Brooklyn-based indie act Beach Fossils have returned after four years with their wonderful latest record Somersault. Their new album is the follow up to 2013’s Clash the Truth and marks the band’s first release on frontman Dustin Payseur’s new label Bayonet Records, which he co-owns with wife Kate Garcia (shout-outs sweet couple collabs). Somersault features such tracks as the sweet “Sugar” and the cool “Down The Line“. We caught up with the boys at a coffee shop around the corner from Lee’s Palace (where they were playing later that night) and talked about the making of their most collaborative record yet. Check out our photos and chat with Dustin Payseur, Jack Doyle Smith & Tommy Davidson below.
Tommy Davidson: The infamous Taco Bell show! Our manager was like, “we really want you to do something that’s like really aggressive anarcho.” And we were like okay we’re going to make sure, we’re going to premeditate this whole manoeuvre here. We think it was very successful the way we pulled it off.
Dustin Payseur: It was a corporate manoeuvre by Taco Bell. Nah, I don’t know. I just drank two bottles of wine before that show and I was feeling really aggressive because like it was South By which kinda sucks and the crowd was really stiff and so I was just like… so I was getting aggro.
Jack Doyle Smith: We had already played like five times that day or something. We played a lot of shows.
Tommy Davidson: I guess one thing I would say is I think that the straw that broke the camel’s back or a big component to this was that our set, naturally this always happens at South By, but our set went from forty minutes to cut to twenty minutes like a minute before we went onstage. “Oh yeah, by the way, you guys we’re cutting your set down” It’s like, so I think that pushed us to the edge and we went extra tour life on them. So…
Jack: They pushed us to the edge.
Do you feel like South By is still like a thing? Do you think it’s gotten kind of a bit too much too much?
Dustin: I don’t even know. I haven’t been in years. I’m just like so over it.
If there was like a young band reading this who are fans of yours and they’re debating is it worth it to go down, what would you tell them?
Dustin: I think it’s worth doing if you’re new, cause when we were new we did it a bunch and I think it was great…
Cut your teeth?
Dustin: Yeah, and like, it is really corporate but at the same time like everyone that’s like in the music industry is there and like there’s a lot of good people that are there too you know there are a lot of people that aren’t like scummy, weird & business-y.
You can find the good shit.
Dustin: Yeah. Exactly.
Jack: Especially if they’re already on tour, if they’re a touring band or it’s their first tour or something. If you’re passing through Texas of course you should play it. Hands down.
Tommy: It’s a rite of passage, for sure. Everyone has to go through the gauntlet. The South By Southwest gauntlet.
And now you guys are on the other end of it! You just put out your third record. You’re no longer the new kids on the block to say. You’re kind of in this like nice little sweet spot. And holy shit! This new record! The Cities Aviv collaboration. What the fuck?! I need you to tell us about that collaboration because we’re obsessed with him.
Dustin: Yeah. He’s awesome. He’s a friend of ours. I’ve known him for years. We were just hanging out. He came over to the studio and he was playing me a bunch of new stuff that he was working on and I was playing him like stuff from Somersault. We had this instrumental piece at the end of “May 1st” and it was kind of vibey. I wanted to do a spoken word thing on it but I didn’t want it to be me, I wanted to have a guest. I just love the idea of having collaborations, having different kinds of people on the record. I guess that was the whole point of this record. I love his music. I think he’s an awesome person and I was like super stoked to have him on the record.
This new record is very different compared to the first two. What was the turning point that pushed you to these fuller sounds, different sounds, different directions?
Payseur: I think a big part of it was like I always wanted to do stuff like that, but I always recorded by myself and so it was like this very solitary thing and I didn’t really have other people involved that much. And I’m very protective and secretive about stuff when I’m working on it.
Tommy: We cracked the codes! The nuclear launch codes!
Jack: We got ‘em!
Dustin: But working with Tommy and Jack… we were working on everything and it just became so collaborative. I am very sort of ADD in this way where I always come up with all these ideas that I’m very passionate about but then I don’t follow through with them. I think Tommy and Jack were really helped with making sure like: “alright we have to get the strings on this record, you said you wanted flute let’s find somebody, you said you wanted pedal steel, let’s find somebody.” That was like a huge help of the whole collaborative process.
Jack: It’s easier to do things together, you know. The inner critic comes out easier if you do something all by yourself.
Tommy: And also it would have just been overwhelming.
Jack: Yeah. The band has seen a lot of different members at different times and I think that a lot of the transitional phase happened just with staying in a group together for over a couple years now. Definitely. The chemistry showed.
Tommy: I think jamming together to come up with a lot of the song ideas was super crucial. Cause if I was jumping on keyboards and trying to figure out string parts, then Dustin could maybe write a melody on that or play guitar on that, and Jack could jump in on the drums and create the groove. I think it was that kind of chaos, we’re all in the mix together figuring it out, as opposed to if it was just Dustin it would be kind of linear. Thinking in a loop way is difficult.
