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A Q&A with Alex Scally of Beach House 

On a decade of dream pop.

click to enlarge LUCKY NUMBERS: Beach House's May 11 release, "7," is the band's seventh full-length record and marks 77 tracks Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have released together.
  • LUCKY NUMBERS: Beach House's May 11 release, "7," is the band's seventh full-length record and marks 77 tracks Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have released together.

As Galaxie 500's Dean Wareham wrote in "Scenes From a Dream" — an introduction for the "30 Best Dream Pop Albums" for Pitchfork: Answering the question "What kind of music do you play?" with the words "dream pop" elicits blank looks. "It's a construct created after the fact, not a movement associated with a particular time or place or hairstyle," Wareham wrote. "Maybe it's a category for bands, across recent decades, who are hard to categorize." Whatever it is, Beach House easily falls into that category. Two albums from the duo, who originated in Baltimore and have been creating music as Beach House for over 10 years — "Bloom" and "Teen Dream" — made it into that same list's top 10. Beach House will play its first Arkansas show at the Clear Channel Metroplex Wednesday, May 2, bringing along an all-new stage setup and dreamy tunes that span across seven studio albums. Their newest record, appropriately titled "7," will be released on Sub Pop May 11. "It's so weird to have a state you've never been to when you travel as much as we do," said the band's guitarist and song co-writer, Alex Scally, over the phone. "We're excited to be there for the first time ever — which for us, really sustains us because we've toured so much," he said. "It's like our 12th or 14th or 25th time in cities like London or New York. We're just excited to go to new places and we're grateful for anyone who comes out and gives us a chance." Scally spoke with us ahead of that show about playing a new city, their ongoing setlist creator and their ever-evolving live show.

How do you approach playing a city you've never been to?

We'll definitely be playing a set that's a little bit more geared towards reaching out to people. Like, playing the most known songs and trying to make it more exciting. Like, less indulgent from an artistic perspective. If you play a show in a big city, you know a higher number of people there, and it sells out in two days, you know everybody there is a big fan. I feel like you can play deeper cuts and take more liberties. ... We'll definitely be trying to make it more accessible.

I noticed you have the setlist creator back. How exactly do the audience's choices influence the band's sets?

I love that thing. We have to be happy with our sets. We have to be engaged with them. Generally, of the 15-20 songs we play every night, there are probably 12 or 15 of them that are like, we're going to play no matter what. Because that's what we want to play that given night. For the other five or six, [they're] variable songs that shift all the time on tour. Sometimes one song will just be played once on a tour. That kind of group of variable songs, we look through and find the highest chosen lesser known songs and put those into the set. Like, "Oh, wow, for some reason everyone in this town wants to hear this one song from 'Teen Dream.' Let's play it tonight." We use it like that, which I really love because rather than randomly choosing those deeper cuts to add in, it's based on what people actually want in that room.

How has your live show changed over the years, you make the sets yourself?

We've always kind of been the artistic director of them, and many times have fabricated them ourselves. We're actually trying to go for something a little bit more transient: less object space and more just about cameras and projectors and screens.

As Beach House gets bigger, do you dread playing larger venues?

We used to not like it so much, but now, larger venues generally have a better stage. So things can look better. Things can sound better. There's something about playing a small venue that is awesome, but sometimes it's like, only half the people could see the stage, and that's a bummer.

How will the new album translate live?

This album felt really kinetic. We tend to make pretty still music, and this record felt like we were really excited by the kind of bubbling, chaotic, discordant energy field. ... The vibe and the show are getting more energetic and messy, but in what I think is a cool way. Maybe a little bit more "rock and roll," to use the old term.

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