Ever since Beach House broke onto the scene in 2006 with their self-titled debut, critics and fans alike have struggled to trace their sonic lineage. The term ‘dream pop’ is the most commonly assigned label, even though groups like Cocteau Twins weren’t even on the pair’s radar when they started writing songs together. As vocalist Victoria Legrand explianed during a recent interview on the Broken Record Podcast, Beach House was, like most musical projects, a product of all the artists she and Alex Scally listened to during their formative years. From Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley to Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins: Legrand and Scally absorbed it all. That being said, there are certain artists who seem to have had more influence than others, specifically iconic Hole frontperson Courtney Love.
Speaking to Broken Record, Legrand opened up about her passion for Love while naming some of her foundational records, the albums that have stuck with her over the years and informed her own music. “I love Hole,” she confessed. “I still do.” For Legrand, Love seems to have been a source of creative empowerment. “It’s a powerful thing. if you’re a young girl and you’re listening, you’re like: ‘this woman, this force of nature’. Once you hear it, you’re just not the same. There are a lot of artists like that: Nirvana’s like that, Bob Marley. There’s a lot of people who just change you quickly.”
With their riotous blend of post-punk, unpredictable live shows, and no-fucks-given attitude, Hole defied categorisation. Formed in 1989 by Courtney Love (guitar and vocals), Eric Erlandson (guitar), Jill Emery (bass) and Caroline Rue (drums), the group quickly became one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands to emerge from the alternative rock scene of the late 1980s and early ’90s. The band’s carnivorous allure immediately attracted Legrand, who swiftly fell for Courtney Love’s iconoclastic charm: “Her screaming, her voice,” she continued. “There’s just a unique quality to it. Also, the music. The songs were really great. The songwriting is incredible. You know, Live Through This is an incredible record. People are gonna copy that for the rest of time.”
Speaking about the aesthetics of Beach House, she added that Love’s work with Hole was “an incredible source of inspiration. The baby dolls, the makeup: it’s coming from punk and post-punk and all that stuff, which also was a big part of my upbringing.”
While Beach House might not seem the most obvious descendent of Hole’s punk-inspired sound, the duo’s music can be seen to carry the same enveloping quality that allowed Courtney Love to be so transgressive. With all those fuzz-laden guitars chugging along, Love was able to undermine assumptions about women in rock, carving out a niche for herself that has since been replicated countless times. Love reminded audiences that an artist’s gender should have no bearing on what kind of music they can make and what kind of subjects they are allowed to sing about. Legrand seems to have found a similar sense of liberation in her own music, treating the dense textures of Beach House as a sort of mask, which, when worn, allows the wearer to breach the parameters that limit so many to the same forms of expression.