Dustin: It’s harder to get stumped with other people. Cause if you’re like “I don’t know where to take this song,” somebody else has an idea.
This third album feels like you’ve reached another level in this way, but it feels very much like you guys still. Do you feel your sound is more fully realized?
Dustin: I think a big part of that was also me just being super controlling of the project and wanting to produce it myself, you know? We worked with a couple of people for some engineering stuff and that was cool. It was people that I trusted their sound and like their techniques and stuff so, I don’t know. It worked out.
Tommy: You never want to make the same record twice, so that was an important thing. We had tons of demos we were going through, and a lot of them were too in the vein of what people would expect.
Dustin: It was too Beach Fossils!
Jack: We just wrote a Beach Fossils record before this record came out.
Adding all these other instruments into this project is a risk too because you just could have put out that Beach Fossils record.
Dustin: Exactly! Yeah, but it just would have been lazy and it wouldn’t have been fun for any of us, you know?
Jack: We wouldn’t have been as satisfied as we are now I think, taking our time and just really writing songs that we’re proud of.
There’s a reaction, especially in this age that we’re in, of the constant content wheel. Some bands (and no shade to them) have that knee-jerk reaction of “okay well we got to get something else out ASAP” and they don’t necessarily take that breath.
Dustin: Yeah, and I feel like one thing people get really caught up in is they’ll be in a band that’s great and they’ll have on song that gets really popular that doesn’t really sound like them. It’s a little more cheesy and polished, and they’re like: “well, that worked”, and then they keep going in like that direction, really losing their sound. They just keep pop-ing themselves too much and then they lose everything that was like special about them. I think for us, our sound is changing but it’s changing in an internal way. We’re constantly being inspired by things and wanting to try out new things within the group rather than this external thing where we’re trying to see like what other people want or whatever. It’s not even about that.
Jack: I think there’s only one thing I wouldn’t want to change for the next record is the way we write together is really working. I always want to write a different record too, but I think the way this one was written was really rewarding. The approach we took to it was nice.
Tommy: It was a crazy learning process, too. It’s the first time we’re doing it all together. Now we know what personnel to get, how to do it, we have a blueprint now for the approach of writing it all together again.
And that aids in the live aspect of it as well. What themes inspired Somersault? In it can be moods or feelings or colours or whatever!
Dustin: I think a lot of it is mood-based, or emotional. Writing music is a super emotional thing. You’re literally taking your feelings and turning it into sound. You have to really trust the people you work with and you also have to be really honest with yourself to work that way. I think that was like a big thing, just us getting into this zone together and immediately feeling comfortable together. I think we’re all really good at being really vocal when we do or don’t like something, or what we do or don’t like about something.
Jack: It seems harsh, but I think it works in a way.
Tommy: We’re our own worst critics, and the inevitable fights that we have regarding whatever is only going to make the end result that much better.
Jack: Using all three as a filter, it’s something that we all like and we’re all proud of, so.
So what would you say were like the energetic moods or filters then within this record that you felt were heavily channeled? What kind of mood would you feel you’d leak back to? What’s it marinated in?
Dustin: I think a lot of it is more jamming rather than sitting down to write a song, you know? Like, less focus, putting less pressure on like “we have to write something” and more like “let’s just have fun.” When you’re just sitting there having fun, something you like is going to come out of it. And also a change of scenery was important. We went to so many different studios.
You recorded this album all over! Do you find that the approach being in different studios changes how like a song ends up coming out?
Dustin: Yeah, you get to look at it in like a new way.
Jack: A lot of the record was written between the hours of midnight and 5 am. I think a lot of it is also kind of us kind of losing our minds a bit. Sleep depravation…
Dustin: The middle of the night stuff is huge. I feel like you can hear that all over.
Tommy: Going back to you said about moods or colours the record is conveyed by… One of the big focal points we always come back to is New York in Chinatown. Walking around downtown whether it’s listening to demos or recording in Union Square in New York which we did a little bit as well. Kind of that nocturnal side of it too.
The nighttime quiet that’s still like drenched in chaos.
Jack: The subway rattling away and screeching.
Closing up, any general advice about anything in the world?
Dustin: Oh, about anything for anybody? General advice… Be a good person. Treat other people with respect.
Tommy: There’s a monologue here. You’ll hear it again at the end of the show.
Jack: Drink a lot of water.
Tommy: Make sure you get your electrolytes.
Jack: Stay curious. Learn things about people, too. Learn things about people you don’t know.
Tommy: Meet a friend at the Toronto Second Cup at 10pm. And then also make sure you get a Gordita Crunch Classic at Taco Bell every 7pm. Thursday Deal!
Dustin: He has to throw that in there. He’s on contract.