, “Norway”, “Walk in the Park” and “Take Care”, and is chock full of Beach House goodness including Victoria’s famous hair flips and even a stone-faced karate kick.
Watch Beach House perform their Pitchfork Special Presentation:
Beach House is so much more than a band. Beach House, simply put, is a feeling. They create from the places and the things in between… to recognize, to acknowledge, to give purpose…and to preserve. So, what does Beach House mean to me as a fan for more than a decade? Quite literally, everything. There are unforgettable moments in every person’s life. If I think back, I realize that I have attached a Beach House song to dozens of unforgettable moments of my life, one in particular standing above the rest…one of the hardest, saddest, most excruciatingly painful days of my life. “Days of Candy” helps me to deal with the sudden and unexpected death of my best friend, my Gabriel. I listen to “Days of Candy” with its haunting 24-part choir comprised of eight singers from Pearl River Community College, and I can hear the words:
Just like that, it’s gone. Just like that it’s gone. Just like that. I know it comes too soon. The universe is riding off with you. Hi O out there I know. A little bit of you I keep it close to me. I know it comes too soon. The universe is riding off with you. I know it comes too soon. I know it stays for nobody. I want to know you there. The universe is riding off with you.
I asked my friend Terry if he also had a Beach House song that he has made his own. In his own words, he describes a heartwarming tale of a father and son brought together by the music of Beach House:
“My father passed away in January, 2015. My dad was very specific about the music he listened to. When he was a kid, he wasn’t even allowed to listen to The Beatles for some time after John Lennon said they were bigger than Jesus, and as such, he had a really restricted scope on the music he listened to (though he did love The Beatles). But, Beach House was the one band that I could share with him when I came home from college that he wouldn’t tell me to turn off. He was too proud to ever admit he liked them, but we sure as hell did listen to them. After he passed, Beach House was still there to comfort me. I’d listen to the refrain at the end of “Take Care” and imagine them singing it to me. You can FEEL the love and emotion that went into that recording, the same kind of love my dad had for me. Repeating until it ends.”
Listen to Beach House’s Take Care:
For my friend Shane, Beach House’s “Elegy to the Void” is a favorite. He eloquently describes his thoughts on this track:
“Elegy to the Void” stands out as one of their most intense and gripping songs. I appreciate it both lyrically and musically, for showing Victoria’s imagistic style to its best effect, with a great arrangement that develops ominously throughout the song (even during the fade), as well as bringing in the night motif that reappears in the last two songs of the album Thank Your Lucky Stars.
It also means a lot to me because it represents the development of Beach House’s sound itself. Many bands in their position would be content to coast or continue mining the successful sound they’ve developed, but the arrangement shows that they’re more willing to take risks. Although One Thing also features Victoria on guitar, I feel that the precise arrangement of “Elegy to the Void” is something else, it isn’t simply a lead/rhythm guitar divide but is something more.
And of course, seeing it live at the Sydney Opera House was something else. I thought it was going to be a monster song live, and that expectation was truly rewarded. The combination of the extended arrangement, the light show and the sound itself was a face-melting experience. Of all the concerts I’ve attended over the years, it was the most intense song I’ve seen, and an experience that will live long in the memory, as will the song itself.”
Listen to Beach House’s Elegy to the Void:
Special thank you’s go out to Antoine Bédard and Adrien Chabal for their time and extraordinary generosity in contributing interview segments for this article, and to my friend Terry for his immense help in discoveries for the discography (which included some pretty hilarious late night conversations), as well as to both Terry and my friend Shane for providing their story segments. I invite you, the reader, to post your comments on your favorite Beach House song(s). As well, because this article contains several outside links, if you happen upon a broken link, please let me know and I will do my best to find an alternate outside link.
Daggerhearts – Victoria Legrand, Dirck Ober, Lauren Turek
I’ll begin by giving you the story behind the story. I like to think that fate brings to us the people and the things we are destined to find. I’m crediting fate for allowing me to find my friend Terry one day while surfing Reddit. We began chatting about Beach House rarities, both of us being diehard fans of the band, and he happened to mention that Victoria Legrand was in a band before Beach House…which I already knew, however, I didn’t know the name of the band. Terry did. The band was called Daggerhearts with Victoria Legrand (vocals/keyboard), Dirck Ober (guitar) and Lauren Turek (bass/backing vocals). Terry had discovered the band’s name several months earlier and was in the process of obtaining a long sought after and extremely rare copy of their only pressed vinyl album called Who We Were.
