BEACH FOSSILS’ Dustin Payseur is a patron of the arts. Along with being a multi-instrumentalist and a practicing poet, he is a perpetual reader and habitually keeps a list of words, thoughts and feelings that inspire him. He lists Lao Tzu as his greatest inspiration, practices Dadaism and doesn’t have any musical guilty pleasures because “if something moves you, you shouldn’t be ashamed by it.” In a world of copycats and cookie-cutter-models, he is, without a doubt, novel.
For most of his life, Payseur called Charlotte, N.C., home, growing up in a musical household and learning how to play music from a young age. “My parents are musicians and my grandfather is a musician, so it was just kind of, you know, an option growing up,” he says. “There were always instruments around the house, so I just decided to pick it up, and just kept on with it.” The “it” Payseur refers to are the guitar and bass, explaining that he later experimented with the drums as a teenager, all of which would help him record later on under the moniker of Beach Fossils.
Before bidding his hometown adieu and moving to Brooklyn two years ago, Payseur considered joining a Taoist Monastery at one point. “I didn’t know what to do, and I came to the conclusion that a Taoist Monastery would be a contradiction in itself,” he says of the decision. “And the more Taoist thing to do, I suppose, would be to challenge myself and move to the busiest city in the country.” So challenge himself he did, coming to New York with the sole purpose of pursuing his passion: music.
“I really didn’t know anybody here to play music with,” Payseur explains of when he first arrived. “And I just really wanted to do music, that was the main reason I came here.” Determined to be exhausted by his passions, Payseur took matters into his own hands, drawing from his musical talents to become a solo act. He recorded demos by himself and wishfully sent them out, a move that led to lasting relationships with the local labels Woodsist and Captured Tracks. After receiving “a lot of positive feedback” and booking shows, Payseur soon realized he needed a band. Enter guitarist Chris Burke, bassist John Pena and drummer Tommy Lucas. “I met them and they all had solo projects that I thought were really good, and that I thought would be a good fit for the band.”
Now a four-piece, Beach Fossils creates dreamy, swoon-inducing melodies with a backdrop of tranquil, yet complex lyrics that encompass their author. “They are all very personal,” Payseur reveals of the 11 tracks that comprise Beach Fossils’ self-titled debut. “Most of them are actual experiences. They’re not really made up stories or anything. I feel very exposed with what I’ve made, but at the same time I feel it’s important to not censor yourself.”
Influenced by the combination of new wave, post-punk, free jazz and 1960s psychedelic tunes that constantly circulate through Payseur’s headphones, and drawing on his poetry background to help write lyrics, Beach Fossils is composed of emotionally layered tracks that blow past the “summer band” label the quartet has unfairly been given. An assumption Payseur rightfully attributes to “convenience” and a lack of observation.
The recording and creative process for Beach Fossils comes naturally and without over-analyzing and nitpicking. Through stream of consciousness, something Payseur attributes to studying Dadaism, the troupe has sessions in which it is immersed in their art. “We hardly even talk,” he says of the sittings. “We just sit down with the instruments and a song will come out. We’ll go through all the different parts, and then we’ll come back and try to arrange it afterwards. It’s usually really quick, we can come up with a new song in a sitting.”
One such song is “Twelve Roses,” an infectiously bittersweet, percussive-driven track that goes through the motions of one of Payseur’s relationships, from beginning to end. With jangly guitars and hazy vocals, the track, like much of the album, provides a contrast of up-tempo, sunny beats to mellow and sometimes melancholy lyrics, proving that with Beach Fossils, Payseur is not only an advocate of the arts, but an artist himself.
>>BEACH FOSSILS June 19, Mercury Lounge, 217 E. Houston St. (betw. Essex & Ludlow Sts.), 212-260-4700; 8, $12.