Beach Fossils, purveyors of the dreamy lo-fi music coming out of Brooklyn between 2009 and 2012. Their sound came to define the identity of Captured Tracks at the time, in a context that is intrinsically linked to life in New York City. With different lineup changes and four years in the making, they’ve made a comeback in 2017 with Somersault, a more experimental and mature album, with frontman Dustin’s typical introspective and melancholic songwriting.
We thought they would be very serious because the music sounds serious, but we got to meet them before their show at the festival Levitation France in Angers, only to discover that beyond personal problems and mind-wrenching composition, they are absolutely hilarious. Jokes between every other phrase (we couldn’t include everything!) we got to dig deeper to learn more about the intricacies of the last album Somersault and get some strange musical references. “Sex on the Beach 2000”?
Who does what in Beach Fossils?
Tommy: This is Tommy Davidson of Beach Fossils. I play live guitar and some keyboards.
Dustin: I play guitar and sing.
Jack: I play the bass.
Can you introduce the members who are missing?
Dustin: Yeah they’re not real human beings, they’re holograms.
Tommy: Artificial intelligent androids. Endoskeletons. “Hey what’s going on, this is Daniel, um… nice to see you. Uh hi, I’m the keyboardist for Beach Fossils”.
Jack: “Uh… Anton, uh I play… the drums” (shrugs shoulders).
Dustin: That’s kind of his move, a shoulder shrug.
Beach Fossils played at Rock en Seine and Levitation France in Angers. How has the tour been since the release of the last album in June 2017?
Jack: I’ve been having so much fun, too much fun. I need to chill out.
Dustin: It’s been a blur. We started the tour in Europe about four weeks ago, prior to that we were touring the West Coast. We just released our third LP, fourth release really… I feel like What a Pleasure is an LP at this point. So we just released a three and a half album.
Tommy: We’ve had everything, from the weird small shows to the awesome crazy festival shows. A memorable time for me was when we were on tour with a support act called Nervous Conditions, who are based in the UK.
The last few shows we had with them during the encore, we would bring everyone on stage and we would play Fatboy Slim, “Wonderwall”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Lord of the Rings… so we would just get weird on stage. It was their first tour so they kind of inspired us to be crazy, but they also burnt us out.
Dustin: They would wake up the crowd too, when the crowd was just standing there being boring they would go out and start moshing and pushing everyone around, which got everybody going.
Any good memories from the last time you played in France?
Tommy: Last time we were in France, about four years ago, I was drunkenly being pushed around in a stroller in the streets. We had played at La Maroquinerie and La Plage.
Jack: It was funny to be playing on a beach in the sand. Plage Fossils.
How did you all come to meet each other to form Beach Fossils?
Tommy: Dustin started the project by himself in 2009, worked with the label Captured Tracks for all the previous albums except the last one that just came out. Jack and I joined the band at the same time in 2012, started the tour for Clash the Truth, which came out in February 2013.
We joined the band because we’re also associated with Captured Tracks. I played with a group called Hoop Dreams and Jack played with a band called Craft Spells. We met while touring together. When Cole from DIIV left and John from Heavenly Beat left to start their own projects, we came in and we’ve all been together since and we’re happily married!
Where does the name Beach Fossils come from?
Jack: There’s a rumor that it was written on a door.
Dustin: What? Did I say that?
Tommy: It’s shrouded in mystery.
Dustin: I had recorded a bunch of demos and I needed a name because I was sending them out to labels. I was killing myself over a name and I didn’t think it was going to become a big project so I was like, “uh… Beach Fossils”.
Tommy: Once we get big we’re going to change it to The 1975. But we found out that was taken so it’s going to be The 1974.5.
The album Somersault came out June 2, 2017, on Bayonet Records. In what context was this album composed and recorded?
Dustin: Varying. We recorded it mostly in our studio in Brooklyn, other studios in upstate New York, Los Angeles, in Manhattan near Union Square… just a bunch of different locations. We took a few years, we took our time writing it and we didn’t really care how long it took. We just wanted to make songs that we’re proud of. Everything that was happening during the writing of the album really inspired what went on the album.
