Beach Fossils

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Beach Fossils
Beach Fossils live 2019.jpg
Beach Fossils performing at The Columbus Theatre in Providence in April, 2019.
Background information
OriginBrooklyn, New York
GenresIndie rockshoegazelo-fidream popbaroque popsurf rockpost-punk revival [1]
Years active2009–present
LabelsCaptured Tracks,[2] Bayonet Records[3]
Associated actsHeavenly Beat, DIIV, Wild Nothing, Mac Demarco, Wavves, Foxygen, Craft Spells, Hoop Dreams, Jerry Paper
  • Dustin Payseur
  • Jack Doyle Smith
  • Tommy Davidson
  • Anton Hochheim
Past members
  • Tommy Gardner
  • Christopher Sennott Burke
  • John Peña
  • Daniel Fox
  • Zachary Cole Smith
  • Tommy Lucas

Beach Fossils is an American indie rock band from Brooklyn, New York, formed in 2009. They are currently signed to Bayonet Records, having previously been signed to indie label Captured Tracks.[4] The group's live band currently includes founder Dustin Payseur on vocals and guitar, Jack Doyle Smith on bass, Tommy Davidson on guitar, and Anton Hochheim on drums.[1] They are known for their lo-fi, atmospheric sound, confessional and nostalgic lyrics, and Payseur's laid back vocal style.[5][6]

To date they have released three studio albums, including their eponymous debut album (2010), Clash The Truth (2013), and Somersault (2017), and one EP titled What A Pleasure (2011). Beach Fossils, along with fellow Captured Tracks label mates DIIV, Wild Nothing, and Mac Demarco, are considered forerunners in the lo-fi dream pop sound that blossomed out of the underground indie scene in the 2010s.


Early Days[edit]

After a brief stint at community college in North Carolina, frontman Dustin Payseur moved to New York City in 2008 to pursue his interests in music.[7] Known for his lo-fi vocals and reverberating indie rock, musician Dustin Payseur formed Beach Fossils in 2009 as a vehicle of expansion for a solo project. That same year, bassist John Peña and guitarist Christopher Burke were recruited, followed by Zachary Cole Smith (current frontman of DIIV) on drums. After signing to Captured Tracks and quickly pulling together a live band, they took off playing countless shows across the U.S. gathering a slew of devoted fans in their wake. Their debut single, Daydream/Desert Sand was released in February 2010 through Captured Tracks. In May 2010, their self-titled debut Beach Fossils album was released, and met with favorable reviews.[5][8][9]

Beach Fossils was created by lead vocalist, guitarist, and principle songwriter Dustin Payseur in 2009

In a retrospective interview in 2014, Payseur commented on their first album saying, “The writing process is at its strongest when you don’t even feel like you’re writing the songs yourself... That happened when I was writing the first Beach Fossils record. I’d come back a day or two [after writing] and it would sound like I was listening to somebody else’s music.”[7]

While their debut album was written and recorded almost entirely by Dustin Payseur, in between tours he decided to expand on his solo work for his follow up project. The band's second release, an EP titled What A Pleasure, was released on March 8, 2011. Born out of late night jams between Payseur, John Peña, and long time friend and collaborator Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing, What a Pleasure expanded on Beach Fossils’ sonic landscape and resulted in some of Payseur's most memorable tracks. The EP has gradually become a cult classic among fans of the band, and many of its songs still work their way into Beach Fossils’ live sets today.

During the recording sessions for What A Pleasure, Beach Fossils and Jack Tatum covered and recorded some their favorite songs from influential UK band The Wake. On April 4, 2011 Beach Fossils released a split tribute EP with Wild Nothing called Gruesome Flowers: A Tribute To The Wake through Captured Tracks. The band covered The Wake's "Plastic Flowers" and Wild Nothing covered the track "Gruesome Castle".[10]

As the heavy touring schedule progressed, the band became scattered with many line-up changes, including twelve different drummers and three guitarists.[11] In 2010 Christopher Burke left the band to pursue his solo project Red Romans,[12] followed by John Peña in late 2011, who was replaced by Jack Doyle Smith. Peña formed Heavenly Beat, and Zachary Cole Smith, who was at this point playing guitar for Beach Fossils, left to form his own band DIIV.[13][14] Tommy Lucas would eventually part ways with the band as well in 2011, resulting in Tommy Gardner stepping in as the drummer and Tommy Davidson joined on guitar to complete their lineup.[15]

Clash The Truth[edit]

On February 14, 2012 Beach Fossils released a single produced by Ben Greenberg titled "Shallow", which would eventually be rerecorded and appear on their upcoming album Clash The Truth. The single also featured a B-side titled "Lessons", written and recorded by Dustin Payseur and Tommy Gardner.[16]

Tommy Davidson
Jack Doyle Smith
Guitarist Tommy Davidson (top) and bassist Jack Doyle Smith.

