Published Feb 26, 2013Just hours before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York City, Beach Fossils frontman Dustin Payseur finished his second album in a studio that was eventually destroyed. This was fresh off guitarist Zachary Cole Smith and bassist John Pena leaving the band to pursue their own projects, DIIV and Heavenly Beat, respectively. Yet Payseur is at his strongest; Clash the Truth is easily the best thing he's done so far.
You recorded Clash the Truth in a proper studio. How different was it for you making this record compared to the previous ones?
Well the writing process was the same, because I recorded at home the same way I did the previous records. So the writing and recording was the exact same as everything else. I got it to a point where it was recorded and mixed, and I was ready to release these songs. They were done. But after I'd finished everything I thought why not book some studio time and see what they'd sound like if I took them into a studio. It was kind of a last minute idea, I wasn't really considering it until the album was done. So it was cool to go in there and see what could happen fucking around with gear that I don't have access to on a regular basis. It was a nice experience, but I don't know if i want to continue doing it like that. I enjoy recording at home. The main reason why I wanted to go into a studio was because the drums are fucking hard, man. It's hard to get a good drum sound. I was originally just going in there to do the drums and leave everything else as I'd done it at home. Then I thought, "Fuck it, I'll do the whole thing over."
I read that the studio, Civil Defense, was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. How bad was the damage?
It was destroyed, man. But they're rebuilding. I was actually surprised when I found out a few days ago about that because I didn't know what the hell they were going to do. I saw photos of right after it happened, and that place was ruined. Everything was fucked up. The walls were gone, the floors were out, all of the gear was washed up to one corner of the place. It had flooded and it was a terrible mess. It was weird to think, "I was just in this place a couple days ago recording and now it doesn't exist." We had a few days off and were going to go back in to start mixing, but on those days off that's when Hurricane Sandy came in. We almost lost all of our sessions, but thankfully the guy who booked the studio went and backed up all of the sessions a couple of hours before it flooded. So we almost lost everything.
What would you have done had you lost everything?
I think I would have just put the demos out and maybe thrown live drums on it. Part of the plan was to have Tommy [Gardner] play drums on the record, so we probably would have recorded him and just put it out like that. It wouldn't have sounded quite the same. It wouldn't have been as energetic, but they are the same songs.
You've stated how influenced you are by punk with this record. Is that meant to be heard?
I don't necessarily think so. I think more it was an influence in energy. And not a conscious one. The main focus was to try and get this one to sound like the live show, which is louder and more aggressive. And even after playing these songs live, when I had put these on record I had never played them as a full band until after, so they get even more energetic. I kind of wish I could go back and put how these songs sound live now on the record, but y'know, you've got to just keep moving on.
What stops you from diving headfirst into trying to do your own version of those punk bands you love?
Nothing. I do. I just don't show it to anybody. When we go to the practice space, that's pretty much what we do the whole time. That's all we play. They're all original. I'm not that interested in doing that as a band because it's a sound where I don't really know what I could give to it that hasn't already been done. There are a lot of good bands doing it today and I think they hold up on their own without me.
Would you ever release an album of punk songs?
I've definitely considered that. I have an album's worth of material that I've recorded. I'll probably sneak it out one day and no one will know it's me. Maybe I already have.
Where did the idea to bring in Kazu Makino to sing on "In Vertigo" come from?
I had seen a few interviews where she had mentioned Beach Fossils as music she was listening to. I thought that was really sweet so I contacted her and I thanked her for that. She came to some shows and we just became friends, communicating regularly. When I was recording the album and my girlfriend just said, "Why don't you ask her to come sing on the album?" I didn't even think about it, because it seemed like we were on different worlds. But she was really excited when I asked her. It was nice working with her, she's a very pleasant person.
Cole left to do DIIV and John left to do Heavenly Beat. What impact did that have on Beach Fossils?
I don't think it did. They're just friends, doing their own thing and I was definitely in full support. Cole had been playing in Beach Fossils as well as some other bands with friends and supporting other people's songs for a long time. When he showed me his songs for the first time, and I was actually the first person he had played those songs for, I said, "Damn dude, you've got to do something with this!" He'd been doing it for a long time but never played it for anyone. So I was happy when he finally did something with it.
How difficult is it to just build up the band again?
It was really easy. Pretty much all of my friends are musicians. When I moved to New York, I didn't know anybody. I had only been meeting people after Beach Fossils. Just from touring and through Captured Tracks I've made so many musical friends. The guy who filled up John's space on bass is Jack, who used to play in Craft Spells. We toured together and shared a van together and became real tight. And then Tommy Davidson, I met through the Wild Nothing guys, he was in a band called Hoop Dreams. It was fairly simple. I saw it coming with both Cole and John, so I was right on it and asked those guys if they wanted to play.