Dark Beach (Photo by Niki Pretti Photography)
Mermaids, monsters, and music: If there could ever be a tagline for Dark Beach, it would be that. But what’s so amazing about the East Bay duo is their dedication to detail when it comes to their music. They take their love of female monsters and explore their ties to the past and present in a way that’ll really kindle your own fascination with the subject. Plus, their music is grungy, raw, and danceable to boot. We chatted with Melissa and Faith of Dark Beach about their new EP Ouija, why they’re inspired by mermaids and mythological creatures, and their future “third member.”
The Bay Bridged: Thanks for chatting with me! How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
Melissa Dale: Faith was playing guitar in Hooray For Everything and I was playing drums in Sweet Nothing. We would see each other at shows occasionally and our bands even played together a few times. In the spring of 2011 we started talking about starting something new. It took a few months to get going but we started up that summer and Dark Beach has been rolling ever since!
Faith Gardner: Melissa and I bonded over our love for ’90s riot grrrl music and mermaids — and from there, Dark Beach was born.
TBB: So far, you’ve put out a few EPs, most recently Ouija early this year. How do you collaborate while songwriting, and did you use the Ouija board at all while recording the EP?
MD: Faith writes all the songs. She will usually have a few different things to bring on the table and we will “jam” on them until something clicks. We can usually tell pretty quickly whether a song is worth pursuing and after that point it’s just a matter of tightening things up and adding little touches to make them fit in with our sound.
FG: I’m kind of a throw-shit-at-the-wall kind of songwriter. I write a lot of songs and send them to Melissa beforehand or bring them to practice. From there, she usually chooses which ones sound best to her and then we try them out. Once we pick a song for sure, I might do some more tweaking on it to make it better as we learn it.
TBB: You say your lyrics are influenced by feminine fiction and myth. What are some of your favorite stories from the genre and how have you incorporated them into your music?
FG: I love female characters who are sympathetic monsters or outsiders. I’ve been influenced by everything from The Little Mermaid to “Rappaccini’s Daughter” to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman to Greek mythological figures. A lot of the songs we have take a familiar monstrous female figure like a witch, a she-bot, a vamp, a banshee and tell the story from her point of view while using them as metaphors for real-life issues women face.
MD: I’ve always been into horror and especially into the playful, humorous side of things. Growing up I used to love having seances, playing Bloody Mary, reading tarot cards, etc. I think of Dark Beach as an extension of those traditions.
TBB: I really love how you filmed your video for “Shark Attack.” I’m curious — where did you find the vintage clips you used, and how did you layer them with your footage?
MD: Thanks! We shot the video on green screen in my living room. Most of the vintage clips are from a move called The Beach Girls And The Monster.
FG: That was all Melissa — she’s the video expert!
TBB: Are you working on any videos for Ouija?
MD: We plan to do a lot more photo & video shoots to support Ouija. And at some point we will have cassette tapes to sell at shows. For now, we are keeping the details a mystery. We will be announcing everything on Facebook when the time comes.
TBB: Faith — I saw the band took a hiatus in 2014 so you could take a maternity leave. Has your baby listened to your music, and do they have any creative control in the world of Dark Beach?
Faith: She has listened to our music, and she’s even gone to one of our shows! Hoping to teach her bass or keyboards soon so she can become our third member.
TBB: Do you have any friend-bands in the East Bay scene, and do you have any favorite clubs/bars/spaces to play in the area?
MD: Some bands I like in the East Bay are Baus, Bitter Fruit, Violence Creeps, and Horrible/Adorable. As far as venues go, we could use more but the staff at The Night Light are always great.
FG: There are so many great bands around here it’s overwhelming! My favorite spaces to play are house shows and warehouses, which seem to come and go. All ages places like 924 Gilman and 1-2-3-4 Go are always fun to play.