Despite frontman Dustin Payseur’s reservations, it took getting out of New York City for Beach Fossils to make a new record. “I always thought it was stupid when people were like, ‘Oh I want to get out of the city and get in the creative headspace.’ I always thought that was a cop out. You can’t be creative wherever you are? That doesn’t make sense,” he told me over the phone. But once the band got up to their manager’s cabin in upstate New York, a switch was flipped. “We were writing something totally different,” he explained. “We were the only people that we had contact with for two weeks, and there was absolutely nothing to do except just work on music, so it just brought us to the right state of mind.”
It’s been more than four years since Beach Fossils last released music with 2013’s incredible, dreamy Clash The Truth. In their extended period of absence, Payseur formed his own record label and the band landed a starring role playing a proto-punk band fronted by Mick Jagger’s son in the first and only season of Vinyl, the weird period piece about the record industry in 1970’s New York City (which I actually really liked). In early March, they finally returned to music with the announcement of their third LP Somersault, and the release of its first single, “This Year.”
Somersault was recorded in piecemeal across many months and many different locations, taking influence primarily from jazz records — Payseur cites David Axelrod’s Mass In F Minor as the first record he bought upon moving to New York and a huge influence not only on Somersault, but his music as a whole — and soundtrack albums like Ennio Morricone. “I’ve always wanted to make a record that’s sort of like that orchestral thing, but not over the top orchestral. It still has a lot of human qualities to it… The only goal I ever set is that I’m extremely happy with what I’ve done.”
Somersault is without a doubt Beach Fossils’ best work to date, with a sprawling new sound that includes several string sections, and even a flute solo. It features guest vocals from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell and Payseur’s old friend Cities Aviv, both of which work to perfectly complement Payseur’s vocal patterns and craft a lush, flowing sound.
While Payseur made all of the previous Beach Fossils records by himself, Somersault marks the first time that he included his live bandmates Jack Doyle Smith and Tommy Davidson in the writing and recording process. “I never wanted anyone else to be involved, because I can completely hear the song the second I start working on it. I didn’t understand how people could collaborate with other people because I just felt like that would get in the way.”
But as he started getting deeper into the writing process of the record, Payseur realized that having the other two in the room was nothing but helpful in fleshing out ideas. “There was something about working about Tommy and Jack where I feel like we were all kind of like that,” he said. “We could all hear what the song needed, all together. It was this thing where we all kind of heard it, but we weren’t stepping on each other’s toes. And we also don’t have any problem telling each other than something sucks, or that something is working but needs a little change. I think that open communication is huge.”
Below, we are happy to share the video for the jaw-dropping second single from Somersault, “Saint Ivy,” which combines professional-shot footage with clips shot on a handheld VHS camera. The video is directed by Joey Chriqui and Milah Libin (Princess Nokia “Tomboy”), and pays homage to New York City artists. The featured dancers all came up through the NYC school system, Merrie Cherry is a Brooklyn-based drag queen, while the directors and the band themselves are all based in NYC as well. “Saint Ivy” includes the aforementioned flute solo — though Payseur quickly denies ever having listened to Jethro Tull in his life — and a beautiful conclusion with a guitar lead reminiscent to some of the Beatles’ later work. Watch it below.
Somersault is out June 2nd on Bayonet Records. Pre-order it here. In support of the record, Beach Fossils are finalizing tour dates that will see them on the road through the end of 2017.