musical savant Dustin Payseur talks about his critically-acclaimed indie rock
BY TIM HINELY
It seemed that last year intriguing pop bands were appearing
everywhere and many were coming forth from Brooklyn’s
Captured Tracks label. Bands included the gentle pop sounds of bands like Wild
Nothing and Minks and both seemed to capture a fair amount of attention from
the press, but perhaps the best of the bunch was a mysterious band called Beach
Fossils. There was very little information on the self-titled album (packaged
in a drab gray sleeve), but it did say it was written and record by a person
named Dustin Payseur.
Shortly thereafter Payseur’s name began popping up in
reviews and interviews, and the show I subsequently caught last year at Portland’s Doug Fir
Lounge was nothing if not electrifying.
All four musicians onstage (including a stand-up drummer and a newly
acquired guitarist since their original one for the tour had bailed) were dancing
and obviously knew how to put on a good show. They returned this year with the What a Pleasure EP and have lost nothing
on their approach; in fact, the songs might even be better. Payseur took time
out of his busy schedule – he had just returned from tour – to answer some
questions via email.
was your initial interest in music? Was it through your folks?
DUSTIN PAYSEUR: Yeah, my family definitely had an influence
on my beginnings. Having musical parents gave me an opportunity I may not have
had otherwise, so it was easy for me to pick up instruments early on.
they play in a band? If so, what/when?
Yeah, when I was a kid I thought everybody’s parents were in
bands. They were playing live around the late ‘80s through the mid ‘90s. There
wasn’t much going on in [hometown] Charlotte around the time, that scene was
sort of feeding off the Atlanta/Athens vibe, so my parents kind of had a
totally sarcastic approach to their music (songs like, “Fuck You in the Face”)
since all the other bands around the area took themselves way too seriously.
Any significant memories of your folks’
gigs, or maybe semi-famous
friends coming over to the house?
Not really too much, mostly just going with them out to the
country where they would jam with their crazy hippie friends for hours. Although
my mom did have a morning show at the radio station and she got picked up in a
limo so I thought she was famous.
What was the first record you remember
buying with your own money?
I think it was the Misfits compilation album or Ministry’s Psalm 69 on cassette. If it was aggro I
was into it.
Is Beach Fossils your first band?
I’ve had bands before, but nothing I’ve concentrated so much
energy into before. Everything else I did was focused, but also pretty loose since
I didn’t think anybody would ever hear it so it was more just experimenting
with sounds and genres. I guess the Beach Fossils album came about the same way,
though; I just focused more on it because it was a combination of sounds that
finally felt really comfortable, pop yet mellow and sometimes aggressive. It could
really be whatever I wanted it to be since the sound was so flexible.
Tell me about the recording of your
debut record. You did it yourself, right?
Yeah I did it all at home, I didn’t really know what I was
doing but I knew how to get the sounds that I wanted… I suppose that’s still
how I’m operating.
How did the deal with Captured Tracks
come about? Do you feel a
kinship with other bands on the label? It seems like a lot of bands
might share the same influences.
I sent a demo hoping to hear back but figured it would get
lost in the mix of “incredible stuff Captured Tracks probably receives
every day” but luckily I heard back really quickly. The label is amazing,
I love being a part of the family. The bands are really on point, there’s a lot
of variety, but what every band consistently shares is a passion for creating
music that has guts and takes risks while staying pop… music that has deep
roots of inspiration spreading across different
genres from punk to cold wave and twee to free jazz, etc. It’s inspirational to
you been surprised by the interest taken in the band?
Definitely. Every time we play a show I’m surprised by the
crowd and their excitement and participation. It’s all you could ever want when
you think of being in a band. The fact that we get people moving like that, and
the things they tell us after the shows about how our music has had an impact
on their lives, it’s unbelievable.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Anyone that might surprise us?
As far as just being in love with music in general, the
stuff that really moves me is Lester Young, Ravi Shankar, J.S. Bach, Don
Cherry, My Bloody Valentine, The Byrds, on and on and on… mostly jazz and classical
as far as the way it’s written and structured. I’m limited as a rock musician –
I don’t know how the hell to play that kind of music so I do what I can with a
guitar and bass.
Tell me about the tour last year. Did
the guitarist really up and quit
mid-tour? Onstage you said you had taught the replacement the songs
in the van on the way to the gigs.
Yeah that tour was pretty exhausting. We were already on the
road when our guitarist quit and that was pretty hard, but I honestly wasn’t
mad at him because I felt like quitting the tour myself. We were hardly making
money for gas and sleeping on floors for a month. Not really any different than
any other band on their first tour, but it can grind you down after a while.
But we picked up our friend TJ from Cloud Nothings and showed him the songs in
the van, he was a really
quick learner and saved us for that tour.
Did things change for the recording of
the What a Pleasure EP?
Originally it was Chris and John [Peña] and
myself. But after Chris quit, John and I scrapped all of the songs we wrote
with him and started over. It was a stressful recording situation because we
were pressed for a deadline but also on tour in Europe,
so I was literally singing into my computer mic in hotel rooms trying to make
some sort of progress. We finally wrapped it up when we got back
to the States and released it. I think if we had a little more time it would
have been a completely different album, but that’s what the next LP is for. [Ed. Note: the band’s current touring lineup
is rounded out by Tommy Gardner and Cole Smith.]
Was this latest tour better than the
Absolutely… we shared a van with Craft Spells and those
guys are the best. That made it a lot easier and felt more like a tour should, which
is having a good time and making sure the crowd has a good time too. It was our
first time headlining a tour in the U.S. and I was a little scared
before we took off on it, I was surprised every night and totally thankful to
the crowds who made it such a beautiful
Do you still have a day job?
I can’t function in a “normal” job, it’s nearly
impossible to me, the tediousness of it all makes me want to tear my hair out.
I haven’t had one in over a year and it’s the best feeling. Sometimes it can be
a little too free because I don’t make the wisest decisions with my free time,
but recently I’ve been forcing myself to record a lot more frequently.
What’s next for the band?
Just focusing on one song at a time, making albums that I
personally want to listen to. And to make sure I do it right so don’t have to
go back to a day job!
[Photo Credit: Angel Ceballos]