Beach Fossils' Dustin Payseur Tells Us About Starting His Own Record Label.
It's been five years since the world first discovered the music of Dustin Payseur.
Back then, his lo-fi, mostly solo Beach Fossils project was one of a dozen or so acts to emerge at right around the same time with beach-themed names (see also: Beach House, Dirty Beaches, Wavves, Best Coast, Surfer Blood, etc.). Now that the dust — or grains of sand, as it were — have settled on that trend, Beach Fossils remains one of the few bands from that era not making garage rock or overly reverby punk. Never one to follow a trend or to settle into any one sound for too long, Payseur's also long dived into a seemingly endless string of side projects, too. His latest project, though, isn't necessarily one that sees him creating music, per se.
Recently, Payseur and his wife Katie Garcia, who for years managed the Captured Tracks label to which Beach Fossils was previously signed, have been busy building up a new label called Bayonet Records, which will officially launch this March with a trio of releases, including one from one of Payseur's many side projects.
And before his band performs as part of King Camel's Have a Heart benefit show this Saturday at Trees, we caught up with the Beach Fossils frontman to ask what else we can expect from his new label and the different approach he's taking with recording the next Beach Fossils album.
Do you guys play a lot of benefit shows?
No, we haven't done a lot in the past. This is one of the first ones.
How much do you know about this benefit show? Why'd you feel it important to come down and play this one, in particular?
I've read a lot about it on the internet, people posting about it and stuff. I think that's nice. It's for a good cause, which is cool, because my favorite thing to do is play, anyway. So if we can support a good cause, it makes me happy.
Do you think getting involved with benefits is something that's important for bands to do occasionally?
Yeah, totally. It can't be all completely selfish. You have to remember that we're part of the world like everybody else. You want to be able to give what you can.
Other than that, I know you've been busy getting your record label off the ground. How's that been going? What can you tell us about the label?
It's been a ton of work. It's really exciting, though. I've always wanted to be able to do this. My wife had a lot of experience managing at Captured Tracks for the past four years. Working with her, I'm learning a ton about how to do this. Otherwise, I'd have no clue. I'd still be doing it, but there's no way it'd be running as smoothly as it is. It's really nice. I'm stoked. There's so many good bands out there that don't have any exposure and don't know how to get any exposure. I basically just want to find bands and expose them to the world. I feel really lucky that that was able to happen with my band when it did, so to be able to do that same thing for other bands makes me really excited.
Is that kind of the biggest reason you wanted to start the label in the first place?
Yeah. It's definitely a labor of love. It's all just bands that I completely love. Everyone that we work with is something I'm excited about — as it should be. If it wasn't like that, I wouldn't be doing it.
I've read in several other interviews where you've mentioned that getting that first email from Mike [Sniper] from Captured Tracks saying he was interested in working with your band was maybe the best moment of your life and really changed your life. Are you looking forward to now getting to send those kind of emails?
Yeah, man. I love to be able to find artists that I really appreciate what they're doing, and give them that outlet, that platform to make their way with it and be able to put out records and go on tour and have that life.
What's your philosophy in running a label? What's going to make yours different than Captured Tracks and all the others out there?
We have different tastes. Everybody that curates their own label, it's always going to be different. We're not closed to any genres at all. I listen to everything, and I would put out anything if it moved me, if I loved it. If somebody sent an amazing jazz record or country, whatever it is, as long as it's amazing to me and it means something to me, I would fully support it. I feel like a lot of other labels have a specific sound, as far as genre, that they're willing to put out.
So it sounds like you're going to be pretty hands-off as far as telling people how, where or what to record — or any of that type of stuff.
Oh yeah. I wouldn't really ever get involved in that. I want to get involved with artists that I love what they're doing, and I don't want to mess with that. I want to be able to take what they're doing and give them a wider audience. I don't want to change what they're doing or tell them to do something in a different way, because then there'd be no point.
What kind of artists are you working with at the moment? What bands are going to be your first releases? When can we start expecting to see things start getting released by your label?