Over the course of many, many emails Terry and I tried to put together the history of Daggerhearts. We discovered tiny bits of things here and there. We learned that Daggerhearts lost Lauren as bassist…but we didn’t know why. We learned that Dirck introduced Victoria to Alex Scally who became the new bassist for the band. We learned that the band eventually became (according to several interviews about Beach House) dysfunctional, and Victoria and Alex split from Daggerhearts to form Beach House. And, through Terry’s vinyl seller named Stefan, who just happened to be a friend of Lauren and her fiance, we were given a brief story of how the album Who We Were came to be. Lauren’s fiance, Jeff Guarnieri, had always known that Lauren was really proud of the recordings, so he had the album pressed for her as a present. But…why did Lauren leave the band? When did the band actually begin? How did it come together? Were there any other Daggerhearts albums out there waiting to be discovered? We were left with more questions than answers.
Before Terry was to receive his vinyl in the mail, I happened upon a website that contained several tracks from Daggerhearts. This would be our very first listen to the music that the band produced. We were ecstatic. Each song was filled with our beloved Victoria’s glorious voice and familiar keyboard presses, gentle, precise harmonies and sometimes edgy, sometimes soft bass rhythms from Lauren, and Dirck’s fast paced drum beats and silky guitar strings. The songs held a raw, untouched story that allowed you to enter the world of the storyteller. While Beach house will always remain my one and only true love, they have taught me to look deeply into the whole of a band…not just the music it produces…and I’m entirely grateful to them for that. I wanted to look deeply into Daggerhearts…but I couldn’t, because there was nowhere left to look. Nothing had ever been written about the band, or if it had been, it’s long since gone from the internet. These songs had a history hidden inside of them, a history aching to be voiced and preserved. I wanted to try and find a way to do that. Daggerhearts, after all, may have played an integral part…a small part perhaps…but integral nonetheless, in the creation of Beach House. Had the band never been formed and had it never split separate ways, Victoria and Dirck may have never sought after a new bassist, thus Victoria may have never met Alex, and Beach House may not have existed today. Beach House and Daggerhearts may be separate bands creatively, but they are forever connected through Victoria. When you listen to the music of Daggerhearts, you hear a band that is uniquely its own…but you also hear a little bit of Beach House hidden inside of it in the sense that musicians bare their souls in the songs they write, and the parts of Victoria that she shared through the songs of Daggerhearts become unavoidably recognizable in the songs of Beach House. Beach House has always been inside of Victoria. So, I made a decision. I was going to find a member of Daggerhearts and contact them. I reached out to Lauren Turek and asked if she would be willing to answer a few questions about the band. She heartily replied, “I’d be more than happy to talk with you….”, and I have to tell you…I did not see that coming.
And so it began. Daggerhearts could finally have a chance to rise from the forgotten and become whole again. It could be given the recognition it deserved. I want to thank Lauren for allowing me to delve into her world of memories. She is a remarkable human being, full of compassion, love, dedication, warmth, generosity and acceptance. She does not falter in holding a protection to the people in the circle of her life. There is a deep, deep respect and gratitude in her words when she speaks about her former band mates, Victoria and Dirck.
The following is a series of questions I presented to Lauren. Her responses eloquently tell the story of Daggerhearts through her recollections from her days as bassist for the band:
JK: How did you, Dirck and Victoria come together to form the band?
Lauren:During my freshman year at Vassar, I would routinely drive back to Connecticut (where I grew up) to have band practice with [one of my other bands]. One day when I was getting back to Vassar, Victoria saw me walking up the stairs of our dorm lugging my bass case. She got excited, asked what I played, then invited me up to her room on the fourth floor to jam a little and hear a few songs she’d written. She had been playing with some other folks and had played some parties at Vassar even, but I guess she was looking for some new people to start a band with. She invited Dirck to join and we started practicing in the basement of our dorm.
JK:I’m aware all of you attended Vassar but I’m unsure if all of you graduated at the same time. I believe you graduated in 2005 and Victoria and Dirck in 2003. Are those dates correct?
Lauren:We did all attend at the same time, but Tori and Dirck graduated before me—Tori in 2003, Dirck I think a year later, and then me.
JK:What was each of your majors?
Lauren: I think, but am not positive, that Dirck was a sociology major, and I think Tori might have been a drama major (maybe?? It’s been a long time). I was a history major and a music minor.
