Analogue Music | Beach Fossils

Beach Fossils

By Matt Conner

The new Beach Fossils album precedes Beach Fossils.

To hear Dustin Payseur describe the passion project that is The Other Side of Life: Piano Ballads, the latest release from Beach Fossils, it's easy to understand the creative fuel behind the jazz-influenced revisions of previous Beach Fossils songs. It's a project deeply rooted in his own musical interests married to the timing of a world slowly stilled. After years waiting for a window, the long-shelved project finally had a chance to come forward.

That's not to say Payseur is shifting long-term directions in this transition at all. In fact, at the moment we spoke with him, he counted 138 new song ideas ready for another Beach Fossils album. But for now, the beauty of these revisions was worthy of a discussion all its own.

Analogue: The jazzier treatment here of some familiar Beach Fossil songs turned out so well. It also made me curious if you’d wanted to make music like this for a while?

Dustin Payseur: Yeah, I’ve wanted to do a project like this for about 15 years, maybe even before I had Beach Fossils. I’ve always thought it’d be fun to do some kind of jazz album where I could just sing and I have people who actually know what they’re doing instead of faking it, y’know, to play with. [Laughs]

It definitely was a project that had been sitting for a long time. I think the combination of lockdown in New York paired with me becoming a new father, I had this time where I could finally sit down and think about making this album. We were unable to go to the studio together to make the next Beach Fossils record—the guitar record—so I felt like it was a proper time to get this one going.

"I’ve wanted to do a project like this for about 15 years, maybe even before I had Beach Fossils."

Analogue: Are we hearing some of the original compositions or ways you envisioned these songs or were they all remade to fit this project?

Dustin: It’s definitely completely reinvented but I do think that when I’m working on a song, I like to work on something that I can imagine in many different genres. So while I’m working on something, I’ll wonder if it can work as something else. I feel like that’s how you know you’ve written something that can stand the test of time.

Analogue: Was this something on a whiteboard somewhere then with other competing ideas?

Dustin: Honestly it was just this thing that I was always wanting to do but I just couldn’t get it it. As a band we’re always on tour and we’re always writing when we’re home, so it never felt there was a time to do it. I spoke with [Tony] Gardner, who played almost all the instruments on the record and arranged it, about this for years. We finally had this space carved out, so I thought, ‘It’s time. Let’s get to this.’ No one was really doing anything. Everybody was just in their house, so I knew I had time to get this right.

Analogue: Was there already a list of songs? Or how much sifting did you have to do beforehand?

Dustin: I started from scratch with a list of songs. We went through a lot and some of them didn’t work, but some of them I didn’t think would work did end up working.

Analogue: A best example there?

Dustin: I wasn’t sure if “Sleep Apnea” would work, to be honest, or “Down the Line.” “Sleep Apnea” is just acoustic guitar and it’s just so simple, but he was able to do it. He’s a really talented musician.

Analogue: Are you particularly pleased with the way one turned out over the others?

Dustin: Honestly, all of them. It’s exciting for me to see these songs from this new angle. I’m actually surprised this many were going to be able to work. Originally, I thought if we could get a couple to work, we’d release them as a 7”, but then more of them kept sounding really good. So then I thought, ‘All right, let’s do as many as we can.’

Analogue: Some bands feel the need to create content, which is why some projects like this—where songs are repackaged in some way—are made. But you don’t seem remotely worried about that.

Dustin: No, I’m not, but I am lucky that I enjoy touring and I also really enjoy fucking around on social media and posting silly or stupid videos. I’m lucky I enjoy doing that, because those are ways that people stay engaged. It’s funny because I never really thought of those things much as ‘staying engaged.’ I just thought, ‘I love this band. I love doing this stuff. This is fun.’

We had a manager very briefly for about a year and she said, ‘It’s just so great that you guys are so up on touring and content.’ It was funny to hear someone talk about it from an industry side of things in that way. [Laughs]

I guess if I cared that much, I’d put out a record every year or every other year. But I’m a perfectionist when it comes to what I release.

The Other Side of Life
The Other Side of Life

Analogue: How do you mean?

Dustin: Well, I was just going through my hard drive and I have 138 songs for this next record we’ve been working on. For every record I make, I have something like that where I’m just constantly making music. Eventually I’ll shave it down to the few that I like the most. I do like most of it but it just doesn’t all work. It has to just feel like a complete picture for me.

Analogue: Wait, Dustin, please tell me those aren’t 138 fleshed-out songs. Are those full songs or just musical ideas?

Dustin: They’re pretty much mostly mixed full-length songs with 100 tracks on each. [Laughs] Yeah, that’s what I’m saying that when I’m home from tour, all that I do is record. It’s like a painter sitting down with a sketchbook. Since I have here equipment to make a finished record at my house, I can sit down and go through the whole thing. I don’t have to re-record something after I demo it. It’s pretty much the finished product.

Analogue: Do you make it hard on yourself there with so many ideas?

Dustin: Yeah that can be really hard, but sometimes you have a collection of songs and you just know. There’s nothing rational to base it on. It’s just if the songs hit me emotionally in different ways, and if so, they’ve covered all the bases. I think a good album should be like a film that has all these different moods and takes you through a ride.

When I wrote the first record, I kind of wanted every song to sound the same. The goal was to make the most cohesive record I could possibly do. Now at this point. I just want them to feel as if you’re listening to a mix or something.

Analogue: You mentioned constantly touring and I saw a string of upcoming dates that read “Sold Out” again and again. How often are you reflective of things working so well for you there?

Dustin: Every single day. I feel really lucky that we’re able to continue doing this all the time. When I started the project, it was just something I was doing for fun, and I was extremely grateful that people were paying attention to it. I still feel extremely grateful because a lot of those bands that were around at the same time we started aren’t anymore. I just feel lucky we’re still making things that people are paying attention to.

Analogue: Being a new dad, however, how does that work with this tour-loving part of you?

Dustin: It’s pretty hard. [Laughs] Leaving for this tour was probably harder than leaving for any other tour. My wife obviously understands this is what I do. I’ve been touring since we’ve met, so she gets it. Now I have this new human who I love and she doesn’t understand quite what I do yet. I can’t really explain it to her. [Laughs] So it’s definitely hard but it’s also more inspiration for me to keep doing it.

VISIT: Beach Fossils