Used to Be: Love and Beach House

by: Addison Bell

I can’t think about the past without thinking about music, because my memories correspond with a particular song or band. When I think about my childhood, I hear Britney Spears and the Spice Girls; high school is composed of Damien Rice and showtunes; my first year of college is full of Sia, Rilo Kiley, and Sufjan Stevens. When I think about him, I think of Beach House.

I first heard Beach House at a Grizzly Bear show in the autumn of my first year at DePaul. I was 19. My friend, Clare, and I arrived at Metro after Beach House started playing. The lead singer, Victoria LeGrand, was mystifying– her voice sounded so deep and raspy, and her hair covered her face. She wore a black and white striped blazer that looked straight out of Beetlejuice’s closet. The music was, if anything, captivating. It was the type that is so mellow that it pulls you into a dream-like state, and when you come out of the daze, you have forgotten where you are. Paired with Grizzly Bear, the concert was, to this day, one of the best I have ever seen.

The rest of my first quarter was spent listening to Beach House’s two albums: their self-titled debut and Devotion. While I favored Devotion over their first album, I fell in love with both records. Songs like “Saltwater,” “Master of None,” and “Apple Orchard” from Beach House, and “Gila,” “Heart of Chambers,” and “Astronaut” from Devotion frequented many of the mixed CDs I made for my friends.

It wasn’t until late winter of 2010 that Beach House became an obsession. Coincidentally, when I fell in love with their third album, Teen Dream, I fell in love with a boy. He was the first guy I had ever been with and I was the first he had been with. Neither of us were out at the time. I could write a novel about what the relationship was like, what he was like, and what it all meant to me. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I had the freedom to be me. I did not have to hide anything—my emotions, my thoughts, or who I wanted to be. I stopped caring about all of the stupid things that I often worry about, because all I could think about was him. I felt invincible and completely vulnerable, because it was all so new to me.

He was my first for so many things, including the first “friend” I brought home from college. The night before we left, Beach House headlined at the Metro. The show sold out, but I was able to get a press pass. I remember being incredibly impressed at how many people the band was able to pull in and how receptive the audience was during the performance. I also remember how the venue smelled of pot during the entire show and how hauntingly and beautiful the music sounded. I thought the building was going to explode when Beach House played “Walk in the Park,” “Zebra,” “Gila,” “Used to Be,” and “10 Mile Stereo,” which served as the band’s final number. The whole show just felt like a dream. That whole night felt like a dream.

After the show, I went to his place and we drank wine. We made plans to watch “True Blood,” but that didn’t happen. That night, I experienced the comfort that you only feel from the intimacy of another. It felt like I had been lost for a very long time, but finally found a place where I belonged. I will not ever forget it.

I won’t forget that weekend either. It was the happiest I had been in long time. A lot of horrible things happened when I was a freshman in college. People that I loved passed away, I was struggling with several personal issues, and I became very sick. It is a time in my life that a few people know about, because I never talk or write about it. My first year at DePaul was significantly better, but I still struggled. When I was with him, I was able to forget all of it and just be happy. I never thought a person could have such an effect on me. I cherish that weekend because I felt proud—proud because I finally felt like I had overcome some of the things that I never thought I could get over. I felt proud because I was in love and it was the best thing I had ever felt.

Beach House reminds me of him, because during that weekend, we would drive on old country roads at night and listen to their music. We listened to several of other bands that also remind me of him, but Beach House is different. I don’t know how many times we listened to “Used to Be” when we drove back to Chicago. We deemed it our song. When we reached Lake Shore Drive, we put it on repeat and drove especially slow, just to cherish the moment.

I don’t know what happened to us and I often find myself wishing that I had the answer. I just know that it was the type of relationship that you somehow know will not last because of reasons that you can’t and never will understand. It was the type of relationship that you knew would hurt in the end. And it did hurt. When you love someone you forget about everything else, and when it’s over, you become acutely aware of your heart and how fragile it really it is. You remember that you are human.

I could not listen to Beach House for a long time after that, especially “Used to Be.” All of their music was a reminder of what had been and what no longer was. When I would try to listen to them, it was like I would fall into that dream-like state and think about him and not want to wake up. When I did wake up, everything just seemed unbearable. It’s like when you dream about someone that you have lost and wake up thinking that person is still alive and then slowly realize that they’re not. I wanted to forget all of it, but I slowly began to realize that forgetting would be impossible. So I started listening to them again and chose to remember, even though it still hurt. I still remember him whenever I listen to Beach House, especially Teen Dream. The album is not just about him, but about me and how much I grew because of the relationship.

It’s no surprise that I’m ecstatic about Beach House’s new album, Bloom, due out May 15th. At first I thought nothing would comparable to the brilliance and beauty of Teen Dream, but their new single, “Myth,” suggests otherwise. LeGrand sings, “What comes after this / momentary bliss / the consequence / of what you do to me.” When I listen to it, I can’t help but to think of him. It would be a lie to say that I do not miss him or do not love him anymore, because I think that you never truly stop loving your first love. But I have moved on, because every love is different and exciting in its own way. Bloom will be the soundtrack to the love that I am currently in, to the life that I’m living now and will be living in the months to come. I know that when I listen to it for the first time, I’ll dream only of new things, of better things. I’ll dream again and again.

Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow Jacob on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.

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