JK: As the bassist of Daggerhearts, I’m assuming…if you graduated at a later date than Dirck and Victoria…that this is why they were in search of a new bassist…which ended up being Alex who was introduced to Victoria via Dirck. Is this correct?
Lauren: Yes, after Tori graduated and moved, we talked about keeping the band going. Once Dirck graduated, he moved back to Baltimore and they must have then started looking for a bassist together so they could continue the band. I still had another year of college and then planned to go to graduate school, and couldn’t see myself dropping out of school for a band. I actually didn’t realize they had continued the band with another bassist until a few months into my senior year. We had a bit of a row about it at the time, as my feelings were hurt that they had replaced me without really telling me, but obviously it made total sense for them to find a new bassist and continue on with the band where they lived. I honestly should have known and not been upset by it, as it was the logical thing for them to do. It seemed that Tori really wanted to make a go of it, and I’m glad she did. Being a professional musician was not something I ever wanted to do though.
JK:How many years did you originally play with the band before it moved to Baltimore and what year did Daggerhearts originally form as a band?
Lauren:I played with Daggerhearts from the time Dirck, Tori, and I formed it in 2001 until I guess around 2003-04, after Tori graduated. I feel like we didn’t play much after she left Vassar (though I know we did play in Brooklyn after she’d graduated, so we must have played some shows).
JK:Did Daggerhearts actually practice in Strong House (a dormitory at Vassar)…and if so, is this where the songs were recorded?
Lauren:We just practiced in Strong House. The recordings were done at a studio in Orange, Connecticut by my friend Greg Georgio.
JK:Did Daggerhearts play only local venues in Upstate, New York, or surrounding areas as well?
Lauren:We played in New York and Connecticut, but I don’t think anywhere else.
JK: During your venues, did you play a standard setlist, or did you mix it up for each venue?
Lauren: We wrote a different setlist for every show.
JK: Did you have a particular song that you began and ended each venue with?
Lauren: We often started with Sissy Boy and ended with Lost Radio, but we mixed it up a lot too. We also covered the TLC song “No Scrubs” a few times, which was really fun!
JK: What influenced the music of Daggerhearts?
Lauren: What was so great about Daggerhearts, to my mind anyway, was that Dirck, Victoria, and I had very different and diverse musical tastes from death metal to pop, hardcore, riot grrl, and hip hop…so we brought all of those varied influences into our music writing.
JK: Did the band write the song lyrics as a unit or were they written by a single band member and if so, who wrote them?
Lauren: Tori wrote the lyrics and the three of us wrote the music together. We used to have really long practices where we would just start with a riff and build out parts from there—it was so much fun. Dirck would write these beautiful elaborate guitar lines, I’d write my bass lines, and Tori would write her melodies and keyboard parts. Sometimes I would come with a song written or part of a song written and we’d work on it together each adding our own parts to flesh it out, sometimes Dirck would bring in a song, sometimes Tori would and sometimes we would just make up stuff together right there at practice. It was very organic.
JK: How many songs in total did the band produce?
Lauren: I’m not sure exactly how many songs we wrote—probably only around 20 or so. We didn’t record all of them at the studio, though I may have some demo tapes that we recorded on a boombox somewhere. After a few months of practicing together, I booked us time at the studio that my other band recorded at (a studio a close friend of mine owned), drove us all down there for a long recording session, and then worked with the engineer to master it. That was the demo. I did the art on the cover and had Jeff help with the layout for the insert. We then returned to the studio later to record the 8 songs for the EP’s.
JK: Tell me about how Who We Were became an actual pressed album. Is the story true about it being a present from your fiance Jeff?
Lauren: This is a sweet story! My fiance Jeff did press the album for me as a Christmas present one year when I was in graduate school. I think he knew I always felt a little sad that the two 7”s never came out, so he collected all of the master recordings we had (he sneakily asked me for them telling me he wanted his own copies—I was none the wiser) and had it pressed as a record, intended just for me and whichever close friends I wanted to pass them around to.
JK: Who did the artwork for the album cover?
Lauren: Jeff laid out the covers and did all of the text and had his friend Jason Curran create the original artwork for it. He then had 100 of them hand silk-screened, and numbered each one. The hand numbering is an homage to our love of rare record collecting. Lots of the bands we like have done limited, hand-numbered releases.
JK: Why were only 100 copies made?
