2018 – Las Dunas (PNKSLM046) – Listen/buy
2016 – Slow Grind (PNKSLM016) – Listen/buy
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When Beach Skulls named their first record Slow Grind, they meant it. It took them the best part of five years to find the right lineup and the right label, with singer-guitarist Ry Vieira and drummer Jordan Finney only signing to PNKSLM after a trip to Berlin united them with a long-sought bassist in Dan West. Vieira and Finney, old friends from college, formed the band in their native Widnes over a shared love of Dick Dale and, eventually, the surf-rock stylings of early Beach Skulls gave way to the chiming guitars and sunny melodies that defined their debut LP.
If Slow Grind marked the end of a long road for Beach Skulls, then sophomore album Las Dunas feels like a celebration of the start of a new one. They swapped the sterile surrounds of Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios for an old unit on an industrial estate in nearby Birkenhead, giving them more time to experiment after Slow Grind was completed in just four days. “There’s supposed to be more pressure than ever on your second record,” says Vieira, “but that wasn’t how it felt to us. We were more comfortable than last time; we had time to sit around drinking a few beers and trying different things. We didn’t think we had to rush.”
The result is a glorious exercise in blissed-out garage-pop that leans towards some of the trio’s more psychedelic influences more than ever before; they namecheck The Golden Dawn and Allah-Las in particular, as well as the Texas psych scene more generally. The Spanish-inflected title of the album is a nod to the artwork and photography from the southern United States that was inspiring Finney in particular, as well as to Frank Herbert’s Dune, which he was reading during the making of the album.
Vieira, meanwhile, has branched out lyrically. After describing Slow Grind as being “basically all love songs”, he’s casting a wider eye across society on Las Dunas, tapping into the struggle to stay upbeat in the face of social media anxiety, as well as battling against the lethargic sense that life might be passing you by. Finney and West contribute to the lyrics, too, particularly on ‘You Are’ and ‘Walk Into The Temple’, which were penned collaboratively after a very Beach Skulls writing excursion - from the studio to the pub and back.
The band’s guitar sound conjures up images of warmer climes than the north-west of England, but Manchester-based Vieira’s lyrical style remains rooted in the vernacular of his home region. Soon, though, they’ll be relocating to a spiritual home far more befitting their sun-drenched aesthetic, with a permanent move to Barcelona planned that will take all three members there by the end of the summer.
“We’re all in our mid-twenties, and it feels like one of those things where, if we don’t do it now, we might never do it,” explains Finney. “There’s something about the laid-back lifestyle out there that appeals, as well as the weather, obviously. There’s a fantastic arts scene, too. It feels like it’d be a natural habitat for us.”
Beach Skulls turned Las Dunas around in quickfire fashion to ensure it’d be out in the world before they swapped Merseyside for Catalonia; this is the start of a brand new chapter for them. Until then, though, Las Dunas is the sound of Vieira’s initial vision for the band finally coming to fruition after years of slow burn; Beach Skulls were always supposed to sound this energetic, this ambitious, and this infectious.