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Norman Music Fest: Q&A with headliner Beach Fossils

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Beach Fossils

Beach Fossils is one of the headliners for Norman Music Fest 2019.

This year’s Norman Music Festival will feature a diverse array of genres and musicians from all over the U.S. on the lineup, with Beach Fossils as one of the headliners for the event.  

Beach Fossils is a New York City-based indie-pop band that embraces experimental songwriting and recording in the creation of their unique sound. The Norman stop on their U.S. tour will be preceded by performances at Coachella and various Texas locations, with subsequent shows in cities across the Midwest such as Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

The band’s journey began in 2009, and since that time they have toured throughout the U.S. and developed a discography of three albums, one EP and several singles. Vocalist and guitarist Dustin Payseur, bassist Jack Doyle Smith, and guitarist Tommy Davidson are the current members of the group.

The Daily spoke with Payseur to get some insight into the band’s journey and style.

How would you describe your music and lyrical style?

It’s always hard for me to answer stuff like that because I try not to think about it too much. I try to just do what comes natural to me, and if other people are interested they can describe it in their own way. For me the lyrics are a personal experience, like things I’m going through or relationships with friends. The music is really a soundtrack to my life, in a way.

Has your style evolved over the years as the band has grown?

Yeah, I think it’s always changing. I never want to get stuck or have a stagnant sound. I think the worst thing is an artist who refuses to evolve, and not really externally, like looking at what’s cool right now and just saying, “Let’s do that.” I mean more of an internal evolution, just searching for different ways to get your ideas across.

I think for me it involves a lot of texture. I like experimenting with different textures as far as production is concerned since I produce my own records. I’d say that’s a really big thing for me, just thinking of different ways to produce things. Through that I think different sounds and different styles come out.

You said that a lot of your writing comes from personal experience. Is that the primary source of inspiration for you, or do you draw from other sources as well?

It’s usually pretty personal. A lot of the time I’ll be out and just having a conversation with someone, and something from that will stick with me and I’ll be thinking about it later and I have to write it down — either what someone’s said or the way I felt about it. I usually make the music first and have the instrumentals, and then when I need lyrics I’ll go back through all of my notes and try to figure out a way to say all of those things that doesn’t sound too corny or sentimental. Like, sometimes a thought can be really pure but then you put it to music and you think, “Ah, this just isn’t working.”

Is there anything you usually have in mind that you want your listeners to take away from your music, or do you prefer them to just experience it however they do?

I’d like for them to experience it as they do. But I guess for me, I try to think of it from a listener’s perspective because I pretty much only like music that hits me in a really emotional way. Not only just lyrics, because that’s usually the last thing I listen to. I think that certain chord progressions in production styles and all of the things just coming together can hit you pretty hard and pull out an actual emotion. It’s almost like when you smell something and it triggers a childhood memory — I feel like music can do that same thing. It can pull out these things from inside you without you even realizing it and then it’s like, “Wow, I just had a moment with this song.” I guess I would like for people to experience that with my music because that’s the way I feel when I listen to music. I try to put things straightforward and not get too flowery or poetic. I think minimalism and simplicity is really the way to get this stuff across because if it gets too complicated it can seem pretentious.

How did you decide to come to Norman Music Fest as part of your tour?

We were asked to play and it just seemed really fun and cool, and I think we have some friends playing there as well. Norman isn’t a place we end up going to often, and on a lot of our tours we’ll make them shorter and just hit major cities. But I think it’s important to go everywhere. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and nobody would ever come and play in my town. We would always have to go to D.C. or Atlanta or somewhere else. People ask us to play a lot in places that aren’t major cities, which are the places you first think of when you think about doing a tour, so I think it’s important to tour as many of those places as possible because there are people there who want to hear the music too.

What else do you have planned for this tour?

It’s a bit scattered. We’re starting at Coachella, since we’ll be playing there both weekends. Originally it was just going to be a Texas tour, but we figured since we’re already out, we may as well keep going. We’re going to a lot of places we don’t go very often, like Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Phoenix. It’s really exciting.

What has been the most difficult and rewarding part of your journey since the band started in 2009?

I think difficult and rewarding are all tied in together as one answer for me. I remember just going on our first tours ever, playing shows all the time in 2009 and 2010. We were going around constantly sleeping on floors, starving out of our minds and being angry and hating each other and fighting all the time. You know, that stuff’s just all part of it. All I ever wanted was to be able to tour. I think taking in the hard part of it, like that is really important because it does sort of filter people out and shows if you’re serious about it or not. For me, I didn’t have another option. I didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t go to school and I quit my job so I could start touring. And even though I was making no money, it was worth it to me, because I was having the time of my life, and I still am. I’m so grateful that I’m able to do this, it’s so rewarding. But it is a challenge, especially since we’re self-managed, but I’ve done it for so long that I’m comfortable running it.

Can you tell me more about being self-managed?

It’s crazy. It’s really pretty complicated, but I’ve been able to build up everyone on my team that I work with. Everyone is hand-picked, so we have a really good relationship with everyone. Our booking agent and publicist are both people I personally like and hang out with, and I release through my own record label so I don’t have to deal with anyone else for that. The whole thing is very DIY. I’ve been doing it myself since I was a kid so it just comes natural to me to be really hands-on with everything. It’s really nice because you’re never out of the loop with anything since you’re the one doing it.

What do you currently have planned for the future?

We’re always recording, so we’re working on a new record right now. We’re pretty much always in the studio recording even if we’ve just finished an album because it’s just what we love to do, you know? I have my own studio, so I try to go in every day and work on stuff. I take a long time because I end up throwing most of it away, but I’m still there working on it.

Beach Fossils will be playing at the Norman Music Fest at 10 p.m. April 27 on the Fowler Automotive main stage.

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