Lauren: I think he pressed 100 because that was the minimum the pressing plant would do. The records were never for sale though–I just sent them to friends as well as to Dirck and Tori. I have never been so touched by a gift in my life. It was by far the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me. I definitely cried when he gave it to me!
Side note from Lauren: Jeffrey does the art/layouts with Jason Curran for an edited series that Jason edits called Ox and Pigeon, a collection of Spanish-language fiction (in translation) from Latin American authors. It’s awesome!
JK: According to what I could find on discography pages, there were supposed to be two EP’s produced from the band called Sissy Boy and Ugly Girl, but that never came to fruition. Why were they not produced? Was it lack of funding…or other reasons?
Lauren: That is correct; they were supposed to come out on Recommend if You Like Records (http://www.riylrecords.com/), which a friend of ours from Vassar founded. After we recorded the songs at the studio for those records, I provided the masters to the guy who ran the label and he mocked up the covers. I’m not sure why they never came out—it may well have been a funding issue on the label’s part (I paid for the recordings, so it wasn’t a funding issue on our side at any rate).
JK: Were any other albums or EP’s produced that I’m unaware of?
Lauren: Those were the only two records we produced together. As I said though, Jeff knew I always felt disappointed that I didn’t have those songs on vinyl, which is why he pressed the record for me.
Listen to a few tracks from Daggerhearts Sissy Boy EP:
Listen to a few tracks from Daggerhearts Ugly Girl EP:
JK: Does Victoria sing in French in a portion of the song titled Ugly Girl?
Lauren: Yes, Victoria does sing in French on that song. She is, as far as I can recall, fluent in French.
JK: I have to ask…because it’s my favorite song…okay, I’ll concede, it’s one of my favorites…it’s terribly hard to pick a favorite. Home Again…I was floored to find that song…as a Daggerhearts song…before it was a Beach House song. Now, according to an interview during a KEXP Seattle Session, Victoria stated that Home Again has been the only song they ever produced on an album that they have never played live. Is it because Daggerhearts owns the copyright to it…or do you think possibly that it’s an instrumental or choral issue?
Lauren: I love that song so much too! I am not sure why they don’t play it live—I’ve never actually talked to Tori about it.
Listen to Daggerhearts Home Again:
JK: What was an average day as the band Daggerhearts like?
Lauren: We had lots of fun together! We would meet for practice, first in the basement of our dorm, Strong House, then later in the townhouse dorms that Tori lived in her senior year, and just play for an hour or two at a time, sometimes more. We’d run through songs we’d already written, write new songs, practice our set. I remember being completely absorbed in writing and playing music together—there were a few really long jam sessions. I’d never been in a band that could just riff for such a long time on one idea and really expand it out into a song that way. It was such a wonderful, collaborative experience with each of us writing our own parts and making suggestions to each other.
JK: How did you three manage to write and produce as many songs as you did and still have time to manage your college courses?
Lauren: I think we managed to write and do the band while in school because we were all really energized by working together. Dirck and I played in other bands at the time too—I had three other bands while I was in college (though those bands weren’t at Vassar, they were back in Connecticut).
JK: How did you feel performing on stage in front of an audience? I know, when watching Beach House play, Victoria seems to have two different levels of noticeable comfort…she always appears much more at ease when performing at small venues, so I imagine she was like that while playing with Daggerhearts as well. Did you and Dirck share that same kind of comfort level with smaller venues?
Lauren: I loved performing on stage. By the time I’d met Tori and Dirck, I’d been playing in bands for a few years and was completely comfortable performing for an audience, large or small. Since I was playing in DIY punk, hardcore, and garage bands for the most part, I was used to and enjoyed small venues. I find performing (and, now, public speaking) exhilarating. I can’t speak for Dirck, but he always seemed very comfortable performing as well.
JK: Do you feel that Daggerhearts had a large fan base and if so, was it more inside or outside of Vassar?
Lauren: No, almost no one knew about us. When I was in the band, we played shows around Vassar so Vassar people knew, a few folks from New York, and friends of mine from the CT scene who saw us. We didn’t play that many shows, so we never had a big fan base. We did have a website and everything (Jeff helped me make it, actually) so there was information available, but we just didn’t play out enough when I was in the band to build up much of a following. I don’t know what their experience was after they relocated to Baltimore.
JK: What was the experience of touring like…and did you ever open for other larger bands?
Lauren: Daggerhearts never toured while I was in the band (my other bands toured). We just played house shows and some shows at smaller venues. I’m sure we did open for larger bands, but I don’t remember who.
