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Beach House goes beyond dynamics

“I feel lucky that the angle of everything has been so gradual for us. I think we’re still a word-of-mouth group,” says singer-keyboardist Victoria Legrand about Beach House, her band with guitarist Alex Scally.
“I feel lucky that the angle of everything has been so gradual for us. I think we’re still a word-of-mouth group,” says singer-keyboardist Victoria Legrand about Beach House, her band with guitarist Alex Scally.Liz Flyntz

There’s always at least one song on a Beach House record that becomes an out-of-body experience, for both the musicians and their listeners. Singer-keyboardist Victoria Legrand might slip into her head voice and hit a celestial high note, and guitarist Alex Scally goes right in with a shimmering solo that sounds like it’s talking back to her. The connection between them is so visceral, it no longer sounds terrestrial. It’s as if the song were a helium balloon, and they’ve suddenly let it go.

“That’s something we feel. We don’t talk about it that much. It just happens,” Legrand says. “It’s very emotional, and it’s something I’ve never found with somebody else. As far as when or why that happens, that’s the raw thing about it. It just is — it exists.”


If that comes across as an elliptical explanation of their dynamic, consider how elemental Beach House’s latest record is. “Bloom,” the Baltimore-based indie-rock duo’s fourth album, is full of moments where mood trumps literal meaning. You don’t have to understand the lyrics, which are often obtuse, to grasp the beauty behind them. The songs don’t tell you what to think; they compel you to feel something.

“Bloom,” released in May, already has been heralded as one of indie rock’s most acclaimed albums of the year. Debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 chart, it continues a slow and steady ascent for Legrand and Scally that began with their self-titled debut in 2006. That album relied on gauzy textures and drum machines to create a dream-pop orbit somewhere between Mazzy Star and This Mortal Coil.

Since then, Beach House has tweaked its formula with the smallest brushstrokes: higher fidelity, Legrand’s vocals more pronounced and upfront, articulate arrangements that take the music to an astral plane. No matter how muscular a song becomes, which is rare, a ghostly presence hovers.


For 2010’s “Teen Dream,” their breakthrough third album, they moved to Sub Pop Records, the influential indie label that also issued “Bloom.” The band has risen through the ranks of tiny clubs to theaters. In Boston, they’ve gone from the Middle East Upstairs and the Museum of Fine Arts to the Paradise Rock Club and now the Wilbur Theatre, where Beach House will play a sold-out show on Monday.

“I definitely think it’s been on our own terms. Based on a lot of our choices, we’ve staved off things that would have diluted what we’ve done,” Legrand says. “When we first started, it was a more innocent time Internet-wise. I think over the last six years, which is not that much time, but it is somehow nowadays, everyone is so savvy now.”

“I think it’s a lot harder for bands to have that innocent time to play for no one. If someone buzzes about you, you’re pretty much going to be on ‘Jimmy Fallon’ ASAP,” she adds. “The gestation periods don’t exist as much, and people’s careers take these huge leaps and then they crash. I feel lucky that the angle of everything has been so gradual for us. I think we’re still a word-of-mouth group.”

Then again, you’re just as likely to hear a Beach House song in a supermarket these days.

“I have noticed that we’ll appear in the most random places or some celebrity will say something about us, and I’m kind of like, What?! while I’m sitting in Baltimore in my underpants,” Legrand says. “Parts of it are surreal, but I think people should know we’re still very scrappy. We do everything ourselves. Alex built our sets. We make a very conscious effort to give ourselves as much work as possible.”


But not all of it is work they’ would like to be doing. Earlier this year, Volkswagen used in a commercial a song that was suspiciously similar to Beach House’s “Take Care.” It turned out the car company had approached the group several times about using the song, and each time Legrand and Scally declined the offers. Volkswagen proceeded with a soundalike and later denied it was intentional. “We greatly respect the talent of Beach House and never set out to replicate a specific song of theirs or anyone else’s,” read a statement.

“If you’re going to be that obvious about it, just say, ‘We did it, and we have so much money that there’s no way you’re going to take us down,’ ’’ says Legrand. “That’s something I relearned: When people are bad, they’re really bad. I’ve got better things to do than sue people. If it happens again, I’m going to go Pussy Riot and probably go to jail. Did we lose in this battle against them? I don’t think so. We were owed more of a sincere apology instead of a condescending one, but I also think I’ve moved on. It better not happen again.”


It’s a testament to Beach House’s burgeoning fame that Legrand even has to worry about that. Even as a so-called “scrappy” band, she and Scally have been resolute about the direction of the band; she insists that Beach House wouldn’t exist without both of them.

“I always say it’s Alex and I working together. Neither one of us could make these songs without the other. One of the most important links is that we needed each other for this,” she says. “The music is beyond us. It’s something we work on, but at the end of the day, it’s for you and other people.”

She takes that part of her art seriously. Beach House records might sound effortless, in love with their ambience and transcendence, but they come at their own emotional costs.

“It’s such a trip — it’s scary, it’s euphoric, it’s horrifying. You lose weight, you hate yourself, but you also love the world,” Legrand says about the process of making an album. “It’s a total self-inflicted mania. At the end of it, when you realize you’ve made a work, that’s crazy.”

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed.