[Q&A] Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils on his new album, + stream "Generational Synthetic"

Last month, while doing research for the extensive history of Captured Tracks that ran in our December 28th issue, I visited the label's office in Williamsburg. On the day I stopped by, Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils came by the office. This happened to be the same day that the label announced the band's sophomore record, Clash the Truth, out on February 13th. We sat down and talked about making the new record ("I was pretty much strictly listening to punk music and jazz music when I was making it"), the connections between his hardcore punk high school days and Beach Fossils, the complications of corporate sponsorship of music, and  the song "Generational Synthetic", which you can stream below the interview. 

What has the trajectory of making this new record been like? You’ve been working on it for a while.

I've been working on it pretty much ever since I finished the EP, in early to mid 2011. The first LP came out in 2010. I ended up writing 76 songs for this record. And using 14.

It’s been a long process. Mainly it was about ignoring everything that was happening in contemporary music and not listening to it on purpose. I wanted to get back to what I was listening to when I was a teenager. I was pretty much strictly listening to punk music and jazz music when I was making it. That was just the energy I wanted to capture and what I was interested in.

I recorded the entire album at home the same way I recorded the first album and EP.  I would have been happy releasing those demos, but I also really wanted to go into the studio because I'd never done it before. So we went in and re-recorded the whole thing with Ben Greenberg. I'm really pleased with how it came out. I think all of the textures are there. I basically just showed him some ideas of albums I really like and said, “I want it to sound like this”.

What kind of albums were you drawing from?

Mainly just punk and post-punk records. One was On Our Honeymoon, the record Captured Tracks reissued by The Wake. I love the way those songs sound. So amazing. Mainly for the bass and guitar. I really like everything, the vocals sound amazing too. I said, “I love this sound, how did they do this?”

Beach Fossils is not your first band right?

No I’ve played in a lot of different bands. I started self-recording stuff when I was like 9 or 10 or so. Not to say it was good or anything. I was listening to grunge and nu-metal. It was really bad. Then I started getting more into industrial music and punk and playing in bands like that. All kinds of stuff. Garage rock bands. That’s how me and Tommy met. We were in this garage rock band together. It was the first band I played in when I moved to New York. I didn’t know anybody but I knew this guy whose from North Carolina. He had a band, so I joined his band, and tommy was the drummer.

I think its interesting you were saying you had to cut yourself off from new music. Do you think living in New York contributed to that?

Definitely. I was still going to a lot of shows. Whenever my friends are playing in town I always go and see them. I always listen to stuff that Captured Tracks is putting out. That's the majority of the new stuff I listen to, aside from a few things here and there. I love the whole Copenhagen punk scene. It’s definitely the best thing going on in new music outside of the US.

That and I really like Death Grips. Obviously I'm not worried about sounding like Death Grips though. I just like it because I really like hardcore punk. It's the only thing coming out right now that feels like that. It’s really ballsy.

I remember hearing once that you used to play in hardcore punk bands. Can you describe the lineage from being into hardcore punk to eventually starting Beach Fossils?

I was obsessed with punk when I was in high school. It was all I listened to. I was a purist with it. I think one of the main turning points was the first time heard the Velvet Underground and the first time I heard Miles Davis. It was obvious that that stuff had influenced punk. I wanted to dig deeper into what those guys were into. What started this? There must have been some sort of energy that was there before this.

So then I got really obsessed with psychedelic music. And then, it just opened all kinds of areas after that. What people were influenced by psychedelic music? And then a lot of twee music and psychedelic 80s music. And then post-punk and all that. I remember thinking, this stuff is going places that punk doesn't. And thinking, post-punk and no-wave go in way different directions and there's no limitations. My music's not no-wave or anything but I love the idea of blending genres that I like.

Can you tell me about the title of your new record? It seems like its more about "trying to say something".

I guess so. Maybe I’m saying more on this one than I had before. It’s a lot of frustration from a lot of different sources. Just kind of seeing the way that a lot of the rest of the music industry treats music and it seems silly, its just a game, there's so much involved with just purely about profit that seems so silly and so completely far from the point at all. It’s not related to art at all. It’s not related to music or creating anything and it just seems disgusting and frustrating.

A lot of it is about that in a way. And about my frustration with myself and trying to figure out what makes me happy or where can I be happy? This is the life I’ve chosen, but sometimes when you're on tour, it feels sort of horrible. Sometimes there's just nothing good about it. It’s a confusing feeling. But at the same time, I'd much rather do this than have a 9-5 job by far. It’s just about this internal conflict I have in general that’s always going on. There’s not really an answer or solution. I just have to go with it. The songs, a lot are about me coping with that or my confusion with the whole thing. With everything that’s tied in with that.

It seems like there's more of a tension to it than the first record. It might be surprising to people.

That’s fine though. I wouldn't be happy with myself if I was making another record that I’d already did. That would be really depressing. I just have to do what I want to do. When you're making art you know of need to be selfish. You should just make it for yourself. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. What there is something wrong with is when you start making music for other people, and not yourself. That’s when it’s really bad. I'm not really worried about losing fans for changing the speed of things. This record is more honest than anything I did before.

When I first played it for [former Beach Fossils member] John Pena, he was like, "this sounds like the Dustin Payseur that I know. These songs and the lyrics and everything about it is the you that I know way more than anything else you’ve done." I thought it was nice that he said that, and cool that he noticed that. Because I think so too.

I feel like I've had this conversation with a lot of people this year -- about how sometimes it takes a record or two to make art that’s reflective of your goals, or yourself. And this surpasses music. But now, just in general, there are so many young-ish people who make things, who because of the internet speeding everything up, have had to grow into themselves in public in this weird way. From your first record, the first songs or photos or articles or anything, it’s this weird vibe of people watching you develop.

Yeah it’s not this slow-growing thing anymore. Bands are always changing and growing. Especially if they’re worth anything. Then they’re going to be evolving and growing and changing their sound. Because that’s the only way it’s going to make you happy and keep you sane. Especially people that make music, they aren't interested in just one style of music. They’re interested in everything. It’s fun trying out different styles and sounds. I feel like, now that I’m done with this new record, I already know where I want the next stuff to go. And I don't want it to sound like the record I just recorded, because I already did that. I don’t ever want to make a record that sounds like the one that I just did. I want it to go to different places.

Can you tell me about "Generational Synthetic"? That’s the one that stood out to me.

That song in particular is about corporations and sponsors and things like that. It’s just such a weird thing, it’s totally bizarre. There are bands that made an entire career out of going against that, which is something I really respect.

Sometimes when you're playing a show and there are brands and logos swirling around you, or you do an interview and there's this product placement, it feels so silly, it feels like a game, you feel like a puppet. It's so lame. But at the same time, it's funding what you're doing. That kind of stuff is paying for you to continue to live this way and make music. It's a really conflicting sort of thing. How do you do it without seeming silly or feeling like you’re selling yourself short?

I feel like no one ever talks about it. That's why I wanted to write a song about it. It's such a huge part of what everyone's doing. But no one ever talks about it.

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