Four Key Records That Influenced Beach Fossils’ ‘Somersault’
Influence is fleeting and ever-changing. Sure, a band might be rooted in a particular style, but how they mold their music from that initial blueprint into something different is how they find their specific sound — a rapper may be influenced by Krautrock and seek out old loops, or a metal band might be inspired by Aretha Franklin and decide to move toward clean, epic vocals.
Beach Fossils' new LP is called Somersault, and it's their third overall (pre-order yours). Sunny indie rock is their primary means of attack, using bright and shimmering guitar lines with melodic vocals to create the sparkling tracks on the new LP. Yet, the band isn't afraid to take chances with genre and venture into new territory, roping in country and folk influences, and employing the likes of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) and Cities Aviv over the course of the record. So, where did those ideas come from? What were they listening to in the moments leading up to recording the LP? We talked to guitarist Dustin Payseur about the new LP and four key records that helped shape it.
TRICKY, PRE-MILLENNIUM TENSION
Following the massive breakout success that was Maxinquaye, why would you specifically choose Pre-Millennium Tension? The LP is where he departed from his original signature sound to expand his repertoire a bit.
I think that's what I like about it. For some reason, I always find myself being fond of the deep cuts or the lesser critically acclaimed albums by artists. It's not on purpose, though — I think it's usually that it tends to be a more experimental or sad-sounding album when it's overlooked, and I love that kind of stuff. It usually feels more raw and true than their more popular material. As for Pre-Millennium Tension, "Christiansands" is just such an incredible song, I can listen to that song on repeat all day. I have this cassette and was rediscovering it recently; when that song came on, I was completely taken inside of it and I was obsessed. I had to keep rewinding it. The sounds in there, it creates an entire universe. And he sounds like such a fucking badass on the song; his voice sounds so sexy and dangerous, like a snake. I keep a list of notes where write down words of vibes that inspire me, and after listening to this tape, I wrote "snaky," and kept revisiting this idea while working on stuff.
How does Massive Attack fit into your world? Do you care for any other forefathers of the trip-hop movement?
Massive Attack are still fucking amazing. That recent EP, Ritual Spirit, they came out with, it's great — one of my favorite releases of 2016. When it came out, we put it on in the van at 2AM going down the dark highway and just listened to it really loud in total silence. It perfectly fit the mood. As for other trip-hop groups, I think Portishead is one of the greatest groups of all time. I love every single song they've done. We were referencing them a lot for drum sounds on Somersault.
Are there specific examples on Pre-Millennium Tension that are reimagined or an homage on your new album?
I think in parts of "Social Jetlag" or "Saint Ivy" is where it comes through the most: the slow, groovy, blown-out drum sound and piano chords.
CORTEX, TROUPEAU BLEU
Cortex is a French jazz-funk crew that existed in the '70s. How did you come upon the band?
I first heard them being sampled in MF Doom's "One Beer," but I didn't know who they were yet. Years later, I stumbled across the original track and was like, "Oh shit! This is the song!" Then I checked out more of them and was totally blown away. They were an amazing group, extremely talented.
How much jazz and funk — primarily with vocals at the forefront — do you listen to? What are some key labels and musicians from the era that are crucial to you?
I love the stuff David Axelrod arranged for bands like Electric Prunes. I love anything the Wrecking Crew were a part of. We were listening to tons of Isaac Hayes and Al Green, getting blown away by the production on those records, and by the playing and the arrangements. We were digging deep, listening to lots of '90s hip-hop and seeing what records they sampled from, checking out those albums and getting ideas.
James Brown and Miles Davis are considered two of the pioneers of the genre, one with the works of the J.B.'s and the other with On the Corner and many of his works afterward. What are your favorite albums by each and why?
My favorite Miles Davis album was actually released under Cannonball Adderley's name for contractual reasons. It's the record Somethin' Else. That album made me fall in love with jazz when I was a teenager. For James Brown, it's hard to beat The Payback. That record is too sick. Title track is unbelievable — makes you feel like nobody can fuck with you.
Are there specific examples on Troupeau Bleu that are reimagined or an homage on your new album?
I think with the whole process of recording the album, we were on that vibe. We didn't specifically go for that exact style, but we used it as a reference point throughout for arrangement and production ideas.
JEREMY STEIG, "HOWLIN' FOR JUDY"
"Howlin' for Judy" is probably best known as the track that formed the basis for "Sure Shot" by the Beastie Boys. Is this how you first came across this track?
Yep! Another track discovered from a sample. Check Your Head and Licensed to Ill were a couple of my favorite albums when I was a kid. One day I was listening to it and was like, "I wonder where that sample came from," and had to look it up. ["Sure Shot" appears on Ill Communication - ed.] The whole album is great. Jazz flute is immensely underrated.
How do similar flutists from the era strike you? Names like Herbie Mann, Eric Dolphy, Hubert Laws, Yusef Lateef, etc.
Love all of them! Eric Dolphy is another one of my musical heroes because he was one of the first jazz musicians I got into. A true fearless explorer of where music could go.
Are there specific examples on "Howlin' for Judy" that are reimagined or an homage on your new album?
For years, I wanted a flute solo in a song, but could never find the right place for one. When we were working on "Saint Ivy," we left a space open purposefully for a flute solo because we knew we finally made a song that could house one. On a whim, we also ended up putting flute on "Social Jetlag," and I'm so glad we did because, texturally, it fits in there so well. Flute is such a mellow instrument, but it's also so versatile. It can sound sunny; it can sound melancholy; it can also sound really tough. It can even sound like all three at once. I feel like there's some flute zeitgeist right now; Metro Boomin has been going heavy on the flutes recently, too. I'm glad. When I played "Saint Ivy" for some friends, they were really taken aback by the flute solo. I was like, "How the fuck does everybody not understand that it is one of the sickest instruments of all time?" Now people are catching on, though. I root for the flute.
Moodymann's m.o. is retro-facing house and hip-hop, much like what was popular in his native Detroit in the '90s. Do older rap and house music make a difference to you? Are there specific artists you can name?
Yeah, '90s rap holds a really special place in my heart because it was my favorite shit growing up. Albums like Mobb Deep's The Infamous, Gravediggaz' 6 Feet Deep, even Cypress Hill's III: Temples of Boom. I love those albums — the beats are next-level, the samples are incredible. I didn't get into house until I moved to New York because, growing up in North Carolina, I just didn't have any exposure to it; none of the record stores I went to carried much house. Now it's a staple of what I listen to, maybe because I'm catching up on all the years I missed out on it during my youth.
Are there specific examples on the LP that are reimagined or an homage on your new album?
Yeah, in the studio we were referencing the sounds and textures of house and '90s rap. It goes back to the jazz / soul feel, because all of that stuff was sampled and reimagined. We sampled a lot of our own music in the studio. We would record ideas and then chop them up and put them back together. Pretty much the entire album was put together like that. It's just sections of ideas taken apart and rearranged. We didn't really sit down and write songs; we just wrote parts. We would mess around in the studio, and once we came up with something we liked, we would record it. After a while, we had a ton of parts. We'd go through and be like, "Okay, this sounds like a verse, this other thing sounds like a chorus," and put them together.