For Dustin Payseur, changing the Beach Fossils sound wasn’t a matter of abandoning what had come before.
Rather, the frontman of the Brooklyn, N.Y., indie rock outfit said moving from the low-fi sound of its first two albums to the lush pop songs of “Somersault,” released in June, is a matter of embracing music he’s long liked, and bringing the full band into the recording mix.
“I’d always loved that kind of music,” Payseur said of the orchestral pop, complete with gorgeously arranged strings and horns. “But we never really had the budget to do it.
“Budget aside, I never knew how to get people together to do that. How do you find a harpsichord player? I didn’t know. We ended up calling all these people and got them into the studio, and it was great.”
The strings, harpsichord and flute were added after the guitars, bass and drums had been recorded on each track. But the songs aren’t standard Payseur compositions with the orchestral elements dropped on top.
“It’s a little bit of both,” he said in a recent phone interview. “This album is the first I’ve written with other members rather than a solo project. The dynamics of writing were different because of that, and we definitely made space in the songs for that stuff.”
For the most part, he hadn’t written with bandmates Jack Doyle Smith and Tommy Davidson, because Beach Fossils had been touring for much of the previous four years.
Plus, they took some time off to become the punk band Nasty Bits in the short-lived HBO ’70s music industry drama series, “Vinyl.” Before that, Payseur, who started Beach Fossils at age 22 as a way to expand his solo work, wrote all the songs.
“I’ve got recordings in pretty much every genre I could think of,” he said. “This is the one that stuck or that people liked the most.”
That sound is lo-fi — recordings of lower fidelity than usual — a method used to create rougher, more immediate records.
“In lo-fi music, there’s a lot of character and this mysterious sound,” he said. “You listen to lo-fi jazz records or Beatles demos and there’s something in the grit that feels so personal and intimate.”
The lo-fi approach also occurred because Payseur just had a guitar and preamp when he made his first two albums.
“Even the bass on the first record is on guitar,” he said. “I just played it on the lower strings. That means the bass player (now) has to play really high on the neck live. That’s actually kind of fun.”
The songs from “Somersault” require a different approach onstage, to make them sound similar to the recorded version.
“We re-create as much as we can with keyboards,” he said. “We do have a trumpet player. We’re thinking about doing an orchestral thing for some shows, but not for a whole tour.”
Beach Fossils is back on the road, after playing Europe in the late summer, then taking four days off before the fall tour. The band will play Friday night (10/20) at Gabe’s in Iowa City, as part of the Witching Hour Festival.
“We do a lot of songs people want to hear and deep cuts people might not be familiar with,” he said. “But we don’t always play the popular songs that people call out for. We’re playing for ourselves and playing what we want to. It’s kind of selfish. But I think that’s how you get the best shows.”
WHAT: Beach Fossils with Younger and Karen Meat
WHERE: Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday (10/20)
TICKETS: Festival pass or $12 advance, $15 day of show; Witchinghourfestival.com/tickets/
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Beachfossils.com