On February 18, 2013 Beach Fossils released their second studio album Clash The Truth through Captured Tracks, peaking at number 40 on the Independent Albums chart.[17] It was their first full-length album produced by Ben Greenberg (formerly of The Men) and songwriter Dustin Payseur.

Clash the Truth finished recording at the Excello Recording studio in the fall of 2012 after recording was interrupted when Payseur's studio was flooded during Hurricane Sandy.[18] Much like their earlier releases, the songs on the album were written almost entirely by Dustin Peyseur, who was also responsible for recording the majority of the instruments as well. The album featured new drummer Tommy Gardner, who allowed for a faster and more dynamic sound than in previous releases.[18] It also features collaborations with Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead and Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing.[19]

The album received generally positive reviews from critics, some noting the more focused themes of adolescence and nostalgia as a sign of growth and maturity while continuing to refine their sound and style. Many of the tracks featured on Clash The Truth are live staples for the band. Songs such as "Careless", "Sleep Apnea", "Generational Synthetic", and the opening title track have consistently appeared on the live setlist since the album's release.

Bayonet Records[edit]

In 2015 Dustin Payseur and his wife Katie Garcia founded their own independent label Bayonet Records after cutting their teeth at fellow Brooklyn imprint Captured Tracks. Katie is former label manager of Captured Tracks and current A&R for Secretly Group. In an interview with Forbes in June 2017, when asked how she and Dustin met and eventually started their own label, "Dustin and I met when I was interning at Captured Tracks. He was coming to pick up his very first seven-inch, and then we ended up going on our first date a couple days later. Fast forward four years and we got married. All these things started to line up, pointing to us starting our own label. He asked me to be a part of it because I know the ins and outs of how to work a label. That's how we started Bayonet."[20]

Dustin Payseur had also spent much of his time in the Captured Tracks main office early on in Beach Fossils' career. In an interview with Tidal in May 2017, Payseur was asked how he got into the music industry and what motivated him to begin his own label. He explained, "I was always in the office. I didn’t know anything about how record labels were run at all. Early on, Mike Sniper was showing me stuff. He took me under his wing in a way. But the thing for me is not thinking of it as a music industry or a music business; I feel like those words have certain connotations that really turn me off from the whole thing."[21] Mike Sniper is the much-respected owner and founder of Captured Tracks. He also went on to mention influential record labels Stones Throw and Rough Trade as inspiration for how he runs and operates Bayonet, "I was always really inspired by Stones Throw and early Rough Trade. Just the way they were run. It just felt like more of a close-knit community or artist collective rather than this faceless, anonymous brand. It wasn’t even about a brand. It was just about getting people together and making shit happen." [21]

Since its inception, Bayonet has made a name for itself signing and releasing records from the likes of Beach Fossils, Frankie Cosmos, Jerry Paper, Kevin Krauter, Laced, Lionlimb, Red Sea, and Warehouse.[22]


After touring in support of their second album Clash the Truth the band took a break. During this time they appeared in several episodes of the HBO show “Vinyl” as members of the early-'70s punk band "the Nasty Bits." The show was produced by HBO and was a fictional representation of the music industry in New York in the ’70s. The show featured a number of musicians who depicted real-life musicians; it was short lived and only aired from the 14th of February to the 17th of April in 2016. Despite having no experience in acting, the members of the band were able to pull off an impressive performance.[23]

The group would then began working on a new album in early 2016. This time out, Payseur involved the other members of the band in the writing process, with both bassist Jack Doyle Smith and guitarist Tommy Davidson contributing ideas.[24] A decision was also made to incorporate string arrangements at various points throughout the album, giving it a more grand and eclectic sound as compared to the more conventional four-piece band approach on earlier releases. Augmented with more complex instrumentation, including piano, harpsichord, flute, and sax, the new songs offered multi-layered pop guided by sharp, poignant, and honest lyrics.[25]

On March 2, 2017, the band announced that their upcoming third LP, titled "Somersault", would be released on June 2, 2017. The album was produced by frontman Dustin Payseur and Jonathan Rado of the indie rock band Foxygen. It is also the first album by the Beach Fossils released through Payseur’s own label Bayonet Records.[26]The first single from the album, titled "This Year", debuted alongside the album announcement. Rachel Goswell from Slowdive and Cities Aviv were also announced to have guest appearances on the new album.[27] It was recorded in various locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, upstate NY, and Los Angeles, including engineer Jonathan Rado's home studio and a cabin in upstate New York.

