Beaches have long been one of Australia’s best psych outfits. For more than a decade the band has been responsible for some incredible records – veritable masterclass demonstrations of sound and concept combining to create cohesive and engaging work. Earlier this year, Beaches released a mammoth double album, Second of Spring, through the esteemed Chapter Music label, once again proving that they remain at the top of the Aus-psych pile.
The band is about to hit the road to tour the album around the country, with stops along the east coast taking place through late October and November. Ahead of these shows, Weirdo Wasteland sent a through questions through to the band to get a better sense of the work involved in the album’s creation and the thematic subtext weaved throughout.
Talk me through the Second of Spring writing process. Did the 17 songs come together over the four-year span between releases, or were they penned during a dedicated period of creation?
The songs evolved over the four year period in between albums but we has a really productive period leading up to, and in between the two recording sessions. When we started jamming/writing we made a conscious decision ease up on playing shows so as to focus primarily on formulating new songs. The ‘not playing many’ soon became playing none at all for a while there. This was such a wise move (even if it meant many people thought we had given it all up.)
We booked in our first recording session with John Lee at Phaedra Studios at the start of 2015 (with the intention of booking in a second one later in the year). In the months in between the two sessions we allowed ourselves the time to experiment and come up with a bunch of new material. We wrote A LOT during that time. I guess we were at a point where we were really focussed and gelling more than ever. When we got back into the studio we were able to track relatively quickly. This freed up time to record a bunch of late night improvised jams – some which ended up on the record.
What led to the decision to turn Second of Spring into a double album (or was it always going to be a double)?
Even at that point we just thought, “Well, after the album we can just release a bunch of 7 inches” (or release another album soon after). There is always a culling process for a regular album whereby you have to eliminate a number of songs because they ‘dont fit’, in a literal and/or figurative sense. As we went along we were finding there were multiple elements we wanted to keep. I can’t remember who suggested the idea of a double album. Ben and Guy at Chapter Music agreed to it, which was amazing. We recently came across an interview we did in Mountain Fold magazine from years ago (not long after our debut LP was released.) We said even then that we wanted to make that a double album. Dreams can come true, eventually.
What were the inherent challenges in piecing together a substantial work such as this?
It was really important that each side has a particular ‘vibe’, conceptually and/or sonically. This was challenging given the time constraints on each side of the record, but we managed to wrangle the songs into cohesive sets and those that would sit well played in succession and groupings of songs that would fit, fidelity-wise, on each side. It was like a sonic puzzle/game of sorts, like Tetris. Sonic Tetris.
In terms of overarching concepts and themes, what sorts of topics were informing the writing this time around?
Disappearings. Vision. Loss. Movement. Waiting. Evading. Lying. Dreaming. Mothers. Professionalism. Retrospection. Retrograding. Surfing. Motherhood. Walking. Various disguises. Ways of seeing. Cognitive dissonance. Communication breakdowns. Emotional rituals. Ordinary and mundane problems. Wistful and nostalgic thinking. Feeling things, Not feeling things. Spiritual enlightenment.
How do you as a unit approach pushing the boundaries/comfort zones and redefining what’s possible within your style?
We have never really aligned ourselves with a specific genre/style. We just do what we have always done. I think this has worked for us as it allows for more freedom. Songs just evolve. We are never concerned with where we fit in, musically.
Speaking of evolution, has the band’s core ethos and conceptual approach to its art stayed the same or changed as its career as progressed?
We have evolved even though our approach and ethos has stayed the same. We haven’t really deviated from our original formula. I guess we become more and more in tune with each other, which has resulted in a more cohesive and (comparatively) refined sound.
In terms of the live show, how much of this new material features in your set? How do you present a set list that best possibly conveys or represents this period?
Most of the set will consist of songs from Second of Spring. Some tracks will undoubtedly sound different to the studio recordings in varying degrees: some will be rawer and noisier, some stripped back, some shorter, some longer. Obviously, the songs take on a different energy when taken out of the studio. We are really into the sonic translations that occur in a live setting.
You can catch Beaches when they tour to support the launch of Second of Spring at the following shows: