Beach Fossils’ Dustin Payseur sets down his controller and faces the music
Escaping from reality, via plunging into virtual, alternate worlds, appears to be all the rage for musicians these days, especially when you consider the viral rise to fame of Lana Del Rey’s hit “Video Games” and Dustin Payseur’s preferred pastime.
During a trivial Thursday, the frontman for Brooklyn-based indie dream pop quartet Beach Fossils clicks away the afternoon with good friend, collaborator, and Captured Tracks label-mate, Jack Tatum, of Wild Nothing.
“We’re playing a game called Snowboard Kids on Nintendo 64,” says Payseur, a 26-year-old North Carolina native. “It’s super nerdy. It’s like Mario Kart, but on a snowboard. The graphics are awful,” he concludes, unable to hold back his laughter. The lighthearted moment takes a more serious turn as Payseur adds, “I’m wasting my time when I should be working on my record.”
The record he is referring to—“nearing its completion,” he confirms—is Beach Fossils’ highly anticipated sophomore LP, due for release this year, though the date hasn’t been publically announced. Asked how the upcoming album compares to Beach Fossils’ longer releases—a self-titled LP (2010) and an eight-track EP, entitled What a Pleasure, released in March 2011—Payseur says, “It’s a little bit more of a challenge.”
He elaborates, “I’m trying not to make something too similar to what I’ve made before or too far from the original idea of the sound … something fresh, something new.”
Payseur has earned a reputation for expert execution of gentle and reflective reverbed vocals combined with wild, jangly guitar, and playful, reliable bass and drums. Unlike many of Beach Fossils’ contemporaries that are largely synth-based, the band’s sound is chiefly guitar-driven, producing the same dreamy, faraway feel as its electronic counterparts, while dishing out the rawest (yet most savory) of guitar riffs.
Taking into account the swift, yet enduring success of Beach Fossils, which formed in 2009, it is no wonder why Payseur sees this next album as a challenge, or what he refers to as “a balance of your creativity and what you want to do versus what you feel like maybe you should be putting out.” He immediately adds, “Not to say I ever compromise—I would never put out something that I wasn’t proud of.”
He and his Brooklyn bandmates—John Peña (bass), Tom Gardner (drums), and Zachary Cole Smith (guitar)—leave little up to the imagination, but a whole lot to look forward to, in terms of what to expect from their show at The Catalyst Atrium on Wednesday, May 16. To get an accurate sense of what the band is like on and off the stage, check out two music videos directed by Ian Perlman: “Shallow” (the persistently dancy single, released on Valentine’s Day this year) and “Twelve Roses” (the more quirky, surf pop track off Beach Fossils’ self-titled debut).
The first video is a combination of Payseur’s candid footage of the band’s most intimate and goofiest moments on tour—band members are depicted flossing teeth, somersaulting on rugs, walking behind a ferret on a purple leash, and reflected in a hotel mirror in which they themselves presumably wrote “Bitch Fossils!”—plus Perlman’s footage of the band performing live. The exuberant Payseur is last seen glowing under stage lights while crowd-surfing a packed venue.
In the black and white video for “Twelve Roses,” Payseur jumps into the rowdy crowd at 285 Kent Ave in Brooklyn, N.Y., and ends the performance—and not to mention steals fans’ hearts forever—by declaring, “We’re Beach Fossils. We love you so much.”
One thing is clear, after watching these videos, standing still is not an option at a Beach Fossils show. “We move around a lot on stage, so we encourage the audience to move around as well,” says Payseur. “Growing up, I played in punk bands … it’s customary [to dance], like how in some cultures you’re supposed to burp after a meal to show that you liked it—I feel the same way when people are moving around instead of standing.”
Beach Fossils plays at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12/adv, $15/door. For more information, call 423-1338.