On March 13, 2017, the band revealed the departure of drummer Tommy Gardner, who moved to Shanghai to pursue his interests in becoming a Buddhist monk. In an interview with Adam Budofsky for Modern Drummer, Dustin Payseur said of Gardner's departure, "Tommy was talking about becoming a Buddhist monk and he went on this meditation retreat, so we weren’t sure what the future of him playing with us was going to be. And he wasn’t really involved in the writing process [on Somersault]; the way the three of us wrote before is we’d spend like three hours writing one riff, and I know that if a drummer’s in the room, that’s painful."[28] Gardner had been a part of Beach Fossils since 2011.[26]

In April 2017, the band wrote a non-album single titled "Silver Tongue" for the Our First 100 Days compilation. All profits raised went directly to organizations working to spread awareness about climate change, women's rights, immigration, LGBTQ rights and equality.[29]

Somersault was released on June 2, 2017 and received widespread critical acclaim upon release, with many critics complimenting its brighter tone, layered arrangements, and the more collaborative approach to songwriting within the band. One month after the album's release, Beach Fossils embarked on a lengthy world tour that took up the latter half of 2017. During much of the summer they would go on to tour throughout the US and Europe, and would eventually announce US dates in the fall along with supporting acts Snail Mail and raener.[30]


On February 7, 2018 to celebrate his birthday, Dustin Payseur released a cover of Yung Lean's "Agony," and shot an impromptu video the same day while "walking around in a haze," as he phrases on Twitter.[31]

In 2018, Beach Fossils announced they would be going on tour with Wavves on the "I Love You Tour" across North America.[32][33] They also released a split 7" with Wavves, simply titled "Wavves X Beach Fossils". The split features "Enter Still", a brand new, previously unheard demo track from Wavves on side A, and the Beach Fossils single "Silver Tongue" on side B.[34]

Beach Fossils performed at the Coachella music festival in April 2019. they will be performing at the second annual Posty Fest at AT&T Stadium in November.[35]

Style and Influence[edit]

Beach Fossils are known for their lo-fi, atmospheric sound, confessional and nostalgic lyrics, and Payseur's laid back vocal style. Most of the band's songs draw heavily upon the personal experiences of Payseur. He has described the songs as honest insights into his personal life and relationships. Some of their earlier releases can be characterized as dream pop, jangle pop, and shoegaze. Many of their most popular and frequently played songs range from slow and atmospheric ballads to fast-paced, energetic, surf rock-influenced songs. More recently their music has incorporated elements of baroque pop, chamber pop, and indie rock. Their sound has been compared to other contemporary bands such as Real Estate, The Drums, Wild Nothing, Surfer Blood, and Best Coast. Their sound can also be traced back to influential bands such as The Feelies, The Byrds, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, New Order, Joy Division, The Cure, and Galaxie 500.

Payseur takes influence from music, poetry, art and philosophers (Don Cherry, Ravi Shankar, Rumi, Lao-Tzu and Jean Cocteau), having an equal and crucial impact on his work.[11] He also admires the teachings of Eastern philosophy, citing Tao Te Ching as his favorite book of all time.

In an interview with Kyra Bruce for KOSU in April 2019, Dustin reflected on his lyrical themes and direction over the years, "I was writing these really happy pop songs [early in my career] and then after a while I was like, 'You know I don’t feel great all the time and I want to write about that, I want to be able to write about how I’m feeling when I don’t feel good.’ And those somehow happened to be our biggest songs and the ones that people liked the most. I was like, ‘This is great I don’t have to write these like shiny pop songs, I can write stuff that’s about real life and about being sad and people are super into it.'" [36]


Studio albums



  • "Daydream" (2010)
  • "Face It" (2010)
  • "Plastic Flowers" (Gruesome Flowers: A Tribute To The Wake with Wild Nothing, 2011)
  • "Shallow" (2012)
  • "Careless" (2013)
  • "This Year" (2017)
  • "Saint Ivy" (2017)
  • "Down The Line" (2017)
  • "Tangerine" / "Social Jetlag" (2017)[37]

Band members[edit]

Current lineup:

  • Dustin Payseur (lead vocals, guitar, 2009–present)
  • Tommy Davidson (guitar, 2012–present)
  • Jack Doyle Smith (bass, vocals, 2012–present)

Live touring members:

  • Anton Hochheim (drums, 2017–present)

Past members:

  • John Peña (bass, 2009-2012)
  • Sennott Burke (guitar, 2009-2010)
  • Tommy Lucas (drums, 2009-2010)
  • Daniel Fox (keyboards, trumpet, vocals, guitar, sampler, 2017)
  • Zachary Cole Smith (drums, 2010 / guitar, 2010-2012)
  • Tommy Gardner (drums, 2011-2017)



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External links[edit]