JK: Do you have a favorite song from Daggerhearts, and if so, what is it…and why is it special to you?
I do! I have always really loved the untitled song. There is something about it that is so haunting. I’ve always found the drum beat that Dirck programmed for it to have been wildly creative, and I still play the bass line I wrote for it when I’m noodling around at home. I remember writing the ending section, writing our parts individually together (if that makes sense) and then just playing it over and over again until we settled on what it should sound like. I remember feeling enveloped in it and in its complexity. It is such a textural piece of music, with everyone playing something wholly different, creating a wall of sound. It’s a song that allowed me to play the full neck of the bass, too—and doing so gave the bass line almost a bell-like quality in that last section. I still absolutely love listening to it. I get chills when it starts up.
“Into the hole where I came from
or the corner where I dance
looking into a place I recollect
but I gave you one more chance”
Listen to Daggerhearts Untitled:
JK: You did backup vocals on a few of the band’s songs…did you have professional voice training and if so, where/when?
Lauren: I did do backup vocals on some of the songs and I sing backup for [one of my other bands] as well. I have no formal voice training and generally try to limit my singing in public since I am really self conscious about my singing voice.
JK: What instruments were used in the creation of Daggerhearts songs (eg. organ, bass, drums, etc.) and were any unusual or rare instruments used?
Lauren: We had the usual guitar, bass, and keyboard. Tori started with a pretty inexpensive keyboard initially and then upgraded to a really nice one. The cheap one had the benefit of having drum beats built in…when she upgraded, Dirck started using his drum machine to do the beats instead since the new keyboard didn’t have that feature. Dirck and I used some effects pedals as well for our instruments, but that was about it.
JK: About the effects pedals that you and Dirck used, were they anything like the one octave keyboard setup that Alex Scally uses for the production of Beach House songs?
Lauren: I don’t remember exactly which pedals Dirck used (he had an array of them if I am recalling correctly). I used a boss mega distortion pedal for some songs and parts of songs–it made the bass sound very warm and fuzzy. You can hear the change in the bass tone that the pedal provided by comparing the bass line in the untitled song (which had no distortion) with the bass sound in the song Go Beyond, which has the distortion from the pedal on it.
Listen to Daggerhearts Go Beyond:
JK: Were the songs recorded using analog tape as your master copy as Beach House continues to do…or were they recorded digitally?
Lauren: We recorded digitally, though I do love analog recordings. It’s much more expensive to record analog, and since I paid for all of the recordings, we had to go with what I could afford—which was my pal’s digital studio J. That said, one of the reasons I like to press music on vinyl is for preservation purposes. Even analog tape will degrade over time, sometimes quite rapidly. Vinyl, while not a perfect storage medium, is pretty hardy.
JK: The image of the demo…I’m assuming by the track list that this was the album that originally was meant to be pressed (or produced digitally) but never was…and eventually made its way to pressing via Jeffrey’s “sneaky but amazing” gift to you…with the addition of the B Side songs…Paris, True Love, Ugly Girl and our mutual favorite, Untitled…along with the alternate versions of Sissy Boy, Walk Away, Horror Flick and Lost Radio?
Lauren: The demo was just a demo CD; it was never intended to be an album. I made a bunch of copies of the demo and handed it out to people at Vassar and around various places in NY/CT. We later re-recorded some of the songs for the two EP’s. That’s why there are multiple versions of the same song on the gift LP that my fiance pressed.
JK: Tell me about your life after Daggerhearts. And I’d like to congratulate you on obtaining your Doctorate!!!
Lauren: Thank you! So after Daggerhearts, I continued playing in my other bands and am still in a band that I started in 2003. After Vassar, I earned a master’s degree from NYU in museum studies and worked for a few years at a private exhibition design firm in NYC that designs exhibits for museums and cultural institutions throughout the world. I missed doing my own research on U.S. foreign policy history though, and decided to go back for a PhD in history. I moved to Virginia to attend the University of Virginia in 2008, so I could work with the best scholar of Cold War foreign policy in the country. I finished the degree this past summer and am now an assistant professor at Trinity University in Texas. I teach U.S. foreign relations, modern American history, and public history and do research on human rights and religion in U.S. foreign relations history.
JK: Where/when did you learn to play bass…and did you receive professional training?
Lauren: I taught myself the bass in high school to play in my high school jazz band and pit band (for plays/musicals). I already knew how to read music and I played the guitar, so it was a pretty easy transition for me.
