Beach Fossils emerged in 2010 with their self-titled debut album, a lo-fi take on surf rock that launched them to the forefront of New York’s crowded indie rock scene. That’s where they’ve stayed since, sharpening their fidelity and dream-pop instincts on every successive release. This year’s Somersault, their fourth and best yet, envelops crisp guitar jangle and clever songwriting inside cocoons of ornate detail, recalling classic 4AD acts like Cocteau Twins and The The.
On Friday, I watched the band—bassist Jack Doyle Smith, guitarist Tommy Davidson, and vocalist/guitarist Dustin Payseur, the founder—smash Brooklyn’s Elsewhere venue to pieces. Kids dove from the stage and pumped skateboards and fists in the air with a ferocity that seemed, at first, out of whack with the band’s good-natured riffs and cool melodies.
But beneath their laid-back exterior, Beach Fossils offered a remarkably tight, dynamic live experience. Their guitars wove and bounced off each other with a casual confidence developed through years on the road, provoking some of the vibe-iest mosh pits in the game.
Their banter was on point, too. “What priest goes to the steam room after his sermon?” Davidson mused to the crowd, then answered himself: “Father John Misty.”
Before the show I caught up with the guys backstage, where they showed me some highlights off their camera roll from their recent adventures in Europe, Los Angeles, and upstate New York.
PAYSEUR: This is a screenshot of a video my friend took when he was on stage with us in San Diego. This dude was in the crowd and he was going absolutely fucking apeshit the whole time! [laughs]
DOYLE SMITH: Which you really can’t tell from this photo, he’s very relaxed. [laughs]
PAYSEUR: Yeah he’s very relaxed in this photo! [laughs] But this guy was going full fucking apeshit and my friend came on stage and just took some video of the crowd real quick, and just happened to catch this and I was like, “You have to fucking send that to me.” And I screenshotted it and it’s literally one of my favorite photos on my phone. It was the background on my phone for a while, and we thought about making it a tour poster, with all the dates on it.
DAVIDSON: So we’re out in LA, vibing heavy. We have a buddy who has a JNCO sponsorship. We decided to give it a 30-degree angle for good measure. That was us before going out before the West Coast tour, vibing the L.A. way, a.k.a. ’90s JNCOs.
DOYLE SMITH: Also note the orange Tevas.
MARCUS: What do JNCOs represent to you?
PAYSEUR: Dude, JNCOs represent a lot to me because I fucking grew up wearing that shit, and it was a lifestyle and it was a competition for who had the biggest JNCOs. So if you saw somebody and they had the medium ones or knockoffs, it was like, you’re a fucking poser, I’m not hanging out with you. One time I asked this kid, “Why aren’t you wearing JNCOs,” and he was like, “My mom won’t let me!” So I told him, “You’re a poser.” My sister worked at Hot Topic and she used to hook me up!
DAVIDSON: The premise of this one is this technique I created, it’s called screenshot superposition.
PAYSEUR : Yeah he superimposes a screenshot, he’ll take a photo of someone and take a photo of something else and then superimpose it and then take a screenshot of that.
DAVIDSON: That’s my technique; it’s a method I devised on tour.
DOYLE SMITH: Here’s a photo from Tommy’s birthday, that’s Dustin and I just wearing Tommy outfits.
PAYSEUR : Becoming Tommy! [laughs]
DOYLE SMITH: We got wigs, we went to Goodwill and got all this shit.
MARCUS: Is that a real bucket hat?
DOYLE SMITH: Yeah it’s Kangol, like fishing style.
DAVIDSON: Real fishing. But yeah, pretty much the entire day we spent fucking running around Thompson Square Park. We were supposed to have stunt doubles for the music video, but then the director saw us and was like, “Actually can you guys ride skateboards?” and Jack is a beast, he can do whatever—he can hold his own. I can barely fucking move, and then like, here are some taxis and cars in Chinatown and I’m like about to kill myself the whole time, and that was that vibe.
PAYSEUR: Okay this one, we were on tour, this is Italy, and this is our tour manager in the front. We wanted to do a photo where we looked like a metal band.
DAVIDSON: It was Rome.
PAYSEUR: I like how staggered we are because look, there are so many people and so many layers. Yeah we were killin’ it, everybody’s kind of squonchin’.
DAVIDSON: This is in Portland. We’re loading all the gear back into the van, and this is a bunch of shit we managed to get in, like Tetris into the van. We’re doing this constantly, everyday.