I'm working with artists from all over the country — and a few from outside the country. The first day that we're doing releases is March 3. We're doing three tapes. Two of them are from Atlanta bands; one is called Warehouse and one is called Red Sea. Another is a side project of mine called Fluoride. Later that month, on the 31st, we're releasing our first LP by this guy Jerry Paper from New York.
What about this handful of acts drew you in and compelled you to sign them?
Just listening to them. They're just so good. I don't know. There's just something about it. You quite put your finger on exactly what it is that moves you. For me, it's like when you hear an artist and you can tell that they have certain influences but they're not directly ripping them off. They're putting their own soul into it and giving it a new sound. That's generally what I'm looking for instead of someone that's trying to recreate something from the past.
Are you guys working on a new Beach Fossils record?
Yeah. Slowly but surely. We've been writing stuff on and off for a while now. We've got a long way to go because I've been busy with side projects and the label, and I haven't been completely focusing on writing new Beach Fossils material at the moment. Definitely 2015 is my year to write new stuff for Beach Fossils.
You say “we've been writing.” Does that mean your bandmates are more involved in the writing process this time around?
Yeah, this is the first time we've all done it as a collaborative thing. I like it. It's really nice, because sometimes I get so lost that I have no idea what I'm doing. It's hard when you don't get any input from somebody or when you're by yourself trying to work on stuff for hours every day, and you're like, “I love this, but I have no idea how to piece it all together.” It's good to have a group of people that I trust, and that can take pieces to each other and put it all together and change it up a little bit and make it something new. That's something I've never really done before.
Is the process any different knowing that you're going to put it out on your own label this time?
It's always been like that, really. With Captured Tracks, they were really hands-off about it as well. I had complete creative control as far as the artwork and what songs went on the record and stuff. It doesn't really feel any different in a creative way. It is pretty exciting being able to put it out myself, though. That way, it's all hands-on, more so than ever before. That's also what I like about the freedom of having this label. I always record side projects, but I've never done anything with them. I've always just let them sit around. Now I can be just like, “Oh, I'll put out a tape of this or a seven-inch of this thing I did with my friend.” It's cool to have that option.
Are you recording dozens of songs again for this album, most of which won't make the final cut?
Yeah, I already have been. I've been recording a ton of stuff for the next album that I know I'm not going to use. But that's important, because you can't run a marathon without building up to it first. When you're working on a record, I feel like you can't just make 10 songs and go, “That's it, that's the album.” You could, I guess, but I like to take a long time. I like to make a lot of sketches of songs. I like to try and piece things together. It's a long process, but that's just the way I've always done it.
Do you think you'll ever do anything with any of that leftover material? Especially now that you have the label, it'd be easier to put out more B-sides and things than you have before.
I don't know. I don't like to look back. Usually, if I make something and I'm not completely in love with it, I just forget about it and move on. But who is to say that in a few years I wouldn't go back and like some of it and want to do something with it?
Around the same time you guys were coming up, it seems like there were a lot of other bands with similar names — or, specifically, with “beach” in their names. For whatever reason, a lot of those bands get lumped together although they're not necessarily that similar otherwise.
The name thing is a total coincidence. I think there's just a zeitgeist thing that happens every now and then. A lot of those bands don't even sound alike. A lot of it is just lazy journalism just being, “This band sounds like this other band because their names are similar.” I think a lot of the groups that did beach thing are more in a pop-punk kind of style, or garage rock, which is not something I've ever been too interested in.
Did you ever consider changing your name to disassociate yourself from that scene?
Kind of. I've thought about it before. But, at the same time, this project has a life of its own. If I'm going to do something under a different name, it might as well be a completely different project. That's why I'm working with so many other side projects right now. I have a lot of different styles that I want to do. I think it's nice to keep a project consistent.
Cover photo by John Pena. Beach Fossils performs with Indian Jewelry, The Appleseed Cast and more on Saturday, January 17, at Trees as part of the Have a Heart Benefit.