JK: Do you play any other instruments besides bass? If so, which ones?
Lauren: I started playing the oboe in 4th grade and received professional lessons on that instrument from then through college. I still play, but I don’t perform on that instrument anymore (though I kind of want to start a woodwind quintet…I just have to see if I can find anyone at work or in the area here who is interested in doing that). In 5th grade I started playing the guitar as well. I took lessons on guitar for a while but found them boring, so I taught myself from there on out. In high school, my band director bugged me to play guitar in the jazz band but I didn’t want to…eventually though, the jazz band’s bassist graduated and my band director goaded me into trying that instrument instead. Once I picked it up, I absolutely loved it. I taught myself to read for the bass so I could play in jazz band like I said, but then realized I liked playing bass in rock bands too. I had played guitar in a couple bands in high school, but found the bass to be much more fun and flexible. I’ve played bass in most of the bands I’ve played in since. Since I learned to play for jazz, I play with my fingers rather than with a pick. I feel this allows for a more expressive style, though it is just a personal preference.
I also play the saxophone (which I learned for marching band in high school), the English horn (which is like a bass oboe—I taught myself how to play that in college when I was in the concert band), and drums (which I taught myself). I kind of want to learn the banjo, but it may be a while before I can pick up another instrument–I need to focus on getting my book published so I can earn tenure here.
JK: Have you had the chance to see Victoria and Alex play at any of their venues over the years and if so, do you usually get to meet up with them and talk about old times after the shows?
Lauren: I haven’t, though I have heard their albums (they’re beautifully written) and I did watch one of their performances on Conan (I think) which was up online. It was so cool to see her on national TV!
JK: Do you still keep in contact with Victoria and Dirck, and if so, how often would you say you get to talk with each of them?
Lauren: Dirck and I are still in touch and are friends on facebook. We message each other maybe once a year? I am not in touch with Tori—it’s probably been more than a decade since we last talked.
JK: In your first reply to me, you mentioned that you, Stefan and Jeff used to play in a band together. Tell me a little more about that. I’m assuming you were bassist for the band?
Lauren: I started out playing rhythm guitar then switched to drums actually. Stefan played lead guitar and Jeff played bass, then switched to rhythm guitar when I started playing drums. We started the band in 2006 and played together until I moved to Virginia in 2008. It [was] intentionally noisy/lo-fidelity rock, and it was a fun band. We played out in Connecticut and New York a bit during that time (we were based in Connecticut).
JK: Did you produce any songs via the band?
Lauren: We recorded a couple of 7”s, a few songs for compilation albums, and a very limited tape release. I still play occasionally with [one of my other bands] as well, which has recorded a bunch of records. We tour now and again when we feel like it. We played Puerto Rico a few years ago, as well as New England, and are planning a Mexico tour for the summer. Two of the members are in their 50’s, so it’s just a for fun project.
JK: Can you give me some background on Dirck, Jeff and Stefan, and where/when they learned to play/sing?
Lauren: I actually don’t remember much about Dirck’s musical background…but he is one of the most talented guitarists with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing music. I’m still in awe of his song writing abilities. Jeff and Stefan are both self taught on guitar, bass, and vocals…which will be very obvious when you listen to the songs.
JK: When you look back on your days as part of Daggerhearts, what is the most significant thing that you gained from the experience that you still have with you to this day?
Lauren: This is a somewhat banal answer, but honestly the most significant thing for me is the music–the handful of songs we recorded. I’ve always really enjoyed them and am glad to have them as a snapshot of a past time in my life.
JK: So, I feel this beautiful story needs a proper ending, but endings are always hard for me. Maybe…you can provide the ending….with your perspective on our talks, and how you felt about being approached by me for the story.
Lauren: I don’t really know how I’d end things. I mean, for me it was just fun to reminisce a bit about a band I was in when I was in college. I was always very proud of the music we wrote together. I’ve always enjoyed writing and performing music, but just as a hobby or something to do with friends or my fiance–a deep part of my emotional life very different from the work I do in my professional career. It was a little strange (in the best way) to have someone reach out to ask me questions because, as I said, not that many people knew our band even existed. This past summer I had my ten year college reunion and spent some time walking through some of the campus housing we’d practiced and performed in during parties and I enjoyed thinking back on it. Being in the band was a significant facet of my experience at Vassar, a place I look back on with great fondness.