Though the sun may shine intermittently during the day at Outside Lands, by the evening, the fog drifts into Golden Gate Park and the wind kicks up, casting a mystical glow over the event. It may be less than ideal for attendees unaccustomed to the cold, but it's a perfect setting for some bands, particularly Baltimore dream-pop impresarios Beach House.
“We've played our fair share of festivals in the blaring sunshine or at the noon time slot, and I don't think that's the maximum scenario to watch us perform,” says keyboardist, vocalist, and co-founder Victoria Legrand. “We prefer the sunset or the nighttime slot. And if the fog rolls in, well, that's just additional nature magic.”
Fortunately, Beach House was allotted a 7:50 p.m. set on Friday evening and they're the last performance of the night for the Sutro stage. While the band's woozy musical style certainly played a role in helping them land this coveted slot, their preeminence as a 12-year-old indie-pop outfit with six albums and new records released every two years probably didn't hurt, either.
Since issuing its self-titled debut album in 2006, the duo has made a name for themsevles by combining haunting keys and shimmering chords to create hazy, symphonic melodies that are as rich as they are dense. They've also been remarkably consistent. Pitchfork has bestowed its coveted “Best New Music” stamp on four of their LPs, and the publication has given every one of their albums an 8.0 rating or higher.
While retaining the band's musical foundations, each Beach House album has a distinct element, whether it's the ominous, lo-fi underpinnings of their self-titled debut, the soaring, cathartic ballads of their third full-length, Teen Dream, or the more ruminative, stripped-down feel of their latest release, Thank Your Lucky Stars. Listening to the group is akin to waiting out a storm inside your candlelit home — there is something mildly disarming, yet comforting about the sonic template it has mastered.
Legrand, 35, met multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally in Baltimore in 2004 after she graduated from college. Though she was going to work on a separate musical project with another friend, she instead joined forces with Scally after noticing their instant songwriting chemistry.
“The core of this band is about our musical relationship,” she says. “We've had different touring bands over the years, but Beach House will always be just me and Alex.”
Because they write music strictly as a pair, the band has limitations, but those strictures can also be freeing, Legrand says. Working almost exclusively with keyboards, guitar, and bass, Legrand and Scally must explore new and creative ways to employ their instruments.
“The Buddhists say less is more, and I think that works for us,” Legrand says. “We have simple ingredients, but we've managed to extract a lot from them over the years.”
Last year, Beach House offered a pleasant surprise when it unexpectedly released Thank Your Lucky Stars just two months after Depression Cherry hit stores. With an extra album in their repertoire, the band is now free to be more creative with its live set lists.
“It just wasn't fascinating for us to do that normal release thing,” Legrand says of Thank Your Lucky Stars. “We really wanted to play those songs on tour and not have to wait. [Now] we're not bored at all, because we have that extra batch of material to add to our set lists.”