Who: Beach House
Where and when: Laneway Festival, Aotea Square, Jan 31, 7pm
Essential albums: Beach House (2006), Devotion (2008), Teen Dream (2010)
One of the most striking features of Beach House's potent third album Teen Dream is that it feels like the chapters of a novel that should be digested as a whole.
Alex Scally, the male half of the Baltimore duo, says this was the intention.
"We want people to experience us as artists, not just as producing a single. It's the worst feeling in the entire world when you love a song and then you go and buy the album and you don't like anything else. It's the worst. We want it to be better than any one song to hear it all together."
Beach House have been creating dulcet but stirring music for six years, but last year's release topped many critics' lists of top albums.
Scally believes the sudden surge in popularity could have something to do with the band unintentionally angling their songs to better suit a live environment.
"Sometimes it is really hard for us to get the feeling of a song across live.
There was a lot of frustration when our songs were lost because people were talking or the venue was the wrong size. And I think we subconsciously made our songs a little more muscular and powerful, because we have such a desire to blast people. We wanted the songs to be huge so that they were really strong all the time."
He describes himself as the foundations of the duo and insists Victoria Legrand is the soul. It was sheer luck that they met and uncovered their creative spark, Scally explains. Legrand was in a band that needed a bassist, and Scally answered the call. During the rehearsals the pair realised their hearts were in the same place musically, and working together was effortless.
Scally gushes about Legrand's incredible gift for melody: "She hears sounds that nobody else would hear," he says.
"What I do is made a million times better by what she does. Music I write on my own would never be as good as music I write with her."
Legrand was born in France, and Scally thinks the innocent, whimsical nature of her birth culture comes through in the Beach House sound. The dynamic of male and female, however, is usually irrelevant, he says.
"Victoria can be pretty masculine at times, and I can probably be very feminine."
It's an abstract pairing. And that's a word Scally uses to describe the music too. As they are from Baltimore, which is not known for its beaches, the name Beach House refers to a folkish, insouciant feeling, and the album title Teen Dream draws on their emotion at the time of creating it.
"It's not really a nostalgia thing, it's not about going back and looking at the past. It's more of an invitation for people to feel the way you felt as a teenager again. But not in a dramatic way, just in the raw sexuality, raw excitement, unbound enthusiasm. Those kind of feelings that are so amazing."