DAVIDSON: This is Jack, always skating around at any rest stop we have, and his hat is like flying in the air. This was somewhere on the West Coast. It was a gas station stop and there was a skate park nearby so he jumped in there.
PAYSEUR: This is Post Malone, we were hanging out in L.A. and I got these custom sunglasses made, but I never wore them because I thought they were completely insane. I was like, “Put them on your nose because if you cover it up it looks like a tiny face.”
MARCUS: How did you guys get linked up with him?
PAYSEUR: I tweeted at him a long time ago and I was like, “Let’s fucking shred,” ’cause I just watched an interview with him where he was playing guitar and was like, “This dude seems like anyone we hang out with, just a normal ass dude that just wants to fucking kick it.” And so when we went to L.A. we hit him up and we spent four days at the studio he was working at, just chilling, swimming, getting drunk and hanging out.
DAVIDSON: We had beer bongs, my first beer bong. He was immortalized to me, because we showed up, we hadn’t met him yet and everything, like I said we were just Twitter correspondents, so we go up, we open the gates and we weren’t sure where we were, we don’t know the studio. And he immediately turns around, there was this huge crowd there, and he moves everyone out of the way and is like, “Hey, you guys want to do a beer bong?” Immediately we started doing beer bongs, next to a jacuzzi.
MARCUS: Were there any beer bong mishaps? Sometimes it goes down your nose, in my experience.
DOYLE SMITH: Yeah, it was amazing, I did pretty good. So my strategy was like, there’s no way I’m going to beat this record, because I just watched Post do it in like two seconds. He’s too good! So I watched him kill it and I was like okay I’m not going to be able to follow this, so I drink some of it and pretend that I finished it, and everyone cheered and then everyone was like, “Aw, fuck you!” Everyone thought I killed it! [laughs]
PAYSEUR: He has a guy in his crew that gets paid $1000 a day just to carry around the beer bongs for him. But yeah, it was actually perfect! Because I was worried, like, “Oh shit, I’m going to go to Post’s house, and he’s going to want to smoke tons of weed and I don’t smoke weed!” And we got there and we were talking to him and he was like, “I don’t smoke weed.” And I was like, “Fuck yeah, I don’t smoke weed either.” So we just beer bonged all night. [laughs]
DAVIDSON: This was in April of 2016, this is Dusty, and Jacky-boy.
PAYSEUR: When I had long hair.
DOYLE SMITH: I was eating fucking goldfish.
DAVIDSON: This was at Kerhonkson, in upstate New York—
PAYSEUR: Back when I did smoke weed!
DAVIDSON: We did a session for like two weeks pretty much, over 10 days in an upstate New York cottage. We were up there just doing some writing.
DOYLE SMITH: We pulled an all-nighter that night and just walked around in the morning.
PAYSEUR: A little no sleep fun time. We had stayed up all night and went to walk around the lake when we were done recording, or the river, creek, whatever you want to call it. A little reservoir, it was like eight in the morning and we were done recording so we just cracked open a beer and smoked a little weed and walked around, and it was beautiful.
DAVIDSON: This one is Jack on the xylophone, no, the marimba!
DOYLE SMITH: What are you talking about? That’s a vibraphone!
MARCUS: What I’m seeing here is a look of intense focus.
DOYLE SMITH: Yeah, that instrument is the most important instrument I’ve ever played. It was on Pet Sounds, so I was just getting ready because I couldn’t hit a wrong note on this thing.
DAVIDSON: This is Vox Studios, in Hollywood. We recorded some of the strings for Somersault here, it was crazy. Michael Harris, who’s the engineer, such an awesome dude, he was pretty much like, “If you guys want, you can jam on any of these instruments, and by the way, that one made Pet Sounds.” And we were like, “Uhh, what the fuck, okay.”
DOYLE SMITH: That’s on the song called “Rise” from our album, it’s kind of buried in the mix but if you listen for it you can hear it.
DOYLE SMITH: This is John Rado from Foxygen! We recorded the record with him in Los Angeles, so this is like after long hours of recording we came out to this patio, and Tommy and had I bought a pool for Dustin to play in, and Dustin just did a cannonball and started rubbing his nipples. This photo is such an important, nostalgic time to look back to.
DAVIDSON: Taking the edge off after some recording sessions.