As far as the lyrics go, it’s basically just my diary. I always do the vocals last. We had a totally instrumental album. In two weeks I put all the lyrics and vocals on it, then it was done. It wasn’t like I wrote all those lyrics in that time. I’m always keeping notes in my phone and writing stuff down. Whenever something happens or stands out that I feel like I need to write down, I turn them into lyrics. Usually, a song is not about one thing, it’s a different subject every other line.
Was there a lot of experimentation in the studio?
Jack: I think that whenever we were writing any part, even if we’re on guitar or thinking about it in terms of maybe playing on a different instrument, we didn’t want to hold back. We didn’t want to think about it live.
Tommy: I think it’s important for us to not think about it as guitar music. We wanted to do something totally different, we wanted to get a list of all these potential instruments that we could put on the record and create all these different arrangements. We ended up using all of them.
Dustin: Except for the vibraslap. You know the song “Crazy Train”? Check it out. But we try to play everything ourselves that we can, we found a studio that had a harpsichord and Tommy played on it himself and it was insane because it was super old and really hard to play.
But even the string arrangements, we wrote those parts ourselves. It took 17 hours of writing. We stayed up all night, we had to go to the studio two hours after we were done. We had professional musicians come in and perform the sheet music that we had written and they killed it, it was amazing!
Tommy: That was one of my favorite moments of the record because you’re so delirious, the sun is coming up, and then you’re like, “I have to go to the studio now”.
Dustin: We were working so hard on it and we were fighting a lot at that point. We were so sleep deprived and had been listening to the songs every day and thinking, “this album sucks, we should throw it away”, but then we went to the studio and they started playing the strings and literally, I was crying, it sounded so good. It was definitely a turning point.
What was the reason behind releasing it through Bayonet Records instead of Captured Tracks?
Dustin: Because I didn’t know how before. My wife was the label manager at Captured Tracks and she quit, so we started Bayonet Records together a few years ago. We put out a handful of records and it’s kind of the greatest label of all time. We’re still signing artists that are amazing.
Dustin: Such as Drake, ACDC, we’re going to put out the new Madonna record, Mick Jagger drum and bass project (laughs). No, we have a lot of stuff coming up. We’ve put out Frankie Cosmos, Jerry Paper, Warehouse, Lionlimb…
Where did the album name Somersault come from?
Dustin: Just a brainstorm, we were throwing out words and that one stuck.
What was it like working with Rachel Goswell of Slowdive on “Tangerine”? How did you come to collaborate?
Dustin: It was a great online relationship. We were in an AOL chatroom for Slowdive and her name was “Slowdivefan1” and I was like, “it’s my dream to meet Rachel from Slowdive”, and she was like, “I’ll make your dream come true”. That’s not true, but they’re really the coolest people ever. Growing up listening to them, I always thought they would be really serious, and then you meet them and they’re so hilarious.
Tommy: We didn’t actually meet them until one month after the song was done. It was all done virtually. She recorded in her studio in the UK and we recorded the song in New York.
Dustin: They had played two shows in New York so we did karaoke with them. Tommy and I were singing and it was the first time I had ever met her, but then I looked over and she was taking a video and laughing so I was like, “okay, she’s cool”.
Which song would you say best characterizes the album?
Dustin: They’re all so different. When we started writing, we said we were going to make a trip-hop album, which didn’t end up happening but we have elements of that. So in a sense, “Social Jetlag” would be a song that summarizes what we were essentially starting out to do. But then I guess “Saint Ivy” kind of encapsulates the more grim vision that we had lyrically and instrumentally.
Any common themes throughout the album?
Dustin: It’s just me writing about my own life, personal struggles, making new friends and losing old friends…
What were the influences on this particular album?
Tommy: 90s trip-hop music as far as the drums are concerned. A lot of soundtrack music for inspiration on string arrangements or just production styles… David Axelrod, Serge Gainsbourg, stuff like that.
Jack: Jazz and hip-hop drums. Whatever sounds kind of like a sample.
Favorite sounds at the moment?
Wiki, A$AP Ferg, Post Malone, John Williams, Slowdive, Mr. De’ “Sex On The Beach 2000”.
Any last remarks?
Tommy: This post was full endorsed by Post Malone